Smiley N. Pool : Chronicle Olympic Bureau
This actually happened.
Whether you consider the 2010 Winter Olympic games from Vancouver a tragedy, a failure, an inspiration or just a distraction from all your usual programming, after two weeks of Olympic coverage what will be Vancouver’s legacy?
Beijing greeted us with a big, elaborate vision of a brave new world, just as we ourselves were on the precipice of a potential sweeping change in our own country. Two years later, things are just a lot more … well, bleak. Some of us, weary of lots of “hopey changey” bombast and spectacle, just can’t be moved by CGI whales swimming across the floor. Or dudes with neck beards from YouTube reading slam poetry. Or post-apocalyptic tap dancers. Canada tried to portray itself as a country that stands at the front of the world, unafraid to take a leap into the future and lead the global society in the charge.
And, well? That’s just not the Canada we know. We, of course, being Americans, with our American point-of-view and, most importantly, our American broadcaster, NBC. Unfortunately, on this side of our friendly border, Vancouver’s legacy was beamed into our television machines with maddening delays, puzzling programming choices and an American-centric focus. The whole shebang was tinged with an ever-present sense of clumsiness that I feel had much more to do with Rockefeller Center than anything happening in British Columbia.
Now what of the closing ceremony? MUCH BETTER. Canada showcased its sense of humor, its rustic charms and its pride in even the most silly aspects of its culture.
So what happened? Here’s our recap:
The closing ceremony kicks off with a bit of a tongue-in-cheek response to the opening ceremony FAIL. The cauldron is there, front and center, with just three arms raised, again. A clown comes and gets the fourth arm up and then there’s fourth torch bearer, back again, to light her arm. Alright, Canada, you win this round. Well played. Well played, indeed.
Then enters a bunch of snowboarders. Real snowboarders? Fake snowboarders? Who knows?! And now here’s a Winnipeg rock band Inward Eye. It’s just a lot of “Whoa oh oh Vancouver!” as more and more snowboarders come filing in. They have been spelling something out? I’m unclear. (Though I’d wager it may have been something along the lines of “Help us: Mary Carillo has our puppies.”)
Oh boy, again with the aboriginal Canadians. Hopefully this time they don’t make them dance for 45 minutes. Because that was painful to watch.
Not this time. Instead some tiny, shiny teens come out to approximate Glee and lead the crowd in O Canada. The weirdest part is they keep doing that sort of spastic, inoffensive, desexualized, giddy dance-bopping completely not to the beat of the song. It’s like they’re dancing to another song that only they can hear.
And now, flags of the world. Followed by all the athletes pouring in. The Americans’ outfits are better this time. Cute plaid shirts with ties and newsboy caps. (Like Whit, we wish they didn’t peg those pants, though.) Canada wears a very Candian sweater with moose on it and hats with flaps and whatnot.
And now the athlete’s tribute song, Let’s Have A Party. It’s like an auto-tune nightmare performed by the Canadian Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. They’re joined by some 40 year-old man playing guitar like an enthusiastic fifth grader. Their podiums keep rising and falling; maybe another tech issue or maybe they’re just trying to shake some talent into them, who can say.
You know what makes lots of sense? Let’s bring out a lovely Greek opera singer to honor the Greeks for … inventing the winter olympics? (Which, no, they did not.) They’ve also never won a medal in the winter games. Shouldn’t they honor Sweden instead?
A markedly less lovely older gentlemen comes out next to sing somesuch other anthem or something and it’s very earnest and opera-y and does it really matter what it is? You can just use your imagination.
Oh my gosh, y’all. How excited are you for the games to be in Russia? Costas blahblahblahs about Putin being all upset about Russia’s medal count in Vancouver, but there’s so much weird metaphor lost in translation. Something about being disappointed but not like they’re going to beat themselves with chains. Really they won’t. Nope, no way Putin would make the losing athletes flog themselves, why would you even ask ? Just to be clear, he didn’t say anything about whipping with chains by others. Just saying. Man, considering all the weird Cold War vilification of the Russians these games, IMAGINE what it’s going to be like on their turf. THINK OF THE MARY CARILLO PACKAGES. It’s going to be glorious.
Huh. And now a look at how sophisticated Russia is. Here’s Red Square. Here’s some ballet. Here’s a symphony. Here are a series of LED hamster balls. Some things are happening live. Some are projected on video. It’s all very “nice,” but, really? It’s not like I just can’t wait four years to see some Olympic opera. Or downhill ballet. Lovely as those things may be, they’re not really part of my Olympic consciousness. (Allow me to let you take a break here to scroll right on down to the bottom of the page and leave lots of “U R A FAT UNCULTURED AMERICAN” comments. Go on, I’ll wait.)
Boring, boring, boring. Thank yous to athletes, thank yous to viewers, thank yous to Canadians. “And now, in accordance with tradition, I call the 2010 Olympic games closed.”
But not before Neil Young gives a performance that I could not feel less strongly about, even it wasn’t happening at all.
WILLIAM SHATNER, EVERYBODY. He’s babbling about why he loves Canada in random names and phrases and something about doing it in a canoe. And he’s spinning, spinning, spinning. Or maybe he’s just drunk. Who can tell?
AND CATHERINE O’HARA! Of Christopher Guest fame! And she shouts at some curlers to sweep up in front of her as she makes her way to the podium. She also does a great bit of stand-up. “Canadians say ‘sorry’ 10 times a day, and we’re sorry we don’t say it more.” Ha!
MICHAEL J. FOX! Fact: Tubular can’t look at Michael J. Fox without crying. We’re sorry if that’s inappropriate, but it comes from a very loving place. “If you’re good at something, [Canadians] will claim you.” Perfect.
Be still my heart, Michael Buble (dressed as a Mountie) is crooning. (And seemingly live, on top of that.) Then some sexy Mountie ladies come and tear away his uniform, revealing the steamy lounge singer. (Also no, no he is not singing live. Not even close. Sigh.)
He introduces the “Made In Canada” parade. It includes giant, blow-up Mounties. And then the Mounties start doing some serious Rockette action. And then hockey players! In faux fisticuffs! Giant cut-out hockey players! Sexy lady maple leaves! Giant beavers! It’s like Cirque du Saskatchewan. As our Supernatural blogger Whitney noted, it was as if they wanted to “take every stereotype about Canada and make it 20 feet high and inflatable. ”
AND THEN? AND THEN? BEFORE THE CLOSING CEREMONY ENDED? BEFORE HEADLINERS TAKE THE STAGE? NBC CUTS OFF THE BROADCAST TO FORCE THE MARRIAGE REF ON US EVEN THOUGH IT’S TAPED.
Thanks, NBC. Once again you’ve proved why you hold the record most gold medals in FAIL.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.