Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sombre ceremonies and social media hijinks

There was so much about last night's Olympic Opening Ceremonies that reflected Canada's best and worst qualities. I've been thinking about this since I began watching the pre-ceremony coverage and snarkily commenting on the weird coverage leading up to the big event. In the pre-show, there was a strange melange of Much Music hot tubs with tweens in bikinis and chicks doing body shots inside the pub to celebrate mixed with highly depressing discussions of the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, the cancer death of Jack Poole who was instrumental in bringing the Olympics to Vancouver, and a news magazine-style feature about Irishman John Furlong, whose life contained a hefty dose of strife and darkness.

The show intrigued me, because as we are often wont to do in this country, we seemed to focus a lot on how 'tough' things all were and seemed to feel it necessary to ensure that we simply didn't look with unchecked patriotism, enthusiasm and glee toward the spectacle that was about to be unleashed around the world, focusing on the greatest sporting event in the world that was about to launch right here in Canada, but instead strived to find balanced, meaningful content.  We appeared to want at all times to keep our expectations in check and point out how hard life can be and how there is always tragedy to go along with the good. And my feeling was that BECAUSE life is such a struggle, it was alternately time to PARTY and 'forget' our troubles! (See hot tub above).

*Side note - you will notice that I have deliberately not linked above to any of the coverage of the death of Nodar.  Every page and site I find has a video showing his death. I find this footage highly disturbing and inappropriate to show.  Especially in slow motion. What are your thoughts? I fear that we are really taking things too far when we have no issues showing death happening like this, over and over, for the world to see. I have the same issues with 9/11 and the footage they always show of desperate professionals throwing themselves out of the WTC towers before their collapse. Psychologically disturbing and truly not necessary.

And so how were the ceremonies? This is where things REALLY start to reflect our Canadian sensibilities, I think.

I won't 'review' the entire event, but let's just say that some of my twitter friends' comments may have said it best. Here are some snippets:
Via @wyshynski: "Ice cracked and giant bear was lost. And that's the story of Canada, son."
Via @stephintoronto: "So apparently we are a bunch of white people and aboriginals. I didn't know that."
Via @Chris_Eh_Young: "The opening ceremonies were great technically. I just think they could've been more upbeat."
Via @spin: "I can't tell if people are hating or liking the olympic ceremony right now."
Via @alancross: "And I have to ask: is the right headlight of Wayne's pick-up partially burned out?"
Via @acoyne: "They shoulda got the Canadarm people to do the hydraulics."
Via @dezignated: "The lighting of the torch has been prorogued so that we can work on our economy."
Via @lisavandeven: "Romeo Dallaire: "I've seen mass genocide in Rwanda now I'm trudging through fake snow with Donald Sutherland?"
Via @ericablonde: "What I learned about Canada on Twitter tonight: 1. Cynical 2. Patriotic 3. Hilarious.
and finally one of my comments:
Via @paminottawa: "Don't we have upbeat music in this country? We seem so sad, so serious, and we're not."

What do I mean to say here?  The ceremonies were visually stunning and very cool, but the joy seemed tempered, the flow was mired somewhat by careful political correctness and dare I say conservativism, and there seemed to be a lack of 'fun' or 'whimsy' or humour of any kind. 

So when I say that the ceremonies reflected the best and the worst of Canada, I guess I am saying that the event felt too carefully constructed and seemed to strive to find 'meaning' in what, inherently already has substantial meaning, and should perhaps have been more joyful.  Am I proud to be Canadian and did I think it was a lovely show? Yes. 

But this is how I saw things.



  1. That list of posts is hilarious. Especially the one about Romeo DAllaire. I agree with you that the show had some technical beauty. The whales were spectacular. But there was no whimsy or levity. Where was William Shatner? Or Jim Carrey? Or Mike Myers? or...I think we are long past being nothing more than a place with big trees and mountains. I was wondering if maybe the show resonated better with the people of BC than the ROC. Maybe it is a reflection of how they see themselves.

  2. I liked the whales too. But that's about it. I found it kinda dull, as well as a bit of a downer.

  3. Yeah. I haven't found a lot of dissent in my opinions so far, and I wish I had - I wanted to be wowed and proud and bursting at the seems with excitement. There were a few moments, but mostly I was just aware of an undercurrent of 'serious intent' running throughout.

    But s'ok. We are winning medals, including gold now, and I think it is going to be a good Olympics for us, and our crowds and applause, even for Aussies with attitude, will show the rest of the world what's great about Canada and Canadians.