A self-deprecating celebration of Canadiana
How can you point out the awkward moments of a closing ceremony that brilliantly poked fun at itself?
You can’t. The swan song of the Vancouver Olympics was a brilliant showpiece of Canadiana, utilizing one of the greatest Canadian traits ever: light-hearted, self-deprecating humour.
This success can be outlined in a step-by-step process.
Step 1: Acknowledge and fix previous cauldron mishap
The festivities started when a mime repairman (?) entered BC Place to fix one flaming pillar of the Olympic cauldron that didn't "rise to the occasion" during the opening ceremony.
Turns out the mime (who was probably the same guy pictured on Roberto Luongo's helmet) didn't plug in the power cord.
He fixed the problem and out popped speedskating legend Catriona Le May Doan, who finally got the chance to light her part of the cauldron.
Message: Canada does make mistakes. Then it acknowledges and corrects them in hilarious/awesome fashion. Refer to rest of 2010 Olympics for further proof of Canadian resiliency and perseverance.
Canada's athletes entered BC Place wearing one of the greatest pieces of Canadiana ever invented: The pattern-busting wool sweater.
Adorned with several different patterns and symmetrical caribou symbols, you knew exactly where the all Canadians were during the closing ceremony. And you know you wanted to find out where to buy those sweaters.
Step 3: Hand athletes funny stereotypical headwear
All the athletes at the closing ceremony were handed foam moose antlers to wear during the event, signifying the light tone of the night. Many wore them. And nearly all will surely keep them as a treasured memento of the Games.
Step 4: Be polite and let Sochi make things awkward*
Every closing ceremony has a segment paying tribute to the city hosting the following Olympics.
It's Sochi's turn in 2014 when the Games go to Russia, and what better way to introduce the city to the world than to have a, um, supermodel performing a magic show while a giant flower is singing an opera.
Oh, and "zorbs." They are giant ,glowing blue spheres with people inside them, and hearken to mind images of fancy hamster balls or plastic variations of what American Gladiators competed in during the Atlasphere event.
*This awkwardness does not count towards closing ceremony, as this segment was choreographed by the Sochi organizing committee, and VANOC did the polite Canadian thing and let them do whatever they wanted, zorbs and all.
Step 5: Make jokes about the weather
VANOC CEO John Furlong reminded everyone in his speech that the unseasonably warm weather (that reached 10 C at some points) didn't force any Olympic events to be cancelled or hindered in any significant way.
He thanked the blue-clad volunteers for this, in what was one of the quotes of the night. "The final result: Blue Jackets 1; Cypress Mountain weather zero," he said.
Step 6: Bring out Neil Young to put out flame
Canadian legend Neil Young doesn't need a stage. All he needs is his guitar, harmonica and a microphone. That's power enough to put out the Olympic flame.
Many will recognize his song, Long May You Run. It's the same one he sang during Conan O'Brien's last night on The Tonight Show. It was poignant then, and even more so in Vancouver. And it had the power to lull the Olympic cauldron in BC Place to sleep.
The doppelganger cauldron on the lakefront, sensing its twin flame gone, realized it was no longer needed and extinguished itself as well, soon after.
Step 7: Bring out James T. Kirk to signify greatest ceremony ever
It's a well-known fact that having Canadian William Shatner at your event or birthday party automatically makes it one of the best in the past decade. So it was with this, as the Enterprise captain himself did his own rendition of the classic "I Am Canadian" speech.
Step 8: Bring out Catherine O'Hara and Marty McFly for added effect
O'Hara got to the mike thanks to some good brushing to the four-foot by her sweepers (curling joke). She then did a riff on our country's penchant for apologizing. Oh, which reminds me, sorry for the superfluous curling joke earlier in the paragraph.
Michael J. Fox then decreed that since everyone at the Games competed on Canadian soil they're automatically Canadian, meaning Canada actually won the medal count with an astounding 258, including 86 gold.
Step 9: Stuff every Canadian stereotype into one big dance number
You don't need to know the entire buildup. All you need to know is that by the end of this number riffing on every Canadian stereotype imaginable, giant table-hockey players were dancing around larger-than-life inflatable Mounties while helium-filled moose and beavers floated in the crowd as dancers wearing maple leaves twirled about while surrounded by fur traders in canoes. Oh, and Michael Bublé was singing The Maple Leaf Forever.
Unfortunately, Bublé wasn't doused with five tonnes of maple syrup, as was expected.
Step 10: End night with performances by leading Canadian musicians
And so Rush, the Tragically Hip, Arcade Fire, Metric and others ended the closing ceremony at the Olympics, capping off a fantasti—
Wait, hold on. Avril Lavigne, Nickelback, Simple Plan and Hedley?
Oh ... so close to a perfect evening.
Finally, five things I learned at the 2010 Winter Olympics
- Two cauldrons are better than one — but not as good as 26.
- Zambonis can hear your cries of help in need ... but they can also smell your fear.
- Norway's curling pants are made out of the fabric of 32 lesser pants.
- An awkward conversation between two brothers can lead to a gold medal.
- We don't talk about hockey all the [CROSBY!!!!!] time. There's also curling. And sleep.
That is all.
Brandon Hicks is a senior writer at CBCSports.ca, and he thinks Neil Young should play at every Olympic closing ceremony, no matter the country . Hicks is also looking forward to seeing daylight for the first time in 17 days (if it's still out there...)