Vancouver Bids Us Au Revoir

Wow, the Games flew by faster than a speeding bobsled! Almost as soon as they started, the 2010 Olympic Winter Games are over. Last night's closing ceremony was more light-hearted than Feb. 12's more formal opening extravaganza -- and included plenty of Canadian talent.

Athletes paraded in freely; no alphabetical orders this time. Up-and-coming musicians who must have been  psyched to be Canadian (when else will they rock out for a global audience?) included Winnepeg band Inward Eye, aboriginal Canadian singer-songwriter Derek Miller, and Ottowan Eva Avila (2006 winner of Canadian Idol). And 16-year-old Montreal pop singer Nikki Yanofsky, who sang Canada's national anthem at the opening ceremony, took the mic again.

The celebration also featured Toronto-born, Winnepeg-raised Neil Young performing "Long May You Run." William Shatner cracked jokes ("Only Canadians, after four beers, on worldwide television, can successfully pronounce The Strait of Juan de Fuca without being censored") and Catherine O'Hara scolded athletes: "You're leaving us with a lifetime of memories....and a mother of a mess to clean." Michael J. Fox (a Canadian who obtained U.S. citizenship in 2000) admitted that if "the U.S. and Canada are playing hockey, I'm sorry, I'm wearing a maple leaf on my sweater."

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson handed the Olympic flag to IOC president Jacques Rogge, who in turn passed it to the mayor of Sochi, Russia -- site of 2014's Winter Games. Hard to believe we've got another four years before the torch arrives in Sochi -- for now, let's review what we learned during this 17-day thrill ride.

1. U.S. athletes owned the podium. Americans took home 37 medals, more than any other nation. But the country that won the most gold medals (14) was Canada -- including hockey, an event in which both men's and women's teams took gold.

2. Lindsey Vonn's still in the spotlight -- but now she's sharing it. She began the Games as the most famous face of Team USA, but leaves as just one of several skiers who ruled Vancouver's slopes. Despite an injury, Vonn clenched a gold and bronze; teammate Julia Mancuso grabbed two silvers; and Vonn's German rival (and friend), Maria Reisch, won two golds. On the men's side, Bode Miller redeemed his poor showing at Torino's 2006 Winter Olympics by winning three Vancouver medals, one in every shade.

3. Our men can skate! Short track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno is now the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian, with a career total of two gold, two silver and three bronze medals. And figure skater Evan Lysacek performed so well he unseated reigning gold medalist Yevgeny Plushenko -- despite his decision not to include the sport's most challenging move (a quadruple jump) in his program. Johnny Weir's sixth place finish didn't earn him a medal, but as usual, he got tongues wagging.

4. The Winter Games are dangerous. The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who crashed during a practice run the day of the opening ceremony, brought athletes face-to-face with the icy dangers of the Games. And as the winter events unfolded, competitors were indeed injured in several sports. Vonn injured her shin, then broke a finger. Her teammate Sara Schleper split open her chin. Slovenian Petra Majdic fractured four ribs and tore a lung membrane during a training crash (but still managed to win the cross-country sprint bronze!).

5. Dignity and grace were in plentiful supply. Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette lost her mother to a heart attack just two days before her Olympic moment, and still managed a gorgeous performance and a career high score -- she won bronze -- with fans from every nation rooting for her.

6. So were "nerves of steel." South Korean figure skater Yu-Na Kim carried the weight of an entire country's high expectations when she took the ice. But the 19-year-old skated a nearly flawless and record-breaking program, winning gold and becoming the first female skater to pass the 200-point mark. And in snowboarding, even though two-time half-pipe champ Shaun White already earned enough points to secure gold, he still executed his Double McTwist 1260a move so difficult, no one else in the world can do it.

7. Vancouver's Olympic organizers have a sense of humor. The majestic opening ceremony was pitch perfect until the final moments, when a technical glitch prevented the fourth arm of their Olympic torch to rise from the stadium floor. In a wink to that foul-up, the Closing Ceremony began with a handyman clown "fixing" the last column.

The "Made in Canada" parade which ended the festivites featured giant Canadian Mounties, larger-than-life beavers and other fun and iconic images of Canada. And then, just like that, Vancouver bid us all a fond au revoir!

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What was your favorite moment from the Winter Olympic Games? Chime in below!

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