by Ralph Routon
Returning to downtown Vancouver on Sunday night after an afternoon watching women's hockey at the beautiful University of British Columbia campus, I encountered two scenes that made it clear the Canadians have officially gone wild over the 2010 Winter Olympics.
First was an incredibly long line of people, snaking four-wide for blocks, all waiting patiently to enter ... not an event, but the Vancouver Olympic Superstore, simply to buy souvenirs, merchandise and anything else that could serve as memorabilia from these Winter Games.
It didn't matter that the line was moving ever-so-slowly, because the store itself was jammed. As one guy said, "We've got all night."
Then, inside a localized version of Whole Foods, about 150 people sat in tables eating dinner and watching the Olympics on big-screen TVs. Suddenly, Canadian moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau pulled off a great final run, and dinner didn't matter anymore as everyone erupted in a roar. Moments later, when the final challenger's scores came up short, the crowd inside Urban Fare exploded, many of them in tears.
Bilodeau, you see, had become the first Canadian ever to win an Olympic gold medal on Canada soil (after no golds by any of the host nation's athletes in 1976 at Montreal or 1988 at Calgary). And that became my best Olympic moment so far, seeing how totally thrilled these people were, while having dinner at a market. After all, it's OK to feel good for somebody other than Americans.