Friday: The Olympic Opening Ceremonies
Ken and I, like many people, love the Olympics. Well, we kind of have to, because during the Olympics there’s absolutely nothing else to watch on TV, aside from reruns of Big Bang Theory and Murdoch Mysteries. Last night, of course, was the Opening Ceremonies, and I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but Canadian TV stations were doing a countdown all day, and interviewing athletes, their parents, officials, politicians, and anyone else with a remote connection to the Games, including the guy who designed the Vancouver Olympic Opening Ceremonies. The commentator asked him if he was secretly hoping that the Rio Ceremonies wouldn’t be quite as good as the ones he designed, but he was very gracious, saying, “Of course not—all these ceremonies are different and special in their own way.” I don’t know about you, but after watching the Rio Opening Ceremonies, I was like “I don’t know about special, but it was certainly different.” Half of that was Rio’s fault, but the other half sits squarely on the shoulders of the Canadian commentators—between them all, it was like watching “End of Days” narrated by two of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. I’ve never seen so much doom and gloom at what’s supposed to be a joyous celebration before. Let me run it down for you:
The Canadian broadcast started with a video about the Games—I don’t know who made it, but I think the person could use a few lessons on “tone”. It began with the juxtaposition between the shiny Olympic facility and the gravely impoverished people who live just “steps away”. Cut to pictures of small children half-clothed and playing in the dirt. It was like a World Vision commercial—I almost expected a 1-800 number and Sarah McLaughlin singing “In the Arms of an Angel” in the background. Apparently, Brazil’s economy is tanking, they are rife with crime and conflict, and their environment is a disaster, according to this introduction, which then attempted to end on a “cheery note” with the idea that the Olympic Games is a source of hope for all Brazilians. I was like, “I sure as hell hope so, since they just threw what little money they apparently had left on this thing. They better win a sh*tload of medals because that will for sure make up for the lack of housing, food, and clean water.” It was the most depressing start to an Olympic Ceremony I’ve ever seen, but Ken and I were hopeful that once the festivities got started, things would improve. Things didn’t.
It began with people dressed as giant tinfoil bags.
Me: Why are they dressed in tinfoil tents?
Ken: Maybe it’s all they could afford.
Me: Maybe it represents all the garbage in the water. Is that a giant crab puppet?
Ken: Spider? Not sure. I think the commentator called this scene “Peace for the Earth”.
Me: Oh. That’s nice.
But the “nice” didn’t last long. Indigenous people arrived and started dancing and creating traditional tribal huts out of long bungee type cords (I’d heard earlier in the day from someone involved in the ceremonies that they were long rubber bands from an underwear factory) when suddenly the commentator announced (a little too enthusiastically I thought), “And here we have the European Invasion!” Menacing looking sailors on giant ships appeared—apparently that was the Portuguese coming to Brazil. The Indigenous people let go of their underwear bands and the camera panned to the other end of the arena, where giant hamster wheels had appeared, followed by a train of people wearing heavy blocks on their feet. “And of course, the Europeans brought slaves with them!” announced the commentator excitedly. “Many Brazilian cultures were first brought here against their will!” Things were getting frightening at this point, and I was feeling too sad to keep watching. But then the Japanese appeared. In complete contrast to the rest of the group, they were wearing white robes, and dancing while carrying red and white flags. And they were smiling. “Brazil has the second largest Japanese population in the world outside of Japan!” the commentator informed us. I guess they were the only cultural group not brought there against their will, judging by the fact that they didn’t look terrified. (The Japanese Women’s Rugby Team was still smiling today, even though they got their asses handed to them by Canada, in a 45-0 game. I’ve never seen a team so happy to just be on the field. It was absolutely heart-warming and completely in keeping with the Olympic spirit). Anyway, things got crazy at that point. I was jotting down notes on my phone, which I think will best convey my utter confusion at this point:
Parkour dancers building a wall. Is that a plane? Did it really just fly out of the stadium? Ken’s asleep. Wait, it was only a video. Brazil’s “second most favourite song”? What’s the first? Why is Gisele Bundchen here? Isn’t she German? Check Google. No, she’s Brazilian. She’s walking a loooong way. Still not there yet. God, that girl can stomp a catwalk, even at her age. Wow, she’s STILL walking.
Cutaway from Gisele to dubstep and twerking. The commentators are quiet—maybe they’re not sure what to say. Cut to commercial. Damn you Proctor and Gamble, making me cry with your Olympic mom commercials. Multi-coloured Chewbaccas and Tickle Me Elmos. 1500 dancers. More commercials featuring Morgan Freeman. Finally, a video—it’s an indictment of global warming. Ironic, coming from a country whose water is so disgusting that the plants the kids are carrying would die if you watered them with it.
Then, just as suddenly as it began, it all stopped. The announcement came: Greece!
The parade of nations had begun. Now, this was the part that should have been the most joyous, and it would have been, except the Canadian announcers kept trying to fill airspace with random facts about each country. And in keeping with the overall tone of the evening, the facts were mostly random, bizarre, or depressing. Here are some highlights of the things we learned:
Albania: “They had a wrestler thrown out during the last Olympics for using the same steroids as disgraced Canadian runner Ben Johnson.”
Argentina: “The Argentinians are not very popular in Brazil, you know.”
Benin: “Apparently, they’re the unhappiest people in the world.”
Bermuda: “You know, they ALWAYS wear shorts.”
Bosnia: “I hear their Olympic Stadium is still lying in ruins.”
Bulgaria: “Their entire weightlifting team has been banned for doping!”
Burundi: “Looks like they’ve run out of bicycles.”
Canada: “Ooh, here’s Canada!”
Qatar: We got nothing about Qatar because the commentators were still talking about Canada.
China: “The only time they lost a diving medal was to Canada. HAHAHA!”
Comoros: “As an island nation, they’re particularly worried about the rising seas.”
South Korea: “They’re here in their special anti-Zika uniforms. Good thinking.”
Croatia: “Wow, they LOVE their water polo.”
Denmark: “She’s only the third woman in Danish history to carry the flag. They tried to stop her from coming but she appealed.”
Dominica: “They’ve never won a medal. They have two athletes here, so only two chances this time!”
Egypt: “Remember the scandal in 2012 when they got caught wearing fake Nike uniforms?”
Micronesia: “That’s one tiny country.”
Estonia: “They have blonde triplet marathoners. You can’t miss them!”
Fiji: “He started playing rugby using a coconut. You can’t write this stuff!”
The Gs were ignored while one commentator went off on a rant about the irony of the Environmental theme when Rio was “plagued by pollution.”
Iran: “You don’t often hear funny stories about Iran, but here’s one…”
Iraq: “All 22 athletes are men. Gender equity, anyone?”
Liberia: “The terrible Ebola crisis…”
Libya: “Never won a medal.”
Nepal: “One team member lived in a tent for a month.”
North Korea: “The mysterious North Koreans. Did you know they say that Kim Jong Un bowled a 300 in his very first game? They claim he’d never bowled before.”
Russia: “Systematic doping. I’ll bet they’re the cleanest team in Rio now.”
Syria: “Dreadful, bloody conflict…”
Solomon Islands: “They have a lot of sailors. Ron MacLean has a boat. Do you think he ever takes Don Cherry sailing?”
Tonga: “Look at their flagbearer. He’s all oiled up. He looks hot. Or he’s a show-off.”
Turkmenistan: “80% of the country is covered in desert.”
Turkey: “THEY won’t be hosting the games any time soon.”
And finally Brazil: “They’ve never been off the podium for beach volleyball!”
Next, it was time for the speeches. Unfortunately, The Big Bang Theory was on, and at that point, god, I needed a laugh, so we switched channels. I know that the Opening Ceremonies is a time for a country to showcase itself to the world, and I guess Brazil has more problems than some people, myself included, were really aware of. Hopefully, an expose of the economic and environmental conditions that exist there will lead to some kind of action. And speaking of action, the games are now in progress, and it’s already apparent that the doom and gloom of the kick-off is already overshadowed by the quality of the athletics and the character of the athletes, which is always the point anyway. And I’m sure the Closing Ceremonies will be a little more uplifting—after all, Brazil is guaranteed a medal for beach volleyball.
Ken: Did you hear the latest? People are upset that Justin Trudeau was taking pictures with his shirt off.
Me: Wasn’t he out jogging in the forest when someone asked him to pose with them?
Ken: I know right? Someone said, “Oh, his father would NEVER have posed shirtless.” But I just googled it and found like 4 shots of Pierre Elliot Trudeau without a shirt on WHILE he was Prime Minister.
Me: I’m confused. If it’s OK for Melania, why isn’t it OK for Justin? The shaming must stop. Besides, Putin did it first. On a horse.
Ken: I think I know that woman. She’s a retired principal. I think I was at a workshop with her.
Me: I thought she must be a stockbroker, what with the aviator sunglasses and the Bluetooth earpiece. Does anybody else even use those things anymore? At any rate, that’s a gorgeous Mustang convertible she’s driving.
Ken: Wouldn’t you love a car like that?
Me: No way. It’s, like, unseemly at my age.
Me: It’s OK for a teenager. If you’re a teenage boy and you drive a car like that, everyone’s like “Wow—good for you! You’ve hit the big time!” If you’re an older woman, you’re just showing off. It’s ostentatious.
Ken: But you have a sporty car.
Me: It’s a Chevy. No one is ever like, “Oh my god, look at that Chevy hatchback!” Yes, it’s cute and sporty, but it doesn’t scream “I have more money than brains.”
Ken: It’s still a nice car.
Me: Convertibles make your hair messy as f*ck.
Ken: Jealous much?
Me: Sigh. Yeah.
Me: I don’t know how to finish my blog.
K: How about “See ya, nerds!”
Me: Right. I’ll be sure to try that.
See ya, nerds:-)