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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

With Glowing Hearts.

Ok. Confession time. Until last Friday, I was doing my best impression of a hostile Vancouverite and shunning the Olympic Games.

I moaned about the tourists and the transit headaches and laughed at Mother Nature's cruel sense of humor.

And then, I saw the torch being run down the street outside my work.

It was a happy accident that I managed to be heading down for a coffee break when I was swept up in a sea of excited co-workers on their way to see the torch. So I decided to forgo caffeine for some reflected glory.

Waiting in the growing crowd outside, I couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement and enthusiasm of those around me. The torch wasn't even in the vicinity yet and I found myself spontaneously yelling "OOOH" when an official looking vehicle drove by.

From my vantage point, the whole of downtown seemed a-wash with people. People were in the streets, on top of newspapers stands and climbing the spindly urban trees in hopes of getting a better vantage point.

And then.

The torch came around the corner. I must admit that my jaded Canadian heart jumped into my throat.

The sound that exploded from the crowd was like an ocean wave - it grew and roared and crested as people jockeyed to see a glimpse of the flame.

The crowd was held back by the peace officers, and as I let myself be shifted and moved by the crowd, I found myself right next to the torch runner. I was close enough to see just how wide his smile was as he held the flame aloft.

The torch passed as quickly as it came, the runner flew past us and continued to run in the direction of BC Place Stadium.

The crowd grew quiet and dispersed. Once held together by collective excitement, we were now strangers again.

The remainder of the day passed with simmering Olympic excitement. Co-workers shared stories of running into athletes and celebrities and we all watched, with mounting trepidation, a protest form and grow legs in front of the art gallery.

The work day came to a close and I found myself walking my familiar route to catch my train. My usual practice is to walk fast, with purpose. But this walk was different. I noticed the volunteers in their turquoise jackets. I noticed the tourists, comparing maps and I noticed the flashes of red and white patriotism among the crowds.

For the first time, the Olympics was more than just an inconvenience. It was a welcome break from my routine.

And when Alexandre Bilodeau won the first gold medal, ever, on Canadian home soil, I think my heart actually starting beating in time to our national anthem.

I've never been one for overt patriotism, but these Olympics are helping me remember what's really behind the maple leaf.

PS: My new found patriotism does not mean I have stopped glaring at idiot tourists who hold up traffic to take pictures of seagulls.

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