Olympic Opening Ceremony Review: We Love Canada!

E: I am such a sucker for the pomp and circumstance of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.  The costumes, the dance, the celebratory aspect – I eat that stuff for breakfast.

M: Which is far better than what Shooter McGavin eats for breakfast.  Seriously, though, I love that stuff, too.  I love the Olympics in general, and look forward every time to see what new and interesting things they are going to do in the opening ceremonies, especially what way they are going to light to torch.  Every time I want to see if someone can match the the archer in Barcelona, which Beijing two years ago came the closest I’ve seen.

E: I can’t think of a better marketing plan, I really can’t.  I had no idea Vancouver was so spectacular!  What a truly glorious city, ringed by water and then mountains.  It made me gasp.  When can I book a flight, already?   I’ve spent more vacations in Canada than anywhere else out of the US, but I’ve never been to its West Coast, and wow do I want to now.

M: Agreed!  I’ve only been to the Great White North once, and that was for a quick ski trip in high school, and I had heard Vancouver was a great city, but holy moly did it come off incredibly!

E: There’s an intimacy to the Winter Games which is really fantastic – instead of the 204 countries and 11,000 athletes, we have 82 countries (38 of whom have never won a medal!)  and 2,600 athletes.  Not that I don’t adore the Summer Games, of course, but the scale of the winter games is less intimidating.  You can see more of the events, and more of the athletes, which is really nice.

M: And so many of the countries only had one athlete!  That made me wonder, though, how someone “qualifies” for the Olympics.  I mean, how does an athlete from Algeria, a Saharan nation on the southern coast of the Mediterranean, determine its cross country skiing champion, and why would their luge champion not be allowed to compete?  These are the things I need to look up.

E: There are standards you have to meet to compete internationally, and I think those are determined by the individual sports?  It’s hard to figure, though.  I know it can be tedious, but I love the Parade of Nations.  I love seeing what they wear (the Italian wool coats!  The British blazers and berets! The Bermuda shorts – with navy knee socks!) and hearing the personal stories of some of the flag bearers.  While lots of the Winter Olympic fashion tend towards bulky parka and snow pants, there’s still fun stuff.  And the hats!  The knitwear on the American team and the Swedes – the Icelandic fur hats – the Cayman Islanders straw hats!

M: Don’t forget the pants on the team from Azerbaijan!

E: Oh yes.  Comedy aside,it’s impossible to talk about last night without mentioning the horrific tragedy of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.  The film is devastating. I’m so glad that the Georgian contingent marched -once  8 athletes, now 7, with tears in their eyes, black scarves and arm band and a black ribbon on their flag.  There’s no more fitting tribute to their fallen comrade than to march in his honor.  It was his dream, too.

Some random thoughts after the jump, both serious and silly.In no particular order, here’s more of what we thought about the Opening Ceremonies:

E: The Royal Canadian Mounties are thrilling to see, aren’t they?

M: As Bob Costas said, they are instantly recognizable world wide, and the uniforms are so cool.

E:  I liked the Olympic Flag bearers as well – Anne Murray!  Love Anne Murray!  I hadn’t realized Bobby Orr was Canadian, though.  Or Nellie Furtardo, though I don’t so much care about that.  Anyone else surprised not to see Celine Dion?

M: Very, though not upset.  No BareNaked Ladies, either, which was upsetting.  Also, I was little upset not to see Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, though not surprised.

E: Hopefully they’re saving BNL for the Closing Ceremonies?  That’s less formal, and more suited to our beloved group’s style.

The slam poetry was very cool, and particularly neat that they found the guy on youtube.  I love that everyone cheered when he said “please and thank you” , and I liked the lines “an experiment going right for a chance” and “true North, strong and free.”  (It reminded me quite a bit of one of my favorite poems, Archibald MacLeish’s “A Good Man in a  Bad Time”, written for Jerome Weisman.) But then I’m a sucker for poetry.

M: Yes, very cool!

E: I spent almost the whole time wondering that noise of approval was, that sounded like the rushing sea, until we saw that they’d given the audience drums and mallets to pound them with.  Awesome.

Of course it was The Great One with the final torch.  Who else could it have been?  It made me cry a little, though, that the beautiful cauldron didn’t come together as it should have.  It was still spectacular, but it hurts to think of a hitch marring something so many invested so much expertise and love and time in.

M: That was so unfortunate.  They made it work, but you have to feel bad for them.

E: Do you think the one in the stadium will stay up all week?  And what are they using the stadium for, anyway? 

M: I think they’ll use it for something, but I have to admit, unless it’s hockey, I’m not sure what.

E: Loved the First Nation dancing, but I couldn’t help but wonder about the colors in some of the costumes.  Is neon traditional? I also got a bit of a chuckle wondering if all the little Twihards got a thrill out of seeing the one Nation where the handsome shirtless guy wore the wolf head and pelt.

M: I loved that they included them, fantastic touch, great tribute to the history of the region.  However, I couldn’t help but think two things…  first, where and when did they come up with the amazingly pc term “First Nations”?  Second, one of the four is called the Lil’ Wat nation, which made me wonder if Lil’ Wayne is of Lil’ Wat decent, because, well, that’d be awesome.)

E: Oi, you.  Nice thought about Lil’Wayne, though.

My favorite thing might have been the joyous, riotous tap dancing – an amazing merge of Cape Breton fiddling, step dancing, punk clothes and hair, tattoos, tartan, and rollicking exuberance.  Brock Jellison rocks (and has an awesome name).  Even Wolverine would be taken aback by the hair of the fiddler in the floating blue canoe, but that’s okay.  The music and the dancing?  Fan-freaking-tastic.

M: Definitely fantastic, but all I could think of was that it looked like “The Devil Went Down To Canada”, and kept expecting to see Charlie Daniels come out and win the duel.

E: Snort. Amazing to think they spent only a 10th of the money Bejing did.  They certainly got a bang for their buck. The projection stuff was amazing.  I loved the storm on the mountain and the acrobat running over the prairie.  (And I didn’t know Joanie Mitchell was Canadian, either.)

M: Yes, the floor and the three rings hanging above the center were amazing canvases.  The acrobat kid was just awesome, and will be one of the indelible images of these games.  My favorite, though, was the whales that swam across the floor spouting water .  They were unbelievable, and the Northern Lights on the rings?  Stunning! Oh, an the indoor snowing, too!

E: The whales were definitely a showstopper.  And yes, the indoor snowing.  Great stuff!  I even liked the architecture of the stadium, too –  the Fortress of Solitude podium/orchestra stage was very appropriate to Winter Games.

M: I thought the same thing!

E: Yeah.  I stole the comparison from our mom, actually.

M: So, apparently my reaction was genetic.

E: Erm, yes.  Carrying on, I liked John Furlong’s speech.

M: Fast forward!  I love DVR!

E: Turkey.  I’m still a bit puzzled by the Governor General (even if it was cool that she’s from Haiti) standing in for Queen Elizabeth; Canada IS its own country, yes?  Is it considered a protectorate, officially, or what?

M: I think that it, like Australia, may still be part of the United Kingdom, and thus still technically under the dominion of the Queen.

E: But only technically, right?  Here’s something else to research…

M: Yes, I believe it is a technicality.  I am also willing to bet that the sole reason the Queen didn’t go was because the Governor General is from Haiti.

E: Or at least the reason she didn’t send Wills in her place…

M: Speaking of Haiti, “We Are The World 25 For Haiti“?  Pretty good, and I loved seeing that they kept the tradition of including a random actor in the group.  In the original it was Dan Aakroyd, this time they had both Jeff Bridges and Vince Vaughn.  Nice.

E: I wondered if the people in the large group were all from the telethon (which, obviously, I did not watch or I would know)?  Otherwise I thought Vince Vaughn’s presence was a little odd. Jeff Bridges sings in Crazy Heart (as you’ll see from my review, which’ll be up soon) and he’s quite good.  I thought it was pretty great.  I bawled, of course.  The long version (which they showed at the start of today’s telecast) is even better, but I have to say – you have all that talent in one room and start with Justin Bieber?  Who you have to autotune?  Fine, if you’re going to autotune the rappers because that’s their style, but I don’t think that’s Bieber’s issue.  Miley Cyrus has a much better voice, courts the same demographic, and she was there.  Give her the opening!  Jennifer Hudson was the vocal highlight for me.

And that might be it.  Well, that and the fact that I loved the Coke snow ball fight commercial (don’t you feel like that’s what ought to be going on in the Olympic village?) and the GE one with the hand held ultrasound machine.  How cool was that? Paging Dr. McCoy… Did we miss anything you loved?  Failed to mock something you hated?  Are you as psyched as us about these games?  And, hey, if you’re looking to give away free trips to Vancouver to some lucky bloggers, we would really appreciate it…

10 comments on “Olympic Opening Ceremony Review: We Love Canada!

  1. Krizzzz says:

    On qualifying — I think it’s correct that it’s easier to qualify as, say, the skier from Ethiopia when you’re one of, say, two skiers in Ethiopia… but I also think there are international standards one has to meet. Except…I’m thinking of the fellow in the summer Olympics some years back, who could barely swim. He got a great ovation for just trying, but one wonders. Scott and I were discussing the Georgian luger along these lines: I was saying I’d love to know more about the qualifications. In theory, this man qualified, right? If the track is hard enough (meaning that our technology has advanced enough) that the best lugers in the world can’t stay on it…. Scott and I were wondering, then — this man was among the best in Georgia. How does that compare to the best in a luge powerhouse country? Surely he has to be at that caliber to even be ALLOWED on such a track, yes?

    I found myself remembering the crazy difficult ski slope that took out so many Super G racers that one time — sitting in my apartment in Philly watching Hermann Meier (again, among the best in the world, right?) literally sail off the track, inexorably, as the forces of physics took over. Terrifying — and he lived to race another day.

    To the parade — I’m so glad they did that early. Scott and I didn’t make it through the end, and I just love to see the people. =)

    Love the Mounties. =)

    M — I think “First Nations” has been around for a bit (I remember our chorus discussing it two springs ago when we did a piece drawn from some Native American song/poetry), and wasn’t something the IOC did — I believe it’s the First Nations themselves who like it. (It occurred to me at that point — Native American isn’t necessarily accurate for all of them, but First Nations covers rather more territory.)

    And yes, I too m a sucker for the Olympics. Love just sitting and watching the venues and hearing the NOISE. It’s so darned festive. And oh, I could wax poetic here about human potential… but nobody really wants me to do that. 😉

    • E says:

      Sure we do. You’d make me cry if you did, though. Not that I mind that, of course. 😉

      What I understand from the announcers is that the Whistler track reaches speeds as high as the mid-90s, and normal is closer to mid-80s, so it’s not exactly an order of magnitude faster than everyone is used to, but it is significantly faster. The specialists seem to think this wouldn’t be a problem for say, the top 12 in the sport, but everyone else? It was a worry. They’ve already ruled that the death was due to athlete error, but you can’t help but think that if only they’d had better barriers in place it would never have happened.

      Although I would imagine that almost no one feels worse than the course designers.

    • E says:

      I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s a World Cup track, and this young man was World Cup Qualified, but this course is significantly faster and more dangerous than the average World Cup course. So what do you do with that? Apparently the head of the International Luge Association had been worried about it. It’s a shame that they didn’t think about modifying the barriers before. It hurts no one to be safe, and it’s not as if the exposed steel beams were there for their looks.

  2. Colin says:

    The Governor General is the representative of the Queen of Canada in Canada as the Queen usually lives in…you know, England. She’s not the Queen of England ruling Canada, she is simply the Queen of Canada. So Canada, and Australia, are entirely independent just with a non resident monarch. Absolutely not a part of the United Kingdom.

    Some history for you.

    • E says:

      Oh, I know, that was appallingly ignorant of me to admit in public, wasn’t it? When I think of Governor Generals it’s in relation to, you know, the American Revolution. I guess I just assumed that the structure had changed since and was a bit gobsmacked. More than anything else, it seems unfair that Stephen Harper has to do all the hard work of running the Canadian government, and doesn’t get the ceremonial perks.

      • Stephen says:

        E, Stephen Harper’s the head of government while the Queen is the head of state. (In the U.S., the President is both.) To oversimplify things, Canada is governed like the UK but has its own Parliament.

    • M says:

      Thanks Colin, I honestly never knew there was a seperate Queen of Canada! Just did a quick search after reading your comment, and the explanation I saw was that the Queen of England and the Queen of Canada are separate positions that happen to be filled by the same person.

    • E says:

      This does make me wonder who officially opened the Sydney Summer Games. Something else to look up…

  3. Matt H says:

    I often am not a big “opening ceremonies” kind of person – I always feel like it’s a tease. I just want the actual games to start, and I have to wait a whole ‘nuther day. But. These were pretty good. I do think MY favorite part was the sublime k.d. lang singing “Hallelujah” (by fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen, of course!) After some lackluster big-name performances, that one lived up to the bill for me.

    And as for We Are The World, I didn’t see it until I just YouTubed it a minute ago, and echhh. Sorry, I’m just very cynical about it. The singing seemed to be all a bunch of vocal acrobatics (much of which wasn’t even very good!) and, well, with all due respect, it’s not a very good song to begin with. It just feels to me like an excuse for a bunch of “artists” who are all full of themselves to re-record Michael Jackson’s song for its 25th anniversary. I’m much happier sending a check for Haiti to AmeriCares than by downloading a video featuring bunch of caterwauling fools! 🙂

    P.S. Whoohoo, Vancouver!! Doing a great job so far!

  4. […] Some of the searches were amusing for their variations.  After we posted our Olympics opening ceremony recap, we found that there were between 50 and 100 different combinations of ways to search for a review, […]

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