As I noted in my preview for this ceremony, there was really no way that this could ever compare to the overwhelming spectacle that was the Beijing Olympics. That was evident right off the bat when instead of giant footprint-shaped fireworks (fake or not) leading up to the venue, we get a snowboarder busting through the Olympic rings. Still impressive in its own right, but lacking the big wow factor. But I'm not going to spend too much time quibbling, especially considering that Bob Coastas at one point said that Vancouver's budget was about $30-40 million dollars compared to the $300-400 million that Beijing spent. And this is the Winter Olympics, which is traditionally smaller in scale anyway. So instead I'm going to focus on how they spent their cash and if it was worth it....
First off, I'm wondering why the ceremonies were held in an indoor stadium. I guess it would have been cold for the spectators to sit in the chilly weather for three hours, but people go to football games in the cold. And it seems like a bother if they were just going to create a snow covered ground and later make it snow indoors. But regardless, I was quickly distracted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police -- who came in walking, not mounted -- with a big Canadian flag. The vivid red against the white was stunning, I have to admit.
The little Selena Gomez-looking Canadian girl doing the national anthem was okay, but she looked like she was wearing a dress from the Campbell Soup challenge on Project Runway. And she was clearly lip-syncing... and not that well. I was kinda hoping for Celine Dion.
Not sure what big statues that they stole from the Lost set had to do with Canada, but it freaked me out a little bit when they started moving. I did enjoy the aboriginal people doing their dance and blessings -- to me, that sort of cultural exposure is what these opening ceremonies are really about. I also liked the big tambourines that the Inuit people had, but the First Nation of the Prairies had the best costumes -- very colorful with lots of beads and sparkles.
Then they did the Parade of Nations early. I was perplexed by this, but then later found out that it was so they could sit and watch the cultural presentation. Hey, that's nice, since really, these are the athletes that the games are supposed to be about. Anyway, I love the parade of nations. I learn so many things about geography, like why Macedonia is filed under F instead of M. And we get to see the various kinds of camcorders that athletes from around the world use. It's sort of like international online shopping.
My favorite fun facts of the parade: No South American country has ever won a medal at a Winter Olympics game; that's sort of depressing. Austria had cute little brothers who luge as their flag bearers, but that's closer than I ever want to be with any sibling. I was going to start a drinking game for every time Bob Costas or Matt Lauer said "they won't win a medal, they are just there to do their personal best." If I were those countries, I'd want to punch them. And Canada has the best mittens!
I did get a little misty-eyed when the Georgia team walked in with their black armbands, in honor of their fallen teammate who died during a luge practice session earlier. That's just so beyond sad and a tragic way to start the games. When they got a standing ovation, I kinda lost it a little. Ditto for when they did the moment of silence later in the ceremony.
Nelly Furtado and Bryan Adams sang some tediously boring song about banging a drum. They looked so awkward together, like a bridesmaid and groomsman at a wedding who didn't like each other and yet still have to walk down the aisle together. Perhaps it was just that she was wearing ginormous shoes. And this was the first time that I noticed the wonky acoustics. I was having a hard time hearing their (presumably pre-taped) singing over all of the actual drums banging.
Donald Sutherland started reading quotes to introduce the segments, which was awesome. I love Kiefer's dad! Some of the folks from the frozen North have iPods. That seems not quite right. Like maybe they should have designed the costumes or hair to cover those earpieces. I did really get excited when the one guy got all Gandalf "you shall not pass" and sent out electric shock waves to make the Northern lights.
Oh, and the giant light-up bear! He's cool, I'd love him for my lawn! The neighbors would be so jealous.
I didn't really get the whole faux floating ice chunks thing, since it looked like people were having a hard time pretending to jump between them, but then they won me back with the computer-generated whales moving along the floor and spouting. Good timing and really cool and inventive. Probably my favorite special effect of the night.
So they kept talking about everyone in the audience getting white ponchos so they can be part of the canvas or whatnot, but I wonder what it is really like to be there. I have Bob Costas explaining the meaning of totem poles and French Canadian legends to me, but do the people there just go with it, or is there some kind of guidebook/program to explain things?
Sarah McLachlan decided not to sing about dying dogs! I was thrilled. Instead she played some banal song about a miracle on a white piano while there was some So You Think You Can Dance-like action going on under fake trees. Mia Michaels would have been proud.
The guy with the fiddle and the canoe was pretty fascinating, not so much for his fiddling skills, but mostly for his amazing hair. I spent most of the number trying to figure out how they did the moon screen, and then watching the crazy tap-dancing guy with the leather pants and tartan scarf tied around his waist. Is he Canada's answer to Michael Flatley? And I dunno, my mom always told me that putting sparklers in your shoes was dangerous. Not sure that the Olympics should be condoning that kind of behavior.
Then there was the kid/teen (hard to say) from the National Circus School (I want to go to there) who was walking through a "field" in bare feet. But you can see that he's in the snow. Wasn't anyone concerned about frostbite? I guess that's a small price to pay for international recognition. I liked his twisting and turning performance to a Joni Mitchell tune, but I pretty much hated the little square fields of hay or whatever that appeared on the ground and then peeled away or dissipated. It looked like something that I could have done in iMovie in a few hours.
The thunder storm that gave way to the giant mountains growing out of the ground was impressive. Shaun White and Louie Vito seemed kinda jealous of the snowboarders that got to float through the air down the fake mountain in their bright red costumes. I don't blame them; I was kind of jealous, too. Though I was sort of irked that Matt Lauer and Bob Costas only talk about Shaun White and how famous he is. Like, dudes, Louie Vito was on Dancing With the Stars! I bet moms like him a lot. He may not be the great medal hope that they are pinning their entire Olympic ratings on, but I still think he's awesome. And adorable. Then the mountains actually show the sports and skaters, which is a nice reminder what these games are about athletic competition. I do appreciate that everything seems to have been done with a 360 perspective in mind, because it would suck to be the person on the side of the curtain that didn't have the projection on it.
The slam poetry. Can we just pretend that never happened? Thanks. Moving on.
Then there was the obligatory uplifting speech, followed by k.d. lang singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." It was a song for peace. I had called for a moratorium on this song on stupid TV shows, but I'll allow it here. Especially since k.d. looked pretty styling in her white suit.
Kiefer's dad got to help carry out the big Olympic flag, along with other famous Canadians.... and that bitch Anne Murray, too (that's a joke, for those not familiar with South Park). The Canadian opera singer who did the Olympic anthem had huge hair and a killer dress. She pretty much rocked.
Then they had the torch come in... finally. Hey, Steve Nash! I didn't expect that. Wayne Gretzky's presence seemed like a given. Then the floor started opening up so that the four torchbearers could light the main cauldron... but there was a lot of awkward silence as everyone stood there. Steve Nash looked slightly concerned. Eventually they had the cannon-looking things rise up, but only three of them worked. That's a huge mistake. Huge. Someone should have tested that. Not the best way to end the show. I mean, I understand technical difficulties, but this is the finale, people. There are no do-overs in the Olympics. That gaffe may have also caused the show to run over (and I apparently have forgotten in the last two-years to always record the program after any Olympic event, because my DVR totally cut off just as they were about to light the torch! Damn it!
So aside from that dud of an ending, the rest of it was mostly fine, and on par with Winter Games opening ceremonies from years past. So good for them. And now, on to the sports! Olympics are the only time you'll hear those words from me. That's the magic of the Games.
Check out exclusive video of Winter Olympians talking about their TV guilty pleasures, their favorite music and more:
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