Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Canada Shines in Olympics Opening (well kind of)

As you all know by now, I'm Canadian and I'm a PROUD Canadian (in my Canadian way). That means a few things:
It's important to understand what it is like to be a Canadian as we host the Olympics and I provide you my impressions of the Olympics Opening Ceremony. In typical Canadian fashion, we hire someone from *away* to direct our show. Yes, that's right we brought in an Australian, David Atkin, to define Canada as we take the spotlight.

Unfortunately, I couldn't stay up long enough to watch the ceremonies live. However, thanks to a certain Swedish site for connecting me with someone in the US who watched and captured the NBC coverage.

Anyway, as I sat down to watch the ceremonies, I was REALLY nervous. All of a sudden the wallflower (Canada) was taking centre stage and I was concerned we might suffer severe stage fright and REALLY screw up. What exactly I thought would happen? I'm not really sure. Perhaps, that the ceremony would be similar to Canadian TV. What you don't know any Canadian TV shows? That's hard to believe. Let me paint the picture: think LOW production values with dull storylines. No, actually lower and duller. If you dont' believe me, here a few that I'd watch as a youngster when nothing else was on the tube. King of Kensington (set in Toronto), The Trouble with Tracey (deemed worst sitcom of all time), and of course The Beachcombers (which was filmed a stone's throw from Whistler - home of the Downhill at the Olympics)

Now, can you see why I was so nervous?

My Observations
All and all, I thought the ceremony was beautiful, intimate despite the size of stadium and incredibly emotional. I loved the theatrical approach and the use of lights both on the playing field and on the audience itself. This was achieved by providing white capes to the audience which turned them in to a giant canvas. (wander here or here for some shots of the evening)

photo by: firebellyreed

As the ceremonies continued, I was progressively prouder to be a Canadian. I loved the welcoming section featuring the 4 First Nations from the Vancouver/Squamish area. The glass totems and costumes of the First Canadians were spectacular. The procession of the athletes with a special focus on Canada made me a little weepy.

Generally, the *journey* across Canada featuring different parts of Canada's landscape and culture was wonderful. I loved the fact that Donald Sutherland was the English voice of Canada. Then, Sarah McLachlan surpassed any expectation I would have had. (she is still one of my all-time favourite singers).

Uploaded by praguelondon.

The photo above featured one of my favourite moments. Donald Sutherland introduced the prairies with a quote from Who Has Seen The Wind by W.O. Mitchell. The aerial dance by Thomas Saulgrain was accompanied by one of my all time Canadian favourites - Joni Mitchell. It was utterly dream-like.

The 8 Canadians (listed below) chosen to carry in the Olympics flag were all deserving recognition for their unique accomplishments and provided a rich weave of Canadian fabric.
On a fashion note, I loved the white suits worn by all the background dancers and flagbearers. If you would like to know more about Olympic fashion, wander over to YYZ's post.

Image thanks to Firebellyreed

All this being said, I wouldn't be a Canadian without a big BUT. I would be remiss if I didn't mark a few of the cringe moments.
  1. Where was the FRENCH? Honestly, I kept waiting for it in the cross-country poetic tour of our country. I didn't hear it ONCE. I loved the quotes and songs that were so carefully chosen from W.O. Mitchell (which reminded me of grade 10 English class) to one of my favourite Joni Mitchell songs ever. Donald Sutherland's distinctive and soothing voice made each quote come to life. Yet, still I waited for a few French quotes or at least ONE. I kept saying to J "what about French?". We're Canadian, not American. That means a country with two official languages. What is this? Turns out, I wasn't alone in this concern.
  2. Why did we screw with our national anthem? I think the young woman who sang has a wonderful voice and her outfit was fab (as YYZ points out Dsquared designed it), but I hated the jazz version.
  3. The Olympic Cauldron was to be lit in a very Canadian manner - that is rather than choosing just one torch bearer, they chose 4. Sadly, there was some malfunction and the 4th column didn't rise and left one of the torch bearers without a column to light. I suspect someone was swearing profusely at the malfunction. Ahh... Poor Canada.

Flames Abound
Uploaded by praguelondon.

Don't get me wrong the ceremonies were great and I was rather veklempt when I heard the words and sentiments of a relatively unknown Canadian poet. Yes, I AM CANADIAN ;)

Now I'm off to watch more Olympics and you can see I'm wearing my Canadian colours.


Ere said...

The W.O. Mitchell and Sarah were, not surprisingly, my faves, too. I was longing for some "Mon pays, ce n'est pas un pays/ c'est l'hiver" or "Un canadien errant," too.

I did not love the totem poles, though-- I thought they looked cheesy. But I LOVED all the great stuff they did with fabric panels and lights in the centre. And how about those ice floes and the wintry costumes in that bit? LOVE!

The anthem was not great, I admit-- but did you know that Nikki Yanofsky can scat nearly as well as Ella Fitzgerald? And has been doing it since she was 12? I think that is why they went with the "interpretation" of O Canada. But you know what? I'm a purist and I want to be able to sing along with my national anthem, thanks. Isn't that the whole point of a national anthem?

I also LOVED the fiddlers and the step-dancers (in my blood, maybe-- some kind of genetic thing?), but I thought the poet guy was a bit too American in his boasting. Not my cuppa.


The torch thing was so awful-- after all that great, truly Canadian sharing-of-the-glory (someone wondered why Donovan Bailey wasn't there...), the debacle of the hideous, kindergarten-craft-project-meets-DIY-duct-work-disaster of an eyesore that is the torch, poor ol' #99 had to trek so far in the rain and dodging the yobs that it was all deeply, cringe-makingly anticlimactic.

And sort of endearing, as a result: as you say, we choke, so the torch debacle was, in an odd way, kinda fitting. Aww... :)

All in all, I loved the opening ceremonies. But, I recognized all the cultural references. My students, however, did not. Nor did our British pals. Both G and my students thought lots of it was twee and boring and irrelevant. I can forgive G, but my students? Never! How can they travel all over the world and know nothing about their own back yard? Not one of them has read "Who Has Seen The Wind"..... :(

Anonymous said...
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twoquartersofacup said...

Thank you SO much for posting the "Who has seen the wind?" aerial dance. That performance brought me to tears and I am mentioning it in a paper I'm currently writing for my Master's program - so I was so glad to be able to watch it again! I hope you are able to keep the video posted for a long time!