The closing ceremony was rich with pageantry and camaraderie.
When a faux-repairman, giant screwdriver on his belt, kicked off Sunday's festivities by "fixing" the same arm of the cauldron that so infamously failed to rise at the opening ceremony, allowing speedskating legend Catriona Le May Doan to finish the torch-lighting ceremony she missed a fortnight ago, we knew we were in good hands. Nothing is so endearing -- and rare -- as an Olympic host that can laugh at itself."That quiet, humble national pride we were sometimes reluctant to acknowledge seemed to take to the streets as the most beautiful kind of patriotism broke out all across our country," Furlong said. "So many new and dazzling applications for the Maple Leaf.""These were," declared a visibly relieved IOC president, Jacques Rogge, "excellent and very friendly games."
That should be the case for the Summer Games in London in two years, but 2014 is already taking on curious dimensions. Like the Chinese did with the Summer Games, Vladimir Putin's government has made clear that it plans to use the Winter Olympics in Sochi as a coming-out party for the new Russia. No shock there, but it does assume the task with far less momentum than Beijing. Team Russia, after all, was the most glaring disappointment in Vancouver, its 15 medals (three gold), a steep decline from the 22 it took home from Turin. Meanwhile, its most popular star in the West, hockey player Alex Ovechkin, came into Vancouver an Olympic hero for claiming he'd play in Sochi even if the NHL didn't release its players -- and went out in shame.
Not only did Ovechkin fail to produce during Russia's ghastly 7-3 loss to Canada in the quarterfinals, but he also shelved his usually gregarious personality in Vancouver and proved a gloomy, surly presence, snubbing the media and shoving to the ground one eager fan with a YouTube ready camcorder. Of course, when he popped up onstage Sunday night, Ovechkin was all smiles again, posing as one of Sochi's welcome ambassadors with three cute children, and lending athletic, gap-toothed form to Churchill's famous formulation about Russia -- "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma".
Canada -- its people, its athletes, its lovely host city -- was hardly that the last two weeks. The country made itself known. Here's betting that, come 2014, it will be missed.