No. 2: Winter Olympics

The 2010 Winter Olympics couldn’t have suffered a worse start, with the death of Georgian luge competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run. The accident cast a pall over the Games before they had begun.

There was even talk of Vancouver 2010 going down as one of the worst Olympics in history: a lack of snow, then too much, for skiing, an Olympic flame cauldron malfunction at the Opening Ceremony, and even the ice machine breakdown that delayed the long-track speed skating event.

But although the opening week attracted attention for mostly the wrong reasons, the Games kicked into life and ended up a genuine success story.

The host nation shrugged off embarrassing organizational mishaps and embraced the event — helped in no small part by a series of native triumphs. After failing to win a single gold medal at its home games in 1976 (the Summer Olympics in Montreal) and 1988 (the Winter Olympics in Calgary), Canada ended up with 14, including the one it craved more than any other: hockey gold, thanks to Sidney Crosby’s overtime win in the men’s final against the United States.

As always at an Olympics, there was the finest of lines between perfection and pain. Up on the mountain, NBC’s fixation with Lindsey Vonn didn’t exactly pan out, with the American star (and most-searched Olympian in 2010) managing only one gold and one bronze and having a public spat with teammate and rival Julia Mancuso (the second-most searched Winter Games athlete).

Men’s figure skating saw a USA vs. Russia battle reminiscent of the Cold War days, with Evan Lysacek prevailing over Evgeni Plushenko, despite the Russian’s superb completion of the eye-catching quad jump. On the women’s side, Kim Yu-na of South Korea won a deserved gold, but Joannie Rochette of Canada won the love of a worldwide audience with a bronze medal performance just days after her mother’s death.

Apolo Anton Ohno became the most decorated American in Winter Olympic history, adding a silver and two bronzes in short-track speed skating to the five medals he won in 2002 and 2006. And Shaun White once again dominated the halfpipe amid a blaze of stunning tricks and fiery hair.

As for the next Winter Olympics, the competition has already been fierce — over mascots and host cities. Russia (specifically, Sochi) will host the XXII Games in 2014, and Russians were divided over bear cubs and blue frogs in a November mascot competition. That same month, Annecy, France; Munich, Germany; and Pyeongchang, South Korea, made their pitches for 2018. The host city will be decided July 6, 2011. The Russian mascot should make its debut earlier, in February.

Most-searched Winter Olympians of 2010

  1. Lindsey Vonn
  2. Julia Mancuso
  3. Apolo Ohno
  4. Torah Bright
  5. Shaun White
  6. Nodar Kumaritashvili (deceased)
  7. Joannie Rochette
  8. Johnny Weir
  9. Evan Lysacek
  10. Bode Miller

–Martin Rogers