It was only natural that tonight’s Olympic closing ceremonies would feel like a strange, flaring, echoing dream. The walk to B.C. place for the 5:30 p.m. start was only a couple of hundred yards from Canada Hockey Place, where I’d just seen Sidney Crosby score one of the biggest goals in Canadian hockey history—a surreal moment in its own right, through and through.
And then here I was, a few rows from where I’d sat 16 days ago for the opening ceremonies. Here, again, were several thousand people wearing light-blue-paper ponchos, just as they did at the start of this whole thing.
My ability to reason took a long series of hits. First, a massive herd of perky people in white sang the word Vancouver over and over for about 20 minutes. Off to my left, as the athletes entered the stadium in loose groups, Premier Gordon Campbell leaned out from the otherwise sedate dignitaries’ box and waved a large Canadian flag back and forth with an energy that seemed unhinged.
Then, after speeches and medals and a series of anthems (Canadian, Norwegian, Greek, Olympic, Russian) that had us standing up and sitting down more often than in church, there were people in fairy lights running around inside giant hamster balls, and a soprano riding a massive illuminated gyroscope.
Neil Young came out of the floor, and moments later William Shatner and Catherine O’Hara were telling weirdly off-colour jokes.
And then the Can-con dam burst: Michael J. Fox, giant inflatable moose, freaking Nickelback and then Avril and then Alanis and then Simple Plan and Hedley. Jesus, was Parachute Club next?
But it was all somehow totally appropriate: it was Canadian, it was exhausting, it was exhaustingly Canadian. Just like the Games themselves.
In a speech earlier tonight, Vanoc CEO John Furlong assured us that we’d all been changed forever by the Olympic experience. But now, among the ponchos and foam moose antlers and paper snow that litter this near-empty stadium, it’s hard to know what’s coming tomorrow morning.
Photo gallery: Vancouver 2010 Olympics closing ceremony.