Thousands of Olympic fans and proud Canadians braved snow and cold temperatures on Jan. 11, to show their support for Canadian athletes as they head off to Sochi, Russia for this year’s Winter Olympic Games.
The block party, which was sponsored by Molson Canadian, was held along Banff Avenue in Banff and acted as the official Canadian send off for the country’s Olympic athletes.
“We came for the atmosphere, and to support and cheer on the athletes,” said Heather McMillan from Calgary.
“And the beer,” added her boyfriend Tom Bartlett.
A Molson Canadian beer garden was set up on Banff Avenue, along with other activities and Olympic sponsor tents, including a 40-foot ice climbing wall and a Hudson’s Bay kiosk selling the famous Canadian Olympic mittens.
With past and current athletes surrounded by hundreds of Canadian flags, the crowd’s overall vibe was genuine happiness and support for the Canadian teams.
“To have all this support is amazing, and we couldn’t ask for a better crowd,” said Natalie Spooner of the women’s hockey team.
“We’re proud to be here.”
“This is a picture perfect postcard,” said Hayley Wickenheiser, a forward on the women’s hockey team, who will be the official flag-bearer for Team Canada at the opening ceremonies in Sochi on Feb. 7.
In addition to the women’s hockey team, both the men and women’s curling teams were in attendance and made appearances on the stage alongside CBC talk show host George Stroumboulopoulos.
Fans in the crowd were treated to performances by Canadian rock bands, The Arkells and The Sheepdogs.
Ewan Currie, lead singer of The Sheepdogs, did a phenomenal job of getting the crowd pumped up, at one point stopping the music so the sound of the crowd chanting “go Canada go” could be heard.
“It was great to see everyone so excited and pumped,” said Bartlett.
“Canadians are very proud.”
Among the crowd was Tom Birchall, from Calgary, who was in Banff promoting the upcoming opening of the Brewster Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park.
Dawning a Canadian hat, red mittens and a Canadian flag as a cape, Birchall had no trouble showing off his Canadian spirit.
“I’m most excited to watch the hockey,” he said. “We have some great teams this year.
“I think we can kick it up another notch, and show our Canadian pride even more,” he said, urging others to follow in his footsteps.
“Cheer out loud and be the outward expression of your pride.”
Canadian pride defined the event with many sporting the colour red and chanting the hashtag “WeAreWinter”, making it an event to remember.
“I think knowing how much support they have back home will help motivate them,” said McMillan of the Canadian athletes.
“The games are in Russia so we have to send them off with something to remember.”
“You’re in the middle of Banff Avenue surrounded by mountains with The Sheepdogs playing. You can’t get much more Canadian than that.”