Oh, Canada!: The Opening Ceremonies

The XXI Winter Olympiad opened last night in Vancouver, British Columbia with the unenviable task of following up on Beijing’s $100 million Opening Ceremony. With half the budget, the Canadians delivered more than their share of camp, laughs, and torch anxiety.

There wasn’t enough excitement around the event to really necessitate a Live Blog (this wasn’t the Opening Ceremony of the college basketball season), but there was enough for me to talk about retrospectively in bulleted, non-cohesive fashion.

  • The entire ceremony was held at BC Place, which is home to the CFL’s Lions and isn’t to be confused with GM Place, which hosts Canucks’ games and is, for these Olympics, being called “Canada Hockey Place.” (Not a joke.) I don’t know what it is that Vancouverites have against descriptors, but it appears Place for both of these, well, places over less limiting nouns such as Stadium, Venue, Park, Building, and Structure. At least Place did beat out the only noun that could be more vague, Thing.

  • The entire time I watched this, I couldn’t shake the feeling of how Canadian it all is. It’s not about the performers or the Mounties or the giant lit-up bear; Canadian-ness is something deeper that seeps through every part of the Opening Ceremonies. It’s a kind of lame quality, a cheesiness that pervades the presentation, but one that is both sincere and unabashed. It’s the feeling I get when I know I’m about to make a bad and obvious pun to my dad. Or perhaps more apt, it’s like that kid in college who lives in the substance-free dorm and makes fun of how lame it is that he lives in the substance-free dorm, and yet who loves living in the substance-free dorm and whose entire oeuvre of jokes revolves around self-deprecating substance-free dorm jokes. Because really, that’s what Canada is: Canada is the substance-free dorm of the West.
  • They let some 16-year-old with a booming voice but poor lip syncing skills sing “Oh, Canada.” Clearly they should have gotten Paul Lorieau and just let the crowd belt it out. No nation sings its national anthem with more energy and emotion than Canada. (Or do Vancouverites not like Lorieau because he always sings for the Oilers? What are Canadian hockey rivalries like? Did Canucks fans root for the Flames and Oilers and Senators in the Finals the last few years, just so a Canadian team could win the Cup? Or do they dislike those teams more than the warm-weather American squads that beat them? How different is it in Montreal?)
  • If Wayne Gretzky didn’t light that torch, Blues’ fans were gonna be livid.
  • P.S. Last night, my darkhorse candidate to light the torch: Justin Bieber.
  • My darker-horse candidate: Dave Coulier.
  • During the night, “Olympics” was trending on Twitter, but in Canada, it still wasn’t trending as much as #ifbiebertrendsagain, which is a pretty ironic trend if you ask me.
  • We get it, Canada: You have aboriginal people, too. Join the club: it’s called the rest of the world.
  • The most disturbing part of the Parade of Nations for me was how off I was on the populations of various nations. I’m pretty good at figuring out the ones with fewer than a million people; outside of that, it’s a lot of “What? Algeria has 34 million people???” My most embarrassing guess may have been forgetting that China is over a billion and settling for 700 million, or roughly twice the population of the U.S. I know, it seems like an okay guess, until you realize I was 600 million people off.
  • One of the –stan nations (either Kazakhstan or Tajikistan, I think) had only one athlete competing, and yet he was not the flag bearer. Instead, they had someone who didn’t qualify fly to the games and carry the flag to get the experience down. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty upset I was the only athlete representing my country and still didn’t get to carry the flag.
  • Especially because the indoor track isn’t that long, so you’re not carrying the flag for too much time.
  • Lindsay Jacobellis has frizzy hair? Why did I think she was attractive? And why do I know the name of a female winter Olympian who isn’t attractive? Where’s Tanith Belbin at? I suppose it’s about time I switched channels back to the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game to see Becky Hammon battle it out with some Harlem Globetrotters and big-time celebs like Michael Rapaport. I’m still upset they cancelled Grounded for Life.
  • How disappointed are Canadians that Drake (a.k.a. Aubrey Graham or Jimmy Brooks) decided to attend the NBA All-Star Game over this? Is this a national news story? And is Drake betraying the homeland only because he wasn’t asked to perform “Forever”?
  • You’re thinking it, I’m saying it: Bryan Adams looked great!
  • Good to finally see Sarah McLachlan there. If they had Nelly Furtado and not Sarah, the Lilith Fair people would have been so pissed.
  • And why did they need to sing new, Olympic-themed songs? I think a duet of “Promiscuous” between Adams and Furtado would have been great.
  • Can you believe I’ve gotten this far without mentioning Barenaked Ladies? It’s almost as unbelievable as Canada getting this far into the Olympics without having them perform! My guess is that a BNL reunion would overshadow the rest of the Opening Ceremonies (and you know, a luger dying) on the front pages of the papers, and so they’re holding off until, I don’t know, figure skating ends.
  • Did anyone else expect a Donald Sutherland quote to be: “I’m an antiquarian, dammit…. You’re banned from this historical society! You, and your children, and your children’s children…for three months! —Hollis Hurlbut.”
  • Remember that controversy when China replaced some singers with better-looking performers. That’s not really a concern this year.
  • One of the vignettes was titled “Who Has Seen the Wind?: A Tribute to Canada’s Vast Prairies.” As heard on the Pocahontas soundtrack.
  • Am I off in my understanding of Canadian geography? Prairies? I thought Canada was a bunch of nice cities right near its southern border, and then borderline intolerably cold taiga or whatever for a while, and then downright uninhabitable tundra into Nunavut. Where exactly are the prairies?
  • It isn’t an Opening Ceremony until someone’s flying through the air on opaque cables.
  • If someone had traveled through time from the 1988 Calgary games to the 2010 Vancouver games, what would be the first thing they think? A. What? No Soviet Union? B. What? No Yugoslavia? C. Wait a minute: Shouldn’t these be two years from now? I know I would go with C.
  • What else can I say about the discovered-on-YouTube slam poet who just rocked my world with “Canada is the what in what’s new” type verse? He’s like a mix between the Numa Numa guy and the doctor from Office Space who dies. Needless to say, he’s the breakout star of these games and will likely be hosting SNL by the end of this season.
  • No Don Cherry, and yet Cris Collinsworth is here? How do you say “travesty” in French-Canadian?
  • Do you think that brother and sister from Len are sitting home right now thinking “We totally should have held on to ‘Steal My Sunshine’ for 10 more years.”
  • There’s no way dancing around it: The torch lighting malfunction was pretty embarrassing. (It just sucks that the malfunction didn’t happen earlier on something basic, like, you know, that giant bear.) At the same time, now we know what it would have been like if the Barcelona archer had missed. And you know, at least this time Wayne Gretzky didn’t cry publicly.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Wey on February 13, 2010 at 8:18 PM

    yeah, I read “Canada Hockey Palace” at least three times in my head before conceding that it was “Place”


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