Friday, February 12, 2010

Vancouver 2010: Opening Ceremonies!

The Olympics have begun! Up until as late as this afternoon I wasn't really feeling the spirit, but of course I got really into it as 9 PM rolled around. I was mislead by the schedule on and missed some of the beginning, but regardless I saw quite a bit of it. I'm not sure if this is the right word, but this year's Opening Ceremonies seemed organic--it was a sharp contrast to the people-heavy, mechanical, and stylized ceremonies in Beijing, and there was a lot of emphasis on Canada's rich history of aborigines as well as its expansive natural landscape. I'm a sucker for uniformity and precision, I've realized, so some segments such as the tribal dances were vaguely irritating and the fiddle-based dance seemed chaotic (although that's just the way the dances are, so I'm not sure what I expect). Nothing was over the top, and it seemed that Vancouver made a lot of effort to rely on technology to create cool effects that also might be achieved by actual, unreusable materials. Using blue lighting, for example, to mimic water and swimming dolphins (?) was ingenious, and didn't require anything like people running under the cover of a dolphin-like costume. I also loved the Joni Mitchell segment (not only because it reminds me of Love Actually)--the simplicity of the boy's outfit and the idea of suspending him as he runs through golden fields lent a lovely sense of beauty to the event. All in all the ceremony seemed appropriately respectful of both Canada itself and the solemn atmosphere of a global recession.

Unfortunately I had to watch these ceremonies with some painfully ignorant people (actually, do the NBC commentators count too?).
  • There are about 195 countries.
  • Moldova and Moldavia are not the same. Moldova is a country, Moldavia is a region from where the inspiration for Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto's OD comes.
  • Andorra. Azerbaijan. Come on now.

Besides that, I enjoyed watching most of the Parade of Nations while doing some STATA work. Compared to the Summer Olympics there are a lot fewer participants, so the parade progressed much more quickly, which I liked. Of course the powerhouses such as Austria and China were most noticeable, but it probably goes without saying that Georgia's entrance was most memorable. It was incredible how the entire stadium became hushed, following with an encouraging standing ovation. The delegation wore black armbands and scarves, and tied a black ribbon to their flag. I had heard that the entire team had withdrawn from the Games, so when I saw that they were marching I thought that it was perhaps a symbolic move, but now it looks like they are planning to compete. It's a terrible tragedy and I feel for the Georgian athletes for whom the some of the best and worst moments of their lives are irretrievably linked. I wonder though, as many also are, how facilities considered potentially fatally dangerous could ever have passed through whatever tests and regulations there are. Some athletes and officials alike have voiced their concern, and yet they continue to practice anyway--perhaps it's time for all of the athletes to come together and refuse to race.

How beautiful and how brave. (Copyright Cameron Spencer)

I got unreasonably nervous (?!) and excited when Japan came in, although because I am stupid I forgot about a lot of "I" countries and had various false alarms. Anyway, the team looked sharp--in contrast to Kazuhiro Kokubo's embarrassment, god--although I wonder what they would have looked like had the uniforms been designed with red pants instead of navy. Obviously I am not a supporter of red pants, but in this case incorporating blue seemed to take off quite a bit from Japan's color identity. I think I saw Nobunari Oda and Takahiko Kozuka (!), but even though the NBC commentators were talking about Mao Asada () and Miki Ando, neither of them were shown.

Copyright Kyodo News?

Look, it's Nobunari! (Copyright Sandra Behne)

After that I didn't pay particular attention until it was the United States' time, except to notice that Russia made some outlandish claim about taking home 40 medals. According to NBC some total around 30 would place any country at the top of the medal standings, but apparently Russia has decided otherwise. Canada did a similar thing, claiming it would win the overall medal count (“We’re still going to be nice, but we’re going to be nice in winning,” said Michael Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee)--but something about it being the host country makes me want to let that slide. Regardless, confident declarations always really bother and worry me... Anyway, despite there being over 200 athletes from the United States almost no one from the team was shown except Shaun White. I think I caught a glimpse of Meryl Davis & Charlie White (actually I briefly saw someone who could only have been Meryl, and then inferred that the blond guy next to her was Charlie), but no Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig, Tanith & Ben, or the ever-interesting Johnny Weir. Really, NBC? Is Shaun White the only medal hope that you can hype? I feel like with this Lindsey Vonn incident they should have learned by now.

Near the end of the ceremony Bob Costas (I think) remarked that there is "no way you can beat the Beijing ceremonies," but really I disagree. Those Opening Ceremonies were a spectacle, yes, but at the cost of a blatant disregard for the world's resources and driven by an almost maniacal need to show the rest of the world that China was capable of hosting the Olympics. These Vancouver ceremonies were self-assured, sophisticated, and quirky--I loved them. Oh, wait. Minus the slam poet. And John Furlong's terrible, TERRIBLE French.

Also, what on earth? Jacques Rogge is both a count and an orthopedic surgeon?

Okay, EDIT: A technical difficulty during the lighting of the torch is beyond any words I can come up with. No emergency latch? Really? Anything? Although personally I like 3 better than 4...

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