An exuberant closing ceremony brings athletes together

Vancouver says goodbye to the Olympics in a spectacle of pyrotechnics, whimsy and thoroughly overdone pageantry.

vancouver closing ceremony 311 (photo credit: AP)
vancouver closing ceremony 311
(photo credit: AP)
VANCOUVER – Boy does this town know how to throw a Purim party.
In a spectacle of pyrotechnics, whimsy and thoroughly overdone pageantry, Vancouver said goodbye to the Olympics on Sunday night with a costumed extravaganza that ranged from neon hip-hoppers to velvet-cloaked royalty to 60,000 audience members donning foam moose antlers to show their Canadian pride.
Though each country did choose an Olympian to parade in with its flag – skier Mikhail Renzhin doing the honor for Israel – the rest of the 2,600 athletes streamed in together and then were largely not seen in the darkened domed stadium, except when flashing the red-and-white lights (Canada’s colors, not coincidentally) distributed throughout the crowd.
But they were clearly not the main attraction in a two-and-a-half-hour culmination to the quadrennial international sporting event, which instead focused on praising Canada, welcoming Sochi (host of the 2014 Games) and offering a bittersweet farewell to the world with a massive, raucus party.
To wit, after the rendition of the national anthem, arrival of the presiding officials and athletes’ flag parade, the Closing Ceremonies really got going with a rendition of “Let’s Have a Party” by three singers including Montrealer Nikki Yanofsky (whose previous credits include the Opening Ceremonies – one of the few repeat performers, she sang the Canadian anthem on that occasion – and an appearance at Vancouver’s Temple Sholom).
Other artists included Neil Young, Avril Lavigne, Nickelback and Alanis Morissette. Prominent Canadian actors Michael J. Fox, Catherine O’Hara and William Shatner also took part.
But despite all the pomp in the BC Place arena, the real celebration for millions of Canadians came earlier in the day when their men’s hockey team won a nail-biter in overtime against the US to take gold, turning the streets into something akin to the opening scene of Harry Potter where cloaked wizards roam the roads.
In Vancouver, the cloaks were floor-length Canadian flags, and themagic that propelled Canada to a record 14 gold medals (in Calgary in1988 they won none), the most of any country, though their total wasonly 26 in comparison to the United States’ 37. Shouts of exhilarationand even chauvinism could be heard echoing through the city, as passingcars honked horns and streamed banners and crowds of strangers brokeinto groups of spontaneous dance.
Even Jewish Canadians determined to hear the megillah made sure to incorporate the hockey game into the Purim holiday.
Alocal Chabad branch was among those promising that the reading of theScroll of Esther would be followed by a group viewing of the US-Canadagame.
And the costume of choice for scores of local Jewishchildren: Team Canada hockey jerseys, of course. On Sunday, PersianJewry’s victory over Haman wasn’t the only victory they celebrated.