Olympic Rings

2010 Olympic Finals weekend in Vancouver, BC

February 27-28, 2010

The weekend already seems like a blurr.  I'm on my way back home
after celebrating with the Canadians their fantastic finish to the 2010
Olympic games hosted in Vancouver, British Columbia.  I'm relieved Crosby Medal Goal
 to be returning, to celebrate and to surround myself with people who
maybe understand what just happened last night. While this was a huge
win for Canada, it was also a big loss for USA. Never before had I felt
so much as an outsider when in Canada than I did after Sidney Crosby's gold
winning goal last night.

     To be fair, I never really followed
hockey until I started dating a Canadian (more than 5 years
ago). I'm fond of a few sports and my legience still remains
with my Cleveland teams even though I haven't lived there in 15
years. I'd say my patriotic feelings were never ignited but
living in Sweden awakened a sense of it. Moving to Seattle and
moving to Sweden both nurtured a desire to stay connected to
things I knew before the moves; and during and after the strike
of 2001, I became very aware of the stigma, which is my

     Growing up, I considered
myself always part Mexican and part Polish–never American. I've
never brandished an American flag and when Americans were being
warned of being a target while I was abroad, I took care not to
be visible as such.  What was it really to feel like an American?

Living south of Canada for all these years, I didn’t ever take the
time to visit or get to know my northern neighbors. The only reason
this changed was because my boyfriend was living in Canada and I started
making regular visits. Now, over time, I consider a number of Canadians
my friends. I’ve even been mistakenly associated as a Canadian–so much so
that if the opportunity to correct the person passes in the intial conversation
then I don’t bother correcting them. I don’t mind the mistaken identity and am intrigued that we, as Americans,
are enamored with Canadians and Canadian culture. With so many similarities
between Canada and the US, it is easy to forget we are two separate countries.
My weekend experience made it clear that Canada doesn’t forget and is quick to remind
anyone of their differences. Mike, for example, does not hesitate to make clear
that I am American.

Coming into this weekend, I knew the USA vs. Canada Olympic hockey game
was going to be a highly charged event. The US win over Canada the week before had tensions
high going into this weekend’s game. Having planned to be in Vancouver during
Shaun White (no underdog)

the event meant I would have to chose who to support. The hype, the pressure,
and the trash talk, created a sense of separation and a distinct desire to support my country. ‘Every action causes an equal and opposite
reaction’ must apply to emotions, too.

At a Canadian Tire stop early Saturday morning, I bought my own Quatchi (sans gloves) andQuatchi
my first USA flag (they only had 3’x5′ country flags available). If I wasn’t
‘allowed’ to embrace the Canadian wave, then
I was determined to embrace the US efforts. Despite the sea of Red and White,I avoided
all red and wore my flag as a scarf to show my support for the US Team.
In every other aspect of my interactions with Canadians in Canada and abroad, I
have felt welcome and slowly integrated. This game made it clear that I
was different and on the outside.

Taking on the role of ‘Token American’ at the Century Bar in downtown Vancouver
had me uneasy. A win would mean no end of taunting and a lose would mean ‘take caution’
to avoid lynching (slightly exaggerated, but to my point, the energy was really high). I partied with my Canadian friends the night
before, stood in line for hours before the game with them – even switching pubs at the
11th hour – and rallied with them up to the start of the game. But, when the puck dropped
and the clock counted down, 19:57, we were quickly divided into two separate worlds.

The US team came out strong but it was Canada to take the first goal (Jonathan Toews). The Century Bar
filled with cheers. 2nd period and Canada gets another goal (Corey Perry), my heart drops. At least get one goal
Team USA, just one!! And…,thank you Ryan Kesler! Canada 2, USA 1. *whew* Now for the big question, can we tie it and take it into overtime?
Down to the last minute of the game and I’m anxiously watching the plays. The momentsUSA ties 2-2
seem to last forever when Zach Parise scores! *yes, yes* Sudden death overtime, but still a chance for gold; I was overcome with joy!
The Century Bar, on the other hand, became still as the Canadians held their breath and stood in shock…
they should have had the win. Now, could the US hold off Canada a little longer and score a goal in overtime to avoid a shoot out?
Every Canadian was nervously huddling. I longed more than ever to be in the States watching the game.

Overtime was short lived as Sidney Crosby sealed the Canadian Gold. It happened so quickly that there was a pause as the Canadians absorbed the moment.
Then, the bar was overcome with celebration as the Canadians cried, cheered, high-fived, hugged and stomped their triumph.
‘We are the Champions’ blared from the stereo. I had to hide my American flag scarf after one guy tried to rip it off my neck.

I got a lot of taunting, a few ‘good game’, but mostly it was the ‘other’ American in the crowd and her two Canadian friends
who provided support. Zoe (the other American)and I hugged, we teared. I congratulated her Canadian friends and they
hugged me. Otherwise,I kept my US flag put away and joined the rest of Canada and my friends as the celebration streamed out
into the streets.

On the streets flowed thousands of people. Canadian apparal, flags and anything Red and White were seen on every supporter
and fan.
People made their way up Granville and Robson preventing vehicle passage. Many streets and buses through downtown were closed.
People swarmed for no other reason than to be around other people. They hooted and hollered, waving their flags high. Proud was
an understatement. The number of high-fives uncountable. Yet through all of the mayhem and disorder, incidents and altercations
were low to none. Police and security were abundant on all streets but their enforcement was simple. It would have been crazy if they
had to go to any extreme to maintain order. As it was, the jubilent atmosphere appeared not to get out of hand. My biggest fear
was losing my group and getting estranged in downtown Vancouver with no cell phone and little knowledge of the city itself. I did lose
Mike for a short bit, but managed to stay with our house host and met up with him later.

The unification of a country over a sport like Hockey blew my mind.
Mike kept asking me, what does the US have that’s even close? What unifies America like this? Is there something that our Nation
gets behind where everyone wants to run the streets just to celebrate with other Americans? I’m not sure…the Superbowl and World Series of Baseball
are huge, but when are we internationally charged by either of them? I admire the Canadians that a simple event, a single sport, can unify
a country and increase National pride to such an extent. Go Canada Go!

The Olympics are over. The Canadians took the gold in Hockey, they took the Gold podium overall and they were host to this global affair. Congratulations, Canada!
You did good. You made history. You can be proud and I’m proud for you. Thank you for sharing your country spirit, for educating the world on who a Canadian really
is and above all for teaching me that Hockey is Canada. I get it, now.

Enjoy the next 4 years and we’ll see you for gold in 2014!

p.s. all photos came from their linked sources.

About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climbing athlete and computer software/technology enthusiast.
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