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Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver


February 12, 2010

Glittering polar bear

Spectacular Opening ceremony at BC Place indoor stadium started with huge glittering polar bear

By Carter B. Horsley

Expectations were low for the opening ceremony for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver because of the spectacular ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing that had thousands of performers, calligraphy by human bodies, and great architecture.

The Beijing show reportedly cost 9 figures and tiny Vancouver reported cost only in the low 8 figures.

Things started out badly when NBC aired just before the start of the opening ceremonies a "shortened" version of a remake of the legendary video "We are the World" that was created 25 years ago. This new version was awful and an insult to the memory of the great performers who made the first one, all the more so because it had few genuine stars and far too many rap performers.

While Vancouver had a few spells of uninspired marching athletes and speeches and a couple of musical numbers that needed to be quickly forgotten, faults that go with the territory, it had a lot of magic, further confirming a quantum leap in entertainment started by the Chinese.

"Ice Floes"

Floor of the stadium broke up into "ice floes"

Both events utilized theatrical floors in which football-fields were transformed seamlessly, quickly and incredibly into three-dimensional stages and the world's largest flat screens.

The start of the ceremony began with a huge diamond-like polar bear rising from the stadium's floor to mark a very colorful "welcome by the First Nations" (Squamish Nation, Musqueam Indian Band, Lil'wat First Nation and Tsleil-Waututh First Nation). Soon four ice-like totem poles with outstretched arms rose in the center above a huge circular drum that was beated by the many colorfully costumed "aboriginals" or native Canadians while horders others danced traditional tribal dances throughout the entire lengthy parade of athletes. The costumes in many cases were authentic but in others bordered on psychedelic.

Transparent floor with mystical fish and mythical symbols

Floor of stadium becames transparent reveals schools of giant mthical fish and the mystical symbolic detritus of post civilizations...

Orcas spray the air above the liquid floor

Shooed away by a school of orcas blowing their airholes as they traversed the transfigured floor

Red salmon

The "blue water" floor was soon crowded with red salmon

After the traditional but time-consuming parade of athletes the real show began with a strong rendition of the Canadian national anthem by Nikki Yanofsky followed soon there after by a big and very bland "Athlete Tribute Song" sung by Nelly Furtado and Bryan Adams.

"Trees" of spring

Trees quickly sprouted as the waters of the floor gave way to the green fields of spring

Sarah McLachlan performed her song "Ordinary Miracle" followed by a breathtaking aerial dance by Thomas Saulgrain to a recorded version by Joni Mitchell of her song "Both Sides Now." Saulgrain's performance was long and spellbinding as he first ran across the prairies of Canada and then flew and vaulted through the vast spaces of the indoor stadium, miraculously suspended apparently only by two wires attached to a metallic ring abound his mid-section that did not inhibit any of his very graceful movements. The achievement equalled the brilliance of skater John Curry a generation or so ago who proved that ice skating can be very balletic and not just a series of spins to satisfy the sometimes simplistic mind of Dick Button.

A blue canoe descended from the skies as a fiddler played on the moon

A blue canoe then descended from the skies as a shadow of a fiddler played on the moon

Brock Jelison

A wild and ferocious tap dance by Brock Jelison

Saulgrain appeared to represent tinnocent, pure youthfulness and he was followed by Brock Jelison, a tap dancer who seemed to have descended from Jeremiah Johnson as a bearded, ramshackle mountainman ready to dance with grizzlies. His wild and ferocious dance made Savion Glover and Twyla Tharp seem slovenly and sloppy . He was raw, but controlled power.

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves fell and rose on the field exciting fiddlers and dancers

His excitement contagiously spread to a host of Riverdance-type hi-jinks that were quite thrilling.

Giant iceberg

A giant ice berg arises

Iceberg floats in the center of urban traffic

Iceberg floats in the center of "urban" traffic

"Magical mountainrange

Magical mountainrange has whirling dervishes of iceboarders and on-line skaters

Pyrotechnical range

Pyrotechnical range

Transfigured range

Transfigured and irridescent range

Northern lights

Northern Lights descend through mountain range

The heavens open

The heavens open

The center of the field then erupted into a huge mountain range that was alive with changing colors and designs, an explosive, astounding, volcanic, theatrical highlight that will never be forgotten and against which all traditional theater will fade away.

Despite such revolutionary visuals, David Atkins, the creative director of the Olympics, also managed to pay respect to "words" in the presence and voice of Shane Koyczan. The text of his wonderful, moving and long poem can be found at

"K. D. Lang"

K. D. Lang

Whereas the 2008 Olympics in thegreat "Bird Cage" stadium in Beijing was higlighted by thousands of precision performers, in Vancouver the creative focus was on the individuality of the many native cultures, the creative genius of Saulgrain, Koyczan, Joni Mitchell, and finally K. D. Lang singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Her very long rendition standing alone on a pedestal in the center of a pinlighted stadium was awesome and extremely beautiful and wondrously moving. Just when some observers have despaired that the incompentenceiness of rap music and performers has marked the end of civilization, K. D. Lang's performance and many of the recent elegant performances on George Clooney's Hope for Haiti Now two-hour telethon (see The City Review article) give the world hope and faith in the ability of great artistry to overcome....K. D. Lang's performance should be required viewing, annually, for every individual on earth!

Wayne Gretsky

Wayne Gretsky

There were many other lovely moments of solemnity and celebrity. Donald Sutherland and Bobby Orr demonstrated that aging can be very dignified and Wayne Gretsky looked "absolutely marvelous" as the last torchbearer.

Bravo Vancouver!

Click here to see excepts of NBC's coverage of the opening ceremony


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