VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The party is over, replaced by an Olympic-sized hangover. The question now is how long the headaches will last.
While the streets of Vancouver overflowed with mosh pit-like crowds celebrating Canada’s overtime hockey victory over the U.S. in the gold-medal game on Sunday, the arena that hosted the game was already being dismantled from the inside out.
By the time the world media finished writing up Sidney Crosby’s golden goal, the ice he scored it on had almost been completely stripped away.
The Olympic-logo faceoff dot nearest his clinching shot had been melted out of the ice and given to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in exchange for his hat, which the Zamboni driver wore while grinding away the rest of the ice. Except he wasn’t driving a Zamboni, but rather a sponsor-supplied Olympia, which broke down before the ice was gone and required a second to tow it off and finish the job.
It was a somewhat fitting scene for an Olympics that started solemnly with the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training crash, and struggled through weather, technical and performance issues in the middle, before finishing in climatic fashion with a historic hockey win.
By the time Vancouver awoke Monday – many belatedly and with bloodshot eyes no doubt – the celebratory din that followed had been replaced by sounds of power tools as temporary venues were dismantled and packed into moving vans. The red-and-white crowd had given way to more typical weekday attire, with only a smattering of Canada logos among the suits and overcoats.
“We’ve done a lot of triple-shot drinks this morning,” said Kyle Straw, the manager – and award-winning barista – at Caffe Artigiano, one of Vancouver’s most popular stops for coffee. “I’ve never seen this city celebrate so big, never been in a crowd as intense and thick as it was last night.”
The remnants of that crowd, including many of the 60,000 crammed into Sunday s closing ceremonies, were surprisingly manageable.
Garbage was in, or at least nearby, the numerous temporary trash cans, with a solitary shoe on the sidewalk the only sign of the recent revelry.
“We expected a lot worse,” said Jody Weatherby, an electrician with the city as he helped repair street-crossing signals damaged in the party.
Like low-lying fruit, the signals were an easy target, too easy for those that had one too many to jump up, grab onto and hang from. But other than that, Weatherby said the biggest damage Monday was to the city’s mood.
“The feeling is such a cascade leading up and everybody got caught up in it and now that it is over they are deflated,” he said. “They want it to go on.”
The long-term cost of hosting the 2010 Winter Games could be a lot harder to swallow.
With a price tag between $2 billion and $7 billion, depending on whether you are a critic or proponent, there are Olympian-sized bills to be paid.
The city is on the hook for the $1 billion athlete’s village, and can only hope the competitor’s rave reviews, combined with picturesque television footage of the waterfront it sits on, will be enough to sell the units at a high enough price to cover the costs – and still keep promises of 250 units of social housing, which now seems unlikely.