VANCOUVER — After weeks of Canadians gritting their teeth in the hunt for Olympic gold, the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Games were the equivalent of a country-wide gap-toothed grin.
Yes, following an unprecedented gold rush that inspired the collective swelling of our national pride, Canadians finally relaxed on Sunday with a closing to the Olympics that reminded the world of our unique sense of humour.
There were marching Mounties in mini-skirts. Table-top hockey players. The iconic “Hockey Night in Canada” theme. Dancing canoes, red-clad lumberjacks and giant inflatable beavers.
Michael Buble — never opposed to poking fun at himself — even rode atop a massive motorized Mountie’s hat while performing “The Maple Leaf Forever.”
And as Canadian fans continued to celebrate the mighty achievements of their Olympic team, organizers paid their respects right back.
“Canadians, you joined each other and our colourful international visitors in common celebration — radiant, jubilant, spontaneous, peaceful,” VANOC CEO John Furlong said during his speech.
“For us, you were the wind beneath our wings. You did not just cheer — rather you lived every glorious moment as if you yourselves were competing for gold.
“You were the bench strength we had hoped for — the difference-makers at these Games.”
The show began with a good-natured gag and never really let up from there. After Canada hauled in a historic 14 first-place finishes, these ceremonies found Canadians mining for gold of the comic sort.
As they did at the opening ceremonies, organizers provided a 103-page binder to media with thorough explanations of the show’s content.
But it wasn’t really necessary. Anyone who’s ever swapped Canuck jokes over pints would have been well-versed in the language they were speaking here. And if foreign audiences were left feeling like they missed out on one Olympic-sized inside joke — well, the attitude here seemed to be: too bad, eh?
The show’s cultural centrepiece included a goofy, three-part comic monologue delivered by a trio of prominent exports — Michael J. Fox, William Shatner and Catharine O’Hara — that broadly poked fun at various Canadian stereotypes.
O’Hara focused on the supposedly unflagging politeness of Canadians, with jokes about Canadians’ proclivity for apologizing.
“We’re sorry you thought Canada was one big frozen tundra,” she said. “We’d have corrected you, and that would have been rude, and the last thing a Canadian is impolite.”
Of course, closing ceremonies involve some protocol too, beginning with the athletes’ march.
Bronze medallist figure skater Joannie Rochette held the Canadian flag aloft as the Olympic athletes circulated around the B.C. Place stage, the Canucks clad in Cowichan sweaters with ear-flapped hats pulled down over their foreheads.