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Gary Mason (JOHN LEHMANN/JOHN LEHMANN/GLOBE AND MAIL)
Gary Mason (JOHN LEHMANN/JOHN LEHMANN/GLOBE AND MAIL)

Gary Mason

Post-podium depression has hit Vancouver Add to ...

For the past few days, my wife hasn't been herself.

She comes home from work miserable. Her routine of the last couple of weeks has been shattered. It consisted of grabbing some food, pouring a glass of wine and turning on the television, which she normally seldom watches. But during the Olympics, she was glued to it.

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She morphed into a person I didn't know. She screamed at the flat screen when a Canadian speed skater was closing in on a medal. She welled up every time she watched one of those syrupy CTV montages of great Olympic moments. She high-fived passengers on the Canada Line after Sidney Crosby gave the country one of the great hockey moments in its history. And led them in O Canada too.

She swelled with pride when she walked the streets of her city, the one she was born and raised in, that never looked more beautiful, never felt more alive and fun, than it did during the Olympics.

And then she woke up Monday morning and, poof, it was all over.

Now she is suffering from post-podium depression.

She is not alone. Several people I have talked to are experiencing the same thing. And most of them never imagined they'd feel this way. As one put it: Reality sucks.

There has been an eeriness about downtown Vancouver the past few days. For two weeks, the sidewalks were crammed with people. The lineups were blocks long to get into Olympic exhibitions - and some beer houses too. Now the streets seem deserted, in an almost post-apocalyptic way.

And the Olympic cauldron down by the waterfront: I walked by it the other day and, unlit, it kind of looked sad. The thousands of curious onlookers that once flocked to see it each day were gone too.

The mayor of Salt Lake City said her town experienced an emotional letdown after the Olympics were held there in 2002. But not every Olympic city feels this way after the five-ring circus moves on. The Italians never really embraced the Games when they came to Turin in 2006. They couldn't wait to have their city back. The Greeks were too upset about the debt associated with the 2004 Olympics to feel much sadness when the party was over.

Why is the sense of loss so profound in Vancouver? I think, in part, it's because the whole thing turned out far better than anyone expected. There weren't the massive disruptions to people's lives that had been predicted. The two- and three-hour waits for transit that were once feared never materialized. In fact, the system worked brilliantly. It drew raves from visitors, which made us all feel good too. Normally, all we do is complain about transit here.

Many didn't expect people to embrace the event the way they did. All the pre-Olympic polling told us people were divided about the Games, that many didn't want them here at all. We were led to believe half the city was taking off for Mexico to avoid all the headaches the events were going to create.

Some did but most didn't. And judging by the crowds, it's hard to believe there is anyone living in Greater Vancouver who didn't venture downtown at some point to drink in the atmosphere. People instinctively knew there was something going on that they were not going to experience again. It was historic.

Mostly, though, I think people just felt good about seeing the flag waved the way it was for a couple of weeks. We're not like that usually. And undoubtedly we will return to our more normal, reserved and understated ways. But the Olympics made us feel something we hadn't felt before - at least not in a long time. It was the day Paul Henderson scored his famous goal, times 17. And it ultimately gave us another hockey moment that may become even more iconic than that goal in Russia.

I think that's what many people here are now missing - that extraordinary pride of place that existed during the Games. There was something about it all that felt like a country coming of age.

Life in Vancouver will eventually return to normal. The melancholy will lift. The Olympics will become but a wonderful memory. Meantime, my wife isn't ready to put away her red mittens just yet.

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