The subtle and behind-the-scenes marketing and PR that have been promoting the Games and Vancouver over the last few years have come alive. Canada used the Opening Ceremonies to promote everything that is great about the country. The four Host Nations came together in a demonstration of unity and diversity, and Canada kicked off the 21st Olympic Winter Games with a loud and clear message of Canadian pride.
There is no mistaking the amount of Canadian spirit that is alive and well in Vancouver. It can be seen across the city through billboards, window signage, and on the chests, heads and backs of most countrymen. The Hudson Bay Company did a brilliant job with the country's apparel, which all touts either CANADA in big bold letters or the unmistakable maple leaf.
The best expressions of pride are the coveted "red mittens," which are now nearly impossible to find, but yet seem to be on the hands of every Canadian. When you think about it, it's a brilliant concept. They are affordable, easily worn, and recognizable. There hasn't been an Olympic item this hot since the beret in Salt Lake City.
For fans attending the Games, the opportunities are endless. Obviously, tickets to the competitions take the cake, but the location of Vancouver provides fans with myriad possibilities ranging from various sponsor activities to cultural experiences to a day on the slopes. And if it's a party that's desired, there's one on about every block. Local establishments are taking full advantage of the droves of people heading into Vancouver and they're cashing in on the Olympic spirit.
The best I've seen thus far is "The Irish House," a giant tented extension of an Irish bar, which many think is the official house of the Irish team. While it's an excellent marketing ploy, it begs the question: Are consumers really gullible enough to believe that Ireland has a big enough Winter Olympic team to justify an official house, or are they simply taking full advantage of the opportunity to party with others from around the world at the Olympics?
Despite all of the excitement and energy surrounding Vancouver, I'd be remiss not to mention the sadness that overtook the Olympic community upon the death of 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.
The entire crowd at the Opening Ceremonies stood in his honor as his teammates courageously walked into BC Place. It was a touching demonstration that, despite the differences we may have in the world today, we can come together to display compassion and respect for one another. That is the true spirit of the Olympics, and I was humbled to be a part of it.