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.
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.
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.
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
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.
His excitement contagiously
spread to a host of Riverdance-type hi-jinks that were quite thrilling.
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 http://www.vancouversun.com/news/More+Tramscript+opening+ceremony+Shane+Koyczan/2558526/story.html
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!
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.