I am about athletic as a pile of rocks, but that does not stop me from getting excited about the Olympics. In truth, it’s not the sports of the Olympics that excites me, it’s the over-the-top opening ceremonies. Maybe it’s the advances in technology and audience participation, but I don’t remember them being quite so elaborate when I was kid. I remember it being during the day (I think), lots of “Up With People!” type of choreographed group dance numbers, random celebrities and bad lip syncing. Sort of like a sports-themed Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Now, it’s at night.
I loved the Torino ceremony in 2006, mostly because I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Parts of it were really lovely, like the ballet dancers suspended over the arena floor. But there were quite a few times that I said, “What exactly is happening?” There was techno music, disinterested ballet dancers, an albino punk with his circulatory system on the outside of his body, a race car doing donuts and then Sophia Loren and Susan Sarandon brought in the Olympic flag. Think I’m joking?
But in 2008, along comes Beijing with their visually stunning ceremonies that went off without a hitch and raised the bar for all opening ceremonies. People (me) were saying things like, “Poor Vancouver. Anything they do will pale in comparison.” Well, people (me) were wrong! Vancouver was great! It had just the right blend of awesome, random celebs, and WTFness to make it memorable. Unlike the other games, they actually have their entire opening ceremony online. So if you’ve got 3+ hours to kill, you can see for yourself. If not, I’ll recap the highlights for you. I am not making any of this up. I’m going to skip the very beginning, because it’s mostly the parade of nations and it is loooong. The real show starts about an hour and a half in, if you are watching You Tube.
There is a bright light at one end of the arena and a man walks out. Then all these other people walk out. It looks like the end of Close Encounters of The Third Kind when all the people abducted by the aliens come out of the spaceship. They wander around waving at each other. A three story polar bear made of lights appears, there is much rejoicing and now their clothes light up. For some reason the first guy out breaks apart the ice, the people freak and scatter to the ice flows. The ice is projected on the floor of the stadium and it is very cool (haha! my mom will like that joke).
Okay, now is the coolest thing in the entire show. Somehow they turn the entire floor of the stadium into an ocean and killer whales “swim” across the “ocean” in three dimensions, complete with with their fins out of the “water”, they splash and blow water. It is so incredible that I don’t even want to know how they did it, because it would ruin the magic of it. If you are fast forwarding, this is at 1:38:45.
Sarah McLachlan sings a pretty song that doesn’t guilt us into adopting 50 abused animals while a bunch of hippies dance around big fake trees. Then the rapture comes and a bunch of ballet dancers are lifted into a big sparkly gold cloud that triggers a full moon. A post-apocalyptic fiddle player in a kilt and his hair made into horns floats in front of the full moon in a glowing blue canoe. His shadow is projected on to the moon and he interacts with it. It starts all new-agey with a harp player, then all of a sudden it changes to a celtic punk wild west renaissance fair tap show. This part is high energy and incredibly fun. Oh and towards the end, there is fire! WIN.
Then it’s time for their tribute to beat poetry. A guy wearing a beret and odd facial hair performs a poem about what it means to be Vancouverite? Vancouverin? Vacouverino? It’s really nice and he does a great job. If I were a Vancouverino, I’m sure it would have made me cry. Then it’s time for speeches, AKA go to the bathroom and/or look for snack portion of the show. Of course, Wayne Gretzky is the last one to get the torch (was that surprising to anyone?) and he looks either very moved or very cold. There are fireworks and everyone heads for the parking lot.
I read an article that tonight’s London opening ceremony will be…..different. It includes real grass, 30 sheep, a mosh pit, maypole dancing, a 27 ton bell, a cricket team and Paul McCartney (who better not sing anything made beyond 1969). I really don’t know what to expect, especially since they released their ghastly logo and mascots, but as long as I’m entertained (and Lord knows I am easily entertained) and there are a few shots of David Beckham, I’ll be happy. But I am pretty disappointed that NBC has chosen not to live stream the opening ceremonies, therefore subjecting us to their horrible sports coverage. If history tells me anything, it’s that at least the first hour will have absolutely nothing to do with the opening ceremonies and there will be way too much Matt Lauer.
In other news, I can’t believe it, but I only have 2 more sessions of my summer class. Where has this summer gone? In a month I’ll be back in school for fall semester. Time really does fly.