The 2010 Winter Olympics began tonight with the Opening Ceremony. Marring these Games and this ceremony was the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili on the luge track this afternoon. He lost control and hit an unpadded support beam during a training run. Apparently this track was built to be the fastest of its kind and some are now saying that the track is much too fast. This track is currently closed and will be modified before it's used again. His death was remembered by a minute of silence during the ceremony.
I didn't know what to expect from this opening ceremony but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was entertaining and quite watchable, for the most part. I loved that BC Place was "dressed" as a winter wonderland, which was definitely fitting for a Winter Olympics Ceremony. Almost all attendees wore white ponchos, the volunteers wore white, there was white "snow" on the ground, and everything that could look like ice did - including the stages, totem poles, and athlete country names. Even the flame thingies looked like ice - too bad they ran into technical problems.
Having everyone (or almost everyone) in the stands wear the white ponchos was a brilliant choice because it meant that pictures and lights could be projected onto the stands, making the whole place look that much grander. And did it look grand!
The interplay of these projections, people, and lights really made these ceremonies stand apart from others. The number and complexity of projected images were the best part of this ceremony, from a technical standpoint. of course I've always been more interested in the light show than the performance, but in this case the light show was the performance.
Every part of the stage and all the seats received one or another part of an image throughout the ceremony. These images were very, very well done; everything from the water to the whales to the flowers on the grass to the leaves to the mountains was intricately worked. I was amazed to see so much detail in these images from every angle on the stage, and I was surprised to see that the projections didn't overpower the dancers or acrobats.
I loved that the first nations people were introduced first and were the ones to welcome the athletes, and I was pleased to see that the first cultural part of the ceremony - the "Hymn of the North" - also centered on our first nations. This and the subsequent cultural parts showed some of the diversity and geography of Canada (two things that define us). Unfortunately, the cultural parts were a bit BC-centric (viewing Canada from a BC perspective) didn't show Ontario or the historic fur trade or anything not-fiddling related in Atlantic Canada. We do have snow and ice, lush groves, fiddlers, a seemingly-infinite prairie, and majestic snow-capped mountains, but there's more to Canada than just that.
On the downside, almost all of the singing and music did not meet the standard set by the rest of the ceremony's performances. The national anthem sounded sad and thin, as though the instruments were playing Musak, which is also how the music during the cultural parts sounded.
I would have been ok with the instrumental music sounding like music if the songs hadn't been so awful. "Bang your drum" song by Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado was northing short of lame. That was the best one they could find? And look at Bryan Adams at the start of his song: the singing starts before he did. Was he lip-syncing? Sarah McLachlan's performance wasn't all that much better, either. And Measha Brueggergosman's performance of the Olympic Hymn was.... ok, I guess. I'm not an opera lover so the subtleties of her performance escaped me.
The musical performances I enjoyed were .k.d lang's rendition of "Hallelujah" and the song in French. It helps that Hallelujah this is one of my favourite songs - but even if it wasn't, she does a fantastic job singing. That woman has a fine, fine voice. I don't know what that French song was, but Garou - the fellow singing it - also has a fine voice and imbued the song with depth and emotion.
Now that the ceremonies are over, it's time for the Olympics. Bring on the competition!!