By Bev Schellenberg
The Olympics are over, but the memorabilia is here to stay. Vanoc reported that, by midway through the 2010 Games, it had already reached its $50 million sales goal, double the amount that merchandising brought in through the entire 2006 Winter Olympics. Three million cute red Olympic mittens alone were sold by the Hudson’s Bay Co. A few days before the closing ceremonies, a friend of mine and I watched a woman enact a scene reminiscent of Cinderella’s stepsisters with the golden slipper. Standing by the last remaining bin of Olympic mittens, children’s size small, she desperately and unsuccessfully attempted to force her adult hand into the tiny glove. My friend commented to her, “Maybe if you chop off a couple of fingers, it’ll fit.” The woman did not look impressed.
Maybe she later found what she wanted on eBay: on the day of the closing ceremonies, eBay had 2,154 pairs of Olympic mittens for sale.
I happened to be in Zellers on what was likely the final release day of the mittens, and so many were available that I picked up pairs for both my children (I got them the adult size small — perhaps that’s why there were so many remaining children’s sizes) and me. Then, as I’d recently had a conversation with my mom, who lives in snow-happy Saskatchewan, I decided to pick her up a pair as well. After paying more to post them than for the mittens themselves, I was happy to hear she’d received them before the games were through. Even better, she had walked to her mailbox gloveless and freezing in –27 degree weather, and returned in wooly warmth. Funny: I brought mine to a soccer game this weekend and it was too warm to wear them, yet here is where the Winter Olympics are being held. Canadian weather, eh?
Olympic pins are another rage: just ask the pinheads. The Simpsons episode in which Lisa falls prey to pin collecting and ends up wearing nothing but as she busks in downtown Vancouver, trying to get enough money for the next pin, wasn’t far from the truth. Lines were everywhere: six hours to get a glimpse of the Olympic medals at the Canadian Mint, another line-up for CBC Olympic pins. High school students of mine asked a man dressed in Russian attire to pose with them, and instead walked away with memories of a strong Russian accent and a gift of Russian pins. In their excitement, they didn’t realize until later that he’d avoided having his picture taken altogether.
Coke set up pin-trading centres in the Bay store and in a hut at the Yaletown LiveCity site. Several pin collectors sat amidst the throngs in downtown Vancouver, calmly displaying their collections. According to Dan Presburger, a high school history teacher from Thousand Oaks, California, pin-trading is a good way to meet people. Dan has 150,000 pins in his collection, and especially loves to trade Olympic pins. He and his nine-year old son, Aidan, walked around the streets of Vancouver in smocks spotted with pins. It was Dan’s 11th Olympics, and Aidan’s second. And pins are worth more than one may think — Dan managed to get into the Russia vs. Latvia game by trading a handful of pins for a ticket. I wonder how many pins it would’ve taken to pay for the final USA vs Canada game?
While I didn’t embrace pin collecting, I did have my eyes peeled for other Olympic memorabilia. I’d read that Olympic condoms were going to be handed out by Captain Condom and other superheroes . I hoped to press one or two into my Olympic photo album, but my high school students and I weren’t handed any, nor did we see any of Captain C’s safekits being distributed. Apparently, as with red mittens, Vancouver ran short and had to import condoms from other parts of Canada . A look on eBay was fruitless: the best it had to offer was an Olympic shirt with five condom rings, courtesy of a creative thinker in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Instead,I was handed two Olympic pamphlets: “The Way to Happiness: A Common sense Guide to Better Living” and “Gold Rush Vancouver.” The former is chock-full of happy advice courtesy Ron Hubbard, and the latter is from Answers in Genesis U.S.A. If “Gold Rush Vancouver” sounds appealing, I bet there are still several discarded copies of it lying where I last saw them in downtown Vancouver, a few steps from where the smiling volunteers handed them out and not far from where the Canadian Mint queue once stood.
As the Olympic athletes head home with their medals, the rest of us also have something to cling to — everything from Coke bottles that glow, Olympic wear, pins, and pamphlets, to stuffed Quatchis sporting little red Olympic mittens. Go Canada go.