When I think it could be so much nicer/being red, or yellow… or gold…

Le sigh. Yes, I’m still alive. More or less. I woke up with a temperature this morning and have spent the rest of the day watching my plans for an active outdoorsy weekend just sort of ooze slowly down the tubes.

The TV tubes, that is. Starting with the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics opening ceremonies last night. OK, I know, Witnesses reject nationalism and all; especially the cheezy, show-the-heartstrings-no-mercy kind that defines the televised Olympiad. Official excuse: I work for the company that designed the Canadian team’s parade outfits, which I had gotten a preview of earlier in the day.

Unofficial excuse: How could any snarker worth their mirth be expected to avoid the magnet that is Canadian televised solemnity?

It was good, though. It was dorky, and a little naiive, and definitely over-earnest… but it defined Canada as somehow the better for being all those things.There was prattling about the Dream, but there was also a becoming sense of responsibility shown to the young Georgian luger who lost his life pursuing it.
There was Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado, and giant plasticky totem poles rising from centre stage; but there was also kd lang singing Leonard Cohen. There was the unfortunate moment, once all the Native dancers had taken centre stage, when the white-suited security ‘dancers’ formed a circle around them; but there was also the many, many moments later when those same dancers were caught trying to, um, groove to the Native drumming. 

There was Nikki Yanofsky doing an Idol contestant performing the national anthem, but there was also Measha Brueggergosman as a Grecian statue in black and gold, performing the Olympic hymn. There were tech glitches — and just how the ever-loving hell do you break the cauldron?! — but there were also phantom spouting orcas and twenty-foot bear constellations and majestic light-show storms. There were W.O. Mitchell and (heaven help him) Ashley MacIsaac. Even slam poetry dude got off a few decent bon mots. Although I would argue that we are less ‘an experiment going right’, than ‘an experiment we still want to go right’, the sentiment was close enough to be appreciated.

Oh, and the lack of David Suzuki giving us a patronizing environmental lecture designed to make us feel guilty about enjoying any of it? Priceless.

We are Canadian. After all the years of being hammered with the notion that the national culture is a fragile thing barely discernible, it was a little amazing to discover how effortlessly unique we actually are. Bemusing, reading over the blogosphere’s reaction, to realise how many people didn’t recognise a spirit bear, or the prairie experience, or were bewildered at our fiddling tradition — didn’t realise that, well prior to stopping off in Georgia, the Devil had a long career in Quebecois fiddling legend. And even if you argue that those are a bit obscure, how to account for the guy complaining about  Joni Mitchell’s ‘cover’ of Both Sides Now? Dude.

It is however impossible to argue with the commentator who pointed out that our Prime Minister looks like ‘a Saturday Night Live version’ of himself.

The Native inclusionism… well, there is a point at which the right thing is so obvious that doing it doesn’t merit praise. I did like the details — inviting the chiefs of the four nations to sit as heads of state, allowing the dancers to choose their own outfits instead of shoving them into colour-co-ordinated ‘symbolic’ gear (oh yes, you know it could’ve been) that demonstrated that this was more than a giant publicity stunt.

The Winter parade of nations — aka the Which Poor Deluded Desert Nation is Gonna Show Up Next? World Tour — is always a good time, albeit this year interrupted by reality in the form of the Georgian team wearing black armbands and doffed hats. Poor people, they looked as though the standing ovation was only making things that much worse, and I do hope they made it to a quiet place afterwards.

The Jamaican bobsled team failed to qualify this year, but on the plus side the East Indian contingent has been unofficially adopted by their Vancouver expat community. Lots of Interweb love for Bermuda and the shorts, but I was unmoved. Yeah, it’s Bermuda and they wore shorts, real daring. Call me when Fiji qualifies a biathlete and he marches in in the long skirt.

On the other hand, I was moved by the colour-coded German outfits. Really moved. As in, moved right off the couch and onto the floor, there to snort coffee out inappropriate orifices. I would love to believe this is ironic meta-commentary on all those jokes re: East German female athletes.

Several nations went with the relaxed boarder-jams look, most spectacularly the Czech Republic. It’s the little authentic touches — like the bored flag-bearer cracking his gum — that makes this ensemble stand out, I think.

Meanwhile, the USA was really working the understated Ralph Lauren. I was amused to note from one blog that the team had been told to knock off the ‘Woo-hoo! Hi Ma!’ camcorder act this year. Memo to USOC? Do not even think about putting these people in jams. Just dont.

The Canadians? Loving the intense winey red-on-black combo, and the jaunty touches of fur and lumberjack plaid. The vision for the official games wear this time has been deliberately retro, harking back to the deep well of graphic-design dorkiness that defined our 60’s and 70’s. Only in Canada could there be athletic gear evoking the beloved national image of a guy taking his snowmobile to the bar, ordering a Molson 50, lighting up a pack of Players and complaining about the size of his pogey check.

Yeah, if you’re a young, hip citizen of the global village, it’s not that easy being Canadian. But… in spots… it’s beautiful.

And I think it’s what I want to be.


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