Though the Vancouver Winter Olympics were plagued by skimpy snowfalls, unflattering media coverage, and a flame-resistant torch, the Games ended on a high note — not least for the USA, which broke its all-time medal record. (Watch a report about the luger who died at the Vancouver Olympics.) But you need to look beyond the medal count to identify the real winners and losers of these games:
Although hosting the Olympics cost the city roughly $6 billion, early signs indicate it may easily make that money back in tourist revenue. The visitor count went "far beyond" expectations, says Tourism Vancouver.
2. The NHL
Last night's men's hockey final — in which Canada snatched gold from the U.S. in a riveting and highly watched overtime drive — will boost both Canada and the NHL generally, according to Philly2Philly.com. The high-buzz game proves that hockey is becoming a "more viable product" in the U.S.
Though Germany ended up second in the medal count, says the Daily Beast, it arguably achieved the most of any country — after you take into account the meager financial resources Germany put into its sports programs and its relatively small population.
4. South Korea's Kim Yu-na
Winning her country's first Winter Olympics gold medal in figure skating is just the tip of the iceberg for the 19-year-old figure skater, who's already a "marketing darling" in her home country. According to the Korea Times, you can now buy "Yuna milk, Yuna bread, Yuna SUVs, Yuna air-conditioners, Yuna earrings, Yuna facial cream and Yuna teddy bears." Olympic gold could make her the highest-paid athlete in winter sports.
5. The environment
Vancouver delivered "the greenest Olympics ever," says USA Today. The city made public transport free, built energy-efficient new buildings, and tapped green energy sources; even the medals, crafted from "recycled electronics," were green.
6. Bode Miller
Until this year, the U.S. alpine skier was remembered more for barhopping at Turin 2006 than for demonstrating prowess on the pistes. But three Vancouver medals, including a gold in the men's combined, has restored his rep as one of the sport's best. "A pocketful of Olympic medals can sure change how we look at a guy," says Tim Dahlberg at AP.
7. Stephen Colbert
The Comedy Central star's decision to help sponsor the U.S. speed skating team and "function" as rink-side "assistant sports psychologist" delivered "one of the more awesome story lines" of the Games, says The Huffington Post. The team won an unprecedented 10 medals.
8. Safe sex
In a victory for planned parenthood, the 7,000 residents of the Athletes Village ran through a supply of 100,000 free condoms halfway through the Games. "That's about 14 condoms per person," notes CBC. An emergency shipment was immediately dispatched to the libidinous Olympians.
1. The International Luge Federation
After the tragic death of Georgian luger Kumaritashvili, the sport's international governing body earned criticism for "callously" blaming the 21-year-old's death on his own inexperience. Other observers blamed the ILF itself for the luge track's "dangerous" design.
3. Evgeni Plushenko
So certain was the narcissistic, silver-medal-winning Russian figure skater that he'd been "robbed" of a gold that he awarded himself a "platinum medal" on his website. "Dude, get a grip," sighs Tracee Hamilton at the Washington Post.
4. Anti-drug campaigners
Given Vancouver's legendary tolerance of marijuana, says the Washington Post, the streets were heavy with the "unofficial odor of the Vancouver Olympics," even as the police were clamping down on liquor stores. One pot dealer told the paper: "The local street dealers have never been so busy in their lives."
5. Scotty Lago
Though few debate that the US halfpipe snowboarder had a right to celebrate his bronze medal, his post-podium shenanigans (captured in famously "racy" photos leaked by TMZ.com) led the 23-year-old to leave the Olympics in disgrace.
6. Marion Rolland
After the French downhill skier fell just four seconds into her first race, she became a YouTube sensation. She's "definitely no newcomer to the sport," mused Julien Pretot of Reuters, but it "looked like her first time on skis."
7. Women's hockey
The IOC is contemplating dropping the sport from future games after results revealed how monotonously North American teams dominate the competition — the US and Canada outscored their opponents by a composite score of 88-4. The gold-medal-winning Canadian team didn't help their case by smoking cigars on the ice post-win.
Barred from taking photos of the Olympic cauldron; criticised for being too rowdy; denied entry to rain-lashed snowboarding events. Certain gaffes on the part of the Vancouver Olympic Committee made it challenging for tourists to enjoy the Games.
SEE MORE OF THE WEEK'S COVERAGE OF THE VANCOUVER OLYMPICS:
• Worst Olympics ever? 12 epic Vancouver blunders
• Too many naked Olympians?
• Lindsay Vonn vs. Julia Mancuso
• Scotty Lago's Olympic photo flap
• Vancouver's snowless Olympics?