Well, we were pretty darn lucky with the weather during the Games, but leading up to the closing ceremonies, things did not look good! The ceremonies were to be held at the Whistler medal plaza so they were going to be outside and the clouds that were moving in as we started to marshal were gray and ominous to say the least! But despite the grayness, spirits were high and everyone was in good spirits. Probably because the Canadian team was on a sugar high - no, really! Just before heading out to board the buses, we had a quick Team Canada meeting to celebrate our Games experience and so the Canadian Paralympic Committee served all of us a piece of maple sugar pie. It was good, but oh so sweet! Pretty much tasted like crystallized maple syrup in a pie crust! Can you say sugar rush?! As we left the meeting, we were offered umbrellas. Hmmm, bad omen or preventative action? Surely if we all were carrying umbrellas, it couldn’t possibly rain on the closing ceremonies, which were, of course, to be held outside.....
Attending a major games like the Paralympics always has its hurry-up-and-wait times and waiting for the ceremonies to start was one of them. We all stood milling around in the upper part of Whistler Village with looker-ons cheering and shouting, countries shouting cheers and everyone basically just having a great time - even when it started to rain. Finally we got the word to move out and I was surprised to see the whole distance of our walk down to the medal plaza was lined with spectators cheering and waving flags. It was amazing! And in all of those faces, Andrea was able to see my family so she pointed them out to me so I even got to go by and say a quick hello to them. No wonder she’s such a good guide - talk about eagle eyes!
Closing ceremonies were a great show with a strong emphasis on Canada’s northern cultures. Included in the ceremonies was a demonstration of blanket tossing, including throwing Kelly Smith high into the air. For those of you who don’t know Kelly, he was one of Canada’s top wheelchair marathon athletes up until his retirement a few years ago. Hopefully the video I plan on posting of him getting tossed about will work. They also had a woman throat singing, which I learned later actually started among the Inuit as a game where two people faced each other and tried to make the other laugh by making funny faces and sounds. Who knew?
At every closing ceremony, the country to host the next Games gets to do a short presentation and the one done by the Sochi 2014 group was amazing! The best part was when some was doing what looked like charcoal drawings in real time and the images appeared on a giant screen onstage. If they can pull off a Games as good as their presentation, it should be pretty incredible. Hopefully all the talk about facilities not getting done, corruption, etc. is all just hearsay. Good luck Russia! As they say to their racing skiers, davai, davai, davai!
So at the end of the ceremonies, poor Mary was in tears again, sad to see everything finally coming to a close. She went looking for her family, but couldn’t find them so she asked for some assistance. Who did she ask? Nobody really - just our prime minister, Stephen Harper!
Though Mary was sad to see the Games officially over, I knew things weren’t really over just yet - Canada was going to host the unofficial after party. It is a tradition that started at the 2002 Torino Winter Paralympic Games and since then, Canada has put on a rockin’ party after every closing ceremony back in the Athletes’ Village. The first one that I got to go to was in Athens and it was fabulous! People from all nations just came to mingle and celebrating being at the Games. The only difference with the after party for the 2010 Vancouver Games was that hanging around outside is lovely late into the night in Athens, but not so much in Whistler so I was curious to see how CPC was going to pull it off. Solution? Take over the athletes’ lounge - it was packed! I mean really packed. Literally wall-to-wall people. It was actually faster to go outside and walk around the building to get to the other side of the room! And of course there was a lot of uniform trading going on. I really only wanted a Swedish toque (they were so cool!), but they looked so good that no one wanted to give theirs up. Oh well! Some guy from Lithuania did try to trade me his watch for a Canada t-shirt. My best trade was a really nice Slovakia baseball cap for an electric toothbrush with the Village dentist so really, if you are looking for good trades, don’t ask me for advice!
So I guess that is it - my experience at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. II have been to four summer Paralympic Games and they all were great, but competing here at home makes the experience that much more sweeter. I can’t even put it into words. Usually when you compete you feel support from your teammates, but when you compete at home, you know everyone is pulling for you. More than once, I had media people, officials, volunteers and strangers in the crowd wishing Andrea and I good luck. It was an experience I won’t soon forget.