Vancouver Winter Olympics hailed as a success

By Jerome Butcher

The Vancouver skyline
The Vancouver skyline (Photo: Andrew Summers)

After seventeen days of pure snowsports intensity it was a fairytale ending for Canada as they clinched the gold in the men’s Ice Hockey final beating USA 3-2.

The last event of the Games proved to be a real nail-biter as America’s left-winger Zach Parise smashed the puck past Canada’s keeper Roberto Luongo with 24.4 seconds left on the clock to force the game into overtime.

Canada had dominated the game and looked comfortable 2-1 up. The extra period only lasted seven and half minutes though as Sidney Crosby, a young Canadian star who had disappointed earlier on in the tournament, took his chance. A sea of red and white fans in Canada Hockey Place erupted to celebrate victory over their neighbours and bitter rivals.

Canada’s first ever gold medal on home soil was won by Alexandre Bilodeau who put in an stellar performance in the men’s moguls event. Canada became the most successful host nation of the Winter Olympics. Their controversial ‘Own the Podium’ programme did allow Canadian athletes more time to practice at each venue.

Of course not everyone could enjoy the Games as much as the Canadian fans. The tragic death of Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died in training before his Olympic debut in the luge men’s singles event, brought a sombre start to the Games. He was thrown out of the track, off his luge and crashed at a speed of 89 mph, prompting mass criticism of the high-speed Whistler Sliding Centre track.

President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge spoke of how no one will forget the young man’s death and said, “when you see a young athlete pursuing his dream at the Olympic Games end in such an accident, it hurts.”

Downhill skiing, traditionally the most distinguished event of the Winter Olympics was won by Swiss skier Didier Defago in the men’s and Lindsey Vonn in the women’s.

Gifted American skier Bode Miller made up for lost ground by finally winning his first Olympic gold in the super-combined skiing event and picked up silver in the super-G. Simon Ammann, from Switzerland, won an unprecedented fourth gold medal to become the most successful ski jumper in Olympic history.

Meanwhile the more modern events that have gripped spectators all over the world such as ski-X, snowboard-X and half pipe have given the Games a more celebrity status. Although these events have provoked some displeasure among the more ‘old school’ snowsports enthusiasts, they undeniably made a huge impact on the Winter Olympics by attracting more and more fans.

Shaun White, the most famous snowboarder in the world, retained the men’s half pipe by scoring an incredible 46.8 out of a possible 50. Having secured the gold he pulled off his very own trick —  the crazily dangerous double Mctwist 1260 — in his last victory run under the floodlights of the Cypress Mountain half pipe.

The 52 British athletes didn’t perform so well. The men’s and women’s curling teams failed to even reach the semi-finals in an event which Britain were expected to win medals, especially with the men’s team as current World Champions.

Special mention must go to our very own Amy Williams, raised in Bath. She won the only medal for team GB — a gold in the women’s skeleton — and was given he a hero’s welcome when she was paraded around her city in an open top bus a couple of weeks ago.

The only other event on the final day, other than the ice hockey final, was the men’s Cross-Country 50km Mass Start. 24-year-old Petter Northug of Norway won gold and along with the other German and Swedish podium finishers the three athletes were the only ones lucky enough to receive their medals at the closing ceremony.

The final medals table saw Canada clinch top spot with their 14 gold medals,7 silvers and 5 bronzes. Germany came second with a total of 30 medals and USA third. Although the Americans scooped the most medals — 37 in total — they came third in the rankings on the basis of number of golds, silvers and bronzes won.

All said and done the 21st Winter Olympics were a great success despite the difficult warm weather conditions and a lack of snow. The Russian Olympics Committee for Sochi 2014 certainly have a lot to live up to.

So too does London — chairman of the 2012 organising committee, Sebastian Coe, has promised they have learnt a lot from Vancouver. “Over the next two and a half years, we will use this information to ensure that we stage a Games for everyone in London.”

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