Wednesday 17 February 2010

Ceremonies and sun

What a beautiful day: the sun is out, the sky is blue, and the temperature is comfortably mild. I went for a run this afternoon and there was a crisp view of the city and the North Shore mountains. Over the next few days, viewers of the snowboarding events should catch a glimpse of the cityscape that pushed the mountain forward as a venue despite the risk of lackluster snow. Maëlle Ricker just secured Canada's second gold medal and, jogging my way along the neighbourhood's streets, I have never seen so many Canadian flags adorning cars, houses, and shop windows.

The big event seems to be running well. I've heard numerous complaints about this and that: what should have been done differently, where the lineups are too long, and so on. Events have been postponed and some tickets refunded but I guess that must be pretty common for the winter Olympics (the effects of weather are a major difference vs. the summer games). But from my perspective, the whole thing is a nightmarish logistical balancing act and the results have been acceptably smooth so far.

Just over an hour until the ceremonies

We watched the opening ceremonies on TV at the (relatively quiet) German Deutsches Haus downtown. I was initially disappointed. Like most, I cringed through the national anthem and the weird performance by Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado, singing the same phrase over and over. Despite being well executed, the segment with the boy flying over the wheat fields was random and, frankly, long. And overall the show just didn't feel "big", particularly after the massive event put on in Beijing. The "hydraulic malfunction" at the end was disappointing and I was spared Wayne Gretzky's awkward slow-truck-ride to the second cauldron because German media cut away after the first one was lit.

But numerous people around me said they liked the Vancouver opening better than Beijing's, so I looked at it again. Watching highlights later in the evening, I started realizing how visually impressive some of the scenes were: the mountains, the trees, the streaking time-lapsed tail lights on the floor beneath the inline skaters. Canada's diversity—both cultural and geographic—was well represented. The use of the audience as a projection surface was an interesting touch and the blowing wales were surprising and effective. In the end, although I would have liked less cheesy "wire flying" and more variety in projection effects, I have to admit the performance was quite beautiful in a typically-Canadian understated kind of way.

After the ceremonies, we crossed the road to the German Fan Fest, where we were entertained by a lively cover band from Thüringen. The beer is pretty pricey at over $8 and the crowd was quite a bit younger than us but we had a good time. The German-style beer garden table layout, combined (I assume) with BC-style fire and liquor regulations, means the maximum occupancy is a tad low, so show up early if you don't want to wait in line.

The trip home after 1am was completely painless: there were night buses lining Howe St. and sometimes driving three abreast. Like I said: pretty smooth.


steven said...

I think what you may have missed in the segment with the boy flying over the wheat field is that for Canadians of a certain age it was clearly the Joni Mitchell segment. The only reason why I caught this was I was watching the ceremony with a room of Canadians in their 40s and 50s. For them Joni Mitchell singing Both Sides Now while the world watched (even if she wasn't there to sing it) instantly called upon their Canadian identity at an ephemeral level. The room was silent and people were welling up. The dancer's only real job was not to ruin the moment.

Similarly, had I not been in that room, I wouldn't have understood how important Nancy Greene is to Canadians older than myself. For them it seemed clear that she should be the final torch bearer, even if I wasn't completely certain who she was.

I'm curious, were you able to get on the first bus that came by at 1am?

Julian Fitzell said...

Hm... an interesting perspective. Certainly I'm not the only (or even primary) target audience of the ceremonies. Though really, isn't the global audience the primary audience? Did they understand that? Maybe I'm wrong and it's more about the locals but I can't quite see how that makes sense with the whole world watching.

I just had to look up who Nancy Greene is, so I guess I can relate. Certainly nobody in the room I was in knew who she (or probably any of the other torch bearers) was... maybe that actually is evidence of who the intended audience is. :)

And yes, I definitely got on the "first" bus. I say "first" because I think I could have picked any one of a number of buses sitting there.

steven said...

it's a boomer world, we just live in it.

go Vancouver transit! (my peeps)