Swollen With Pride By The Olympics' Opening Ceremony? Not So Much

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Leave it to NBC commentators Bob Costas And Matt Lauer to pump up the volume, asserting that Canadians would surely “swell with pride” at having the Olympics in Vancouver.

We  — my Dad, visiting from Toronto — watched the opening ceremonies last night, quite prepared to be awed and moved and a little weepy. Instead, we all went to bed early, an hour before they ended.

Sad enough was the death of the young Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, and the somber faces and black armbands of his fellow athletes made a stark contrast to the joy of the other delegations. But the performances, dancing, music and lighting — $40 million worth (10 percent of what was spent for the stunning Beijing opening ceremonies) — were a definite disappointment, at least to us two cynical Canadians. My Dad and I were both born in Vancouver, and he grew up there, so we’ve certainly got some emotional ties to the place.

The emphasis on the First Nations, while adding plenty of sparkle and feathers and drums, was as politically correct as it could possibly get. It also neatly sidestepped the larger, ongoing Canadian issue — what the hell is a Canadian? It’s a nation of immigrants, like the U.S., but 100 years younger, a nation that only got its very own flag in 1965 and one in which the “cultural mosaic” (keep your own traditions and language) trumps the American ideal of the “melting pot.” If not the First Nations, who, then, would represent Canada and all it stands for? Free health care? Great beer?

I did tear up, briefly, as the snowboarder shot down a mountain through a red maple leaf composed of flare-holding by-standers. The aurora borealis projected on the enormous fabric centerpiece was magical. But having hundreds of dancers was lost in the enormous scale of the stadium. Sarah Mclachlan was hidden (why?) behind a glossy white piano and even Nikki Yanofsky, whose singing I’ve blogged about here, didn’t do much with her rendition of “Oh, Canada.”

The guy in the canoe, playing a fiddle, was meant to represent Quebec. Not for me. The tattooed guy tap-dancing, his Mohawk swinging with effort? Meh.

Maybe it really is impossible to represent an entire country, even if it’s got the population — 30 million — of New York State.

I wanted to swell, really. Truth is, Canadians aren’t big on pomp and ceremony. We’d rather just go out and — as Costas did get right — kick some butt. Let the Games begin.

5 thoughts on “Swollen With Pride By The Olympics' Opening Ceremony? Not So Much

  1. I could generally give a rat’s patootie about the opening ceremonies (for me the games begin this afternoon when women’s hockey drops the puck), it strikes me that spending about 10% of what the Chinese spent in Beijing is right in line with these economic times. So, good on Canada.

    Time to drop the puck?

  2. Caitlin, I saw that your girls smoked the Czech Republic in their first hockey match by a score of 18-0. The best part? The fans at the hockey venue giving the Czech team a huge standing ovation. Just when I’m ready to turn away from the Olympics, something like that happens and pulls me back in.

  3. cyrano

    You are right-on about the pride thing. As a fellow Canuck I was completely disappointed and underwhelmed with the Opening Ceremonies.
    Unlike our American Cousins we do not celebrate ourselves very well nor all that often and so this missed opportunity is really tragic.
    On the other hand it’s tribalism and nationalism that has contributed so much to the woes of the world not so? Perhaps our, almost comic, inability to boost our colective ego’s in front of the world, particularly so in front of our neighbours to the south who seem still not to acknowledge that anything north of the 49th parallel exists, is an unlooked for comment on our very sensible “world consciousness” here in Canada. We are after all one of the most multi-cultural of places (at least in our urban centers).
    Then too the Olympics should be a celebration of mankind as a collective. It should and does celebrate what we have in common so…good on us that we flubbed this opportunity to beat our breasts.
    And I think your school teacher friend is on to something. We are swamped here in the Great White North with “America” and “American Culture”. To the point where it is hard to tell a Canuck from a Yank anymore. Except perhaps in the small things. Courtesy, respect for others, community.
    I think it a combination of influences. Our winters require us, at some visceral unconscious level, to co-operate for survival. Also unlike Americans we Canadians never turned our backs on the British nor on British “civility”. And thirdly, from our other great founding nation, France, we have taken the french attitude that life is for living and not so much for working.
    Vivre Le Canada eh?

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    cyrano, lots to think about. I do think the “two solitudes” of French and English, two official languages, forces a sort of daily recognition of the other — as John Saul wrote in his recent book.

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