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Originally published February 15, 2010 at 6:01 PM | Page modified February 16, 2010 at 7:43 AM

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For humble Olympic hosts, 'O Canada' is all the rage

Canadians pride themselves on being a humble people. But during the Vancouver Olympics, even local hip hop artists have turned into unabashed Canada boosters. "We're all jacked out of our minds."

Seattle Times staff reporter

VANCOUVER, B.C. —

It's almost 10:30 at night, and a hip-hop artist with wild locks under a red bandanna has gathered a crowd of about 100 at the corner of Granville and Robson.

"How many people here just gotta love hip hop?" he asks in cadence that fits the driving beat, and the crowd — mostly in their 20s and 30s — erupts in a cheer.

"And how many people here just gotta love Canada?" he asks. And this time, the cheer is even louder, peppered with whoops, high-fives and shouts of "Go, Canada."

Five minutes later, a block away, a dozen college-age men wrap their arms around one another's shoulders and burst into the Canadian national anthem, their voices especially forceful as they punctuate the finish: "O Canada, we stand on GUARD. FOR. THEE."

On downtown streets, some closed to vehicle traffic and alive with revelers until midnight and beyond, the spirit of these Olympics is unabashed, red-and-white Canadian pride.

They're proud of their country. They're proud of their athletes. Heck, they're even proud of their humility.

"Normally we are a humble people and that's great," said Mark Melo, 35, of Ontario. "But this is a time to show our pride in what a great country we are."

Melo, wearing a red top hat with white maple leaves, plans to attend speedskating, women's hockey and snowboarding. But for many out celebrating in downtown Vancouver, this street scene is their Olympic event.

"They day it was announced that Vancouver would have the Olympics, I said, 'We're going,' " said Mary Jeffries, 45, who traveled from Calgary and is staying at the home of a sister. She has no tickets to Olympic events and isn't trying to get any. "You don't have to go to the sports to take part in a worldwide event. It's just being here."

Her greatest souvenir may be a snapshot of the Richmond Olympic Oval — from the outside. "We're going to go back tomorrow to see if the security guard will let us get a little closer."

Sunday's gold-medal performance of mogul skier Alexandre Bilodeau is helping fuel Canadian pride. Even the most casual of fans on the street seems to know this was Canada's first gold medal on Canadian soil, the country having taken no gold in Montreal in 1976 or Calgary in 1988.

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"We're all jacked out of our minds. ... I can't believe we're so cool," said Michael Algra, 20, of Calgary, waiting to get in LiveCity Downtown, which has free concerts under a tent and interactive displays about Canada and its athletes.

About a mile away, LiveCity Yaletown also has free concerts, and in between, a stretch of Granville Street is a pedestrian festival, with lines of customers waiting to get into its many nightspots.

Not everyone out here is from Canada. It's possible to overhear German, Spanish or Asian languages. But the hootin' and hollerin' is clearly Canadian.

It's more than awesome, says Rachel Cheung, 19, of Calgary, it's "spooked awesome."

"We scream at people and everyone screams back," she said. "It's sweet."

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or jbroom@seattletimes.com

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