Public perception is rarely something you can tangibly feel change. It lives in the dense decks of tracking reports and up or down ticks of a couple points in PowerPoint charts.
Vancouver's public perception of the 2010 Olympics was beyond brutal heading into the games. Even considering it is normal for support to bottom the year before an Olympics, Vancouver, possibly the most cynical place on earth seemed ready to explode at times into public riots.
Arriving in Vancouver hours before the opening ceremonies I walked past some of the saddest people I had ever seen. People who for years bragged about getting out of town for the Olympics. There they were sitting, waiting for their flight to a sun destination that Friday, in a slump where they couldn't be more miserable or regretful.
Vancouver, birthplace of Greenpeace, has always had a radical anti establishment movement. For years the Olympic Resistance Network disrupted the Games anyway possible with a lot of sympathy from the general public. I emerged from our sleek new Canada Line station at Granville and Georgia right as an organized No 2010 march passed. Instead of sympathy passers by mocked their lack of tangible arguments other than be against everything, be for nothing. In an era of tangible change enabled through social tools showing up as a group to yell seems a little antiquated.
Over the first week of the games my city and country, a self aware and modest bunch, embraced the cliches of their country and increasingly wore more red and white, spoke up in support of our athletes and celebrated their competitors.
Nightly, hundreds of thousands peacefully flooded the downtown streets with no agenda other than to be part of and walk with Canada's humanity.
Protest against the games turned to protest against the protesters once they turned violent.
The ambivalent towards the games sparked vocal demands of wanting to get closer to the Games when the cauldron was overly secure behind fences in preparation of widespread negative public attack that never materialized. The fence was moved close to the flame, twice, cut away and flanked by an elevated viewing platform.
Protest against the police presence turned to respect and questions of where you from sir - always responded by an pleasant and excited answer. Checking out the uniforms of officers coast to coast became a sport unto itself.
Concerns of damaged businesses in Whistler were quelled by a village so packed is was at times impossible to pass through squares.
Complaints against the cost of the Olympics, the most frugal in modern times, turned to questions of "can we do this every year." Some of the venues are a little barren of livelry, did we spend enough?
Criticism of a "two week party" turned to statements of "damn that was fun, can we do it again?"
Sympathy for the media evaporated every contrived attempt they made to call these the Glitch Games or question decisions that allowed outdoor sports to be affected by weather - a common occurrence informed journalist are not surprised by. Cold hard facts time and time again undermined superficial editorialization by the press - especially the whiny English media. Whether media will regain their credibility remains to be seen.
Public officials who lamented the crippling of transportation routes during the games now seek inquiries into how can we continue the social benefits of viaducts and roads blocked to automobiles.
The games end tonight hopefully with a Canada hockey gold and what undoubtedly will be an amazing closing ceremonies.
The greatest memory I take away from the Games is the tremendous shift in public perception in such a short amount of time. As a member of the original bid committee that won the games and one at the alpine venue during the games I am extraordinarily proud to see how my city and country embraced the games.
Nobody needs a research report of a poll to know these games have been an extraordinary success. The greatest legacy will not be venues but a nation a fair bit more proud and sure of itself.