VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The party is over in Vancouver, replaced by an Olympic-sized hangover. The question now is how long the headaches will last.
While the streets of Vancouver overflowed with mosh pit-like crowds celebrating Canada's overtime hockey victory over the U.S. in the gold-medal game on Sunday night, the arena that hosted the game was already being dismantled from the inside out.
By the time the world media finished writing up Sidney Crosby's golden goal, the ice he scored it on had almost been completely stripped away.
The Olympic-logo faceoff dot nearest his clinching shot had been melted out of the ice and given to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in exchange for his hat, which the Zamboni driver wore while grinding away the rest of the ice. Except he wasn't driving a Zamboni, but rather a sponsor-supplied Olympia, which broke down before the ice was gone and required a second to tow it off and finish.
It was a somewhat fitting scene for an Olympics that started solemnly with the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training crash, and struggled through weather, technical and performance issues in the middle, before finishing in climatic fashion with a historic hockey win.
By the time Vancouver awoke Monday — many belatedly and with bloodshot eyes no doubt — the celebratory din that followed had been replaced by sounds of power tools as temporary venues were dismantled and packed into moving vans. The red-and-white crowd had given way to more typical weekday attire, with only a smattering of Canada logos among the power suits and dark overcoats.
"We've done a lot of triple-shot drinks this morning," said Kyle Straw, the manager — and award-winning barista — at Caffe Artigiano, one of Vancouver's most popular stops for coffee. "I've never seen this city celebrate so big, never been in a crowd as intense and thick as it was last night."
The remnants of that crowd, including many of the 60,000 people crammed into Sunday's closing ceremonies, were surprisingly manageable.
Garbage was in, or at least nearby, the numerous temporary trash cans, with a solitary shoe on the sidewalk the only sign of the recent revelry.
"We expected a lot worse," said Jody Weatherby, an electrician with the City of Vancouver as he helped repair street-crossing signals damaged in the party.
Like low-lying fruit, the signals were an easy and expected target, too easy for those that had one too many to jump up, grab onto and hang from. But other than that, Weatherby said the biggest damage on Monday was to the city's mood.
"The feeling is such a cascade leading up and everybody got caught up in it and now that it is over they are deflated, he said. "They want it to go on."
That was evident down the road at the official Olympic Superstore.
The lines were shorter — less than half a block after stretching as long as five-blocks during the Games — but by noon the store was packed with people in search of Olympic memorabilia. Even with the popular $10 red mittens sold out, people lined up 50 deep to pay full price for all kinds of Canada and 2010 items, perhaps unaware the same stuff was already marked down 70 percent in the suburbs.
As willing as Vancouver residents were to pay for an Olympic memento, the long-term cost of hosting the 2010 Winter Games could be a lot more expensive and harder to swallow.
With a price tag between $2-$7 billion, depending on whether you are a critic or proponent, there are Olympian-sized bills to be paid. The City is on the hook for the $1 billion athlete's village, and can only hope the competitor's rave reviews, combined with picturesque television footage of the waterfront it sits on, will be enough to sell the units at a high enough price to cover the costs — and still keep promises of 250 units of social housing, which now seems unlikely.
That will be an ongoing rallying cry for various groups of protesters that made their voices heard during the Games, loudly pointing out the irony of escalating Olympic costs at a time of cuts to education, health care and social services, particularly in the drug-riddled Downtown Eastside.
And while most of the water cooler talk — it was also a great place to wash down some aspirin — on Monday was about Crosby and so many of the other great stories behind a record 14 gold medals for Canada, some also wondered aloud about the lasting impact of the Olympics on the city.
"Right now people are still in a bit of shock that it's over and there is an Olympic downer," said Joe Cahan, an attorney and longtime resident who was admittedly against the Winter Games, even leaving town the first week before getting caught up in the finale. "It was incredible for Canadian athletes and great exposure to the world. But we're also mulling over what it means long-term to Vancouver beyond higher taxes and property prices, and I'm pessimistic about the benefits."