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.