Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Tale of Metal and Medals

It's hard to believe the 2010 Olympics are drawing to a close today. It has been an exciting two weeks, capped off by the gold medal match-up between the Canadian and American hockey teams taking place this afternoon, followed by the closing ceremonies tonight.

I spent some time in the armour exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum on Friday night. If you're into metalwork, you will really enjoy this collection. They have some beautiful pieces on display, from intricately carved decorated breast plates worn on parade (rather than in battle) to chain mail to the intricately formed handles of various swords and rapiers.

One of the 15 "must see" iconic items in the museum is this piece of armour worn by the first Earl of Pembroke. It's said to be an extremely rare example of this type of "garniture" - you can see from the small posts on the shoulders that other pieces, such as the sleeves, are meant to be layered on top.

What does armour have to do with the Olympics, you might be asking yourself? I was amused to come across this exhibit describing the similarities between today's hockey players and knights of the Middle Ages taking part in something called "Baston Course" or "Club Course", which was a mock battle "in which knights on horseback tried to smash the parchment or leather crests on their opponents' helmets with wooden swords and clubs". It compared the iron grills on the knights' helmets to the face guards worn today and the steel gauntlets worn on their hands back then to the special gloves players wear today for protection. Both sports require(d) special skills to wield either a wooden sword or a hockey stick.

Whether the Canadian men's hockey team goes home with a silver or gold medal today doesn't really make a difference. I am extremely proud of all the athletes and their various accomplishments. Win or lose, it is an incredible feat to represent your country in an Olympic competition, one that most of us can only imagine and admire from the comfort of our living rooms.

For Canada, it has been a record-breaking performance, with the winning of more medals than ever before - to have done this on home soil makes it extra special. We Canadians are also proud to have hosted these games in the city of Vancouver and I think the organizers and volunteers should be commended for having done an amazing job. With glowing hearts, we bring down the curtain on these Games and look ahead to London in 2012.

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