VANCOUVER — Friday night, while watching the Olympics Opening Ceremony, a guy from Alberta wearing a Team Canada snow hat and red maple leaf T-shirt and drinking a Molson sang "O, Canada" in downtown Vancouver, but only after watching a group of Irish dancers entertain a crowd filled with people sipping Guinness.
While Canadians lucky enough to get a ticket attended the Opening Ceremony, about 750 people who weren't VIPs packed inside the recently erected pavilion at Irish House, which featured more bartenders than Ireland has Winter Olympians.
Geoff Green, the proud Albertan, figured he had found the best of both worlds -- a crowd of cheering Canadians, and the neighborhood-wrecking, beer-saturated, first-to-open-and-last-to-close Irish House.
"I just got here from Alberta, and everyone I met told me this is the place to be," Green said. "I've been here since 2 o'clock. All I know is the Irish know how to put on a good party."
Unless drinking Guinness by the fireplace counts, the Irish aren't known for excelling in winter sports. "Truthfully, people come here, order a Guinness, then ask, 'There's an Irish team?'" said Tania Richards, director of sales, marketing and promotions for the Granville Entertainment Group, which runs Irish House.
The Holland House is more famous, because the patrons tend to wear funny hats, sing funny songs and worship funny sports.
Leave it to the Irish, though, to be first to open the doors to their House at the Vancouver Olympics, and the first to offend the neighbors. "We quickly became the place to be," Richards said. "The neighbors don't like us very much. You pack 750 people in here, you're not going to stay very quiet."
The six Irish Olympians aren't expected to win any medals; the Irish House already has won lots of Canadian hearts. The pavilion, erected right by the Comfort Inn on Nelson Street in the city's entertainment district, also has welcomed visits from the Olympic Council of Ireland and been blessed by an archbishop.
"I mean, how many athletes do we have, four?" said Philomena Jordan, a storyteller from County Mayo hired to entertain the partiers. "We're Irish. Any excuse for a party will do."
A highly scientific survey of employees and customers revealed these answers to the question: Who's your favorite Irish winter athlete?
Jordan: "Oh, I don't know, I'm kind of not in touch with that as I should be."
Tom Petras, who was drinking a Guinness at 12:30 in the afternoon: "Not sure. But this is the place to be. My mother was named Callahan, so I'm one-quarter Irish, and three-quarters Czech. Which is tough, because they both know how to drink."
Brian Kennedy, who also was drinking a Guinness at 12:30: "I couldn't tell you. In fact, before I came here, I didn't know what sports they were in."
He smiled and said, "We came here to learn."
Richards spent time with the Irish athletes at Whistler. She also lost her voice within five days of Irish House opening. "I have no idea why," she said with a grin.
(Full disclosure: I'm Irish. There is a Souhan's Garage in Trim, Ireland. Any jokes I make about the Irish and their drinking habits are as self-deprecating as they are accurate.)
Friday night, Canadians partied to Celtic music and Riverdancers, causing the kilt-wearing Derek Quinn to scream, "This is bleepin' Disneyland!"
Quinn is from Scotland. He prides himself on snowboarding while wearing his kilt. He showed me pictures. He was very proud. I'm still recovering.
"This place was recommended to me as soon as I got to town," Quinn said. "It's just beautiful. The Irish know how to throw a party, don't they?"
As 750 Canadians cheered and ordered more Guinness, that became a rhetorical question.
Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday, and 6:40 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org