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These are great Games

Fourth-Place Medal

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Rarely do you get to see how good people are. That's what makes the Games great.

At the end of the day, that seems to be what endures, whether you're one of the privileged few to gain entry, or one of the millions following it through social and traditional media. Following any sports event brings potential to get caught up in backchannel vituperation. The first week of what was quickly dubbed the Glitch Games had plenty of that, a lot of it entirely justified.

Dwelling on it, though, may mean missing the splendor. Call it cornball, but the Olympics can give you that good old-fashioned visceral experience at any waking hour across the entire two-week run. How could you not get stoked seeing Jon Montgomery win men's skeleton in dramatic fashion Friday night and get a hero's welcome from people who otherwise couldn't find his hometown, Russell, Manitoba, on a map? They know it now.

That has value, considering all the indicators that never in the course of human history have the vast majority of people felt so disconnected.

It has a little bit of everything, culture clashes, multinational mudflinging, all that Wide World of Sports drama of human competition. As Boston blogger Michael Gee, who has covered two Olympiads, put it:

"You're at the world festival of world championships, attempting to understand athletes from hundreds of countries and what they do and communicate your understanding to the best of your ability. Being surrounded by people who are all busting their ass to excel is good for you. Anyone who attends an Olympics in any capacity and isn't thereby motivated to do their utmost best in their chosen field of endeavor is a sorry soul indeed."

Perhaps it hit home the hardest on Friday afternoon, when almost all of of the 19,000 fans at Canada Hockey Place started chanting for Belarus when the underdog team made a third-period run against Sweden.

There's value in having a heart for other countries' athletes. For instance, Montgomery's skeleton victory was awesome to watch, but even as Canadians celebrated there was still empathy for runner-up Martins Dukurs, who stood to win tiny Latvia's first gold until he messed up his final run.

For Canada, the first week has reflected a gift for nurturing gold medalists who show you can be a world-beater and walk-of-life. Modesty is overrated (it ain't bragging if you can do it), but Canadian winners Montgomery, Alexandre Bilodeau, Christine Nesbitt and Maelle Ricker seem very much like one of us, not remote and distant. No big heads, egos in check. That's us.

Meantime, you see how Canada is long past the old shy-and-deferential stereotypes. People are rallying to the cause, if a bit belatedly, from the ticket sales to two-hour lineups to buy Canada merchandise (red mittens!). In other cities, you can do a car-flag census, checking for vehicles flying a flag. Those are in greater abundance than they were seven days ago.

True, there is always the reality the IOC is getting very rich off this. Most people will have curtailed their Olympic fever once the financial bills come due. And being part of it, as it's often phrased by marketers, often means spending a lot of cash. So, you want to call this a rose-colored glases take, by all means.

The Olympic experience is very much sweet-spot-in-time stuff. At least there's a reminder of human potential. By Monday, it will seem like the Games are dragging on, but eventually it will feel like it flew by too quickly.

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