Saturday, February 13, 2010

Let the Games Begin

After the longest torch relay in Olympic history, the Vancouver Olympics are finally set to start.

I'm sure the opening ceremonies garnered a huge global audience - including moi. I tuned in somewhere towards the beginning. There were a few things that stuck with me throughout the broadcast. Some curious, some heartwarming, some heartbreaking, and some just plain odd.

Firstly, it was very shocking and sad to learn that 21 year old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died tragically due to complications from his horrific crash during a training exercise earlier today. However, the way his teammates rallied and showed their solidarity and respect for him through removing their hats and wearing black armbands in his memory when they entered BC Place this evening was rather touching. It was also fitting that his death was acknowledged a couple of other times during the ceremonies and marked with a moment of silence.

I was moved to hear the story about the Indian team (consisting of 3 athletes, if I remember correctly), who showed up with mismatched uniforms. The Indo-Canadian community (in the Vancouver area I believe) drew together and got them a matching set, even going so far as to provide them with spending money and funding for future training. Also falling into this category is the news that the parents of one of the Turkish athletes could not get tickets to watch their daughter compete, and so an anonymous donor came forward and provided them.

I find it disgusting that 5 Russian athletes tested positive for banned substances and still took part in the opening celebrations and will probably still be competing for their country, as no one has stepped up to do anything about it yet. Oh...the Russians did say they will take care of it after the Olympics are done. That's some kind of BS, if you ask me.

It was interesting to see the myriad of countries being represented at Vancouver 2010, and quite remarkable to see each team of athletes proudly marching into the stadium, no matter the disparities in their numbers (they ranged from 1 to over 200). The entertainment portion was obviously carefully engineered to display the great diversity found from coast to coast in Canada - both through the peoples who inhabit our vast country to our wealth of extraordinarily talented performing artists...although I have to wonder whether there could have been better choices to represent some of those aspects, and the appropriateness of others was questionable. For example, Nelly Furtado's outfit for her less than impressive performance with Bryan Adams, KD Lang's choice of Hallelujah towards the end (the music itself fit the mood, but I am not so sure the lyrics themselves relate to the Olympics at all), and Nikki Yanofsky's rendition of Oh Canada , with the very American over the top vocal theatrics thrown in, which I was not a fan of at all. I mean, the kid's got a great set of pipes, but the Olympic opening ceremonies are not the time to butcher our national anthem to show off the fact that you know how to stylize when belting out a tune. All in all, though, the ceremonies provided a great, well-rounded showcase for Canadian arts and culture (aside from the overwhelming componenet of famous musicians) - from First Nations performers to the Alberta Ballet to tap dancers and fiddlers.

Among other notable flubs (in no particular order):

- the First Nations leaders who were made heads of state for the Olympics causing confusion when they showed up late, resulting in an awkward pause in the proceedings punctuated with lots of shuffling around

- The VANOC CEO's inability to correctly pronounce the few French words and phrases thrown into his speech, then having to stand next to IOC President Jacques Rogge as he delivered his significantly more fluent bilingual version

- Nelly Furtado opening her mouth to sing Bryan Adams's line in their duet and ending up mouthing the words with no sound(I'm sure that did not help the rumblings that have sprung up of it being a lip synced performance)

- the hydraulics failing at the crucial last moments when the indoor cauldron was being lit, leaving Katrina LeMay Doan standing there, torch in hand, without a pillar to light after the other three finally made an appearance. I found it quite entertaining that the cameras captured the confusion on all the final torchbearer's faces as they stood there in the awkward moments leading up to that point, wondering what the hell was taking so long.

...and while I'm at it...I still fail to comprehend why Arnold Schwarzenegger got to carry the flame on the final day leading up to the games.

Lastly, Wayne Gretzky looked kinda nervous at times on the last leg of the torch run to the waterfront in the pan of that truck. Although I can't say as I blame him - I would have been mighty tense too, what with reports of 25 000 protesters being outside BC Place at the time. Not to mention the crowds lining the streets, some of whom began to swarm the truck, run alongside it, or dash in front of it.

Ah well, better or worse, all of the lead up is finally out of the way and the hunt for medals is now underway. Let's hope someone can

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