Saturday, February 13, 2010

Opening Ceremony 2-12-10

After what was just a terrible and sad day, I got an amazing gift. Our coordinating producer walked over to me and quietly asked, “do you want to go to the Opening Ceremony?” And so I quietly replied back, “yes, very much, please.” He only had a few tickets and I was one of the (insanely) lucky people that got to go.

Walking into the arena was kind of like walking into a football game – very rowdy crowd with faces painted, Canada stuff everywhere, people drinking beer and stoked to see a great show. I actually bought a Canada hat on my way out of the IBC thinking I would want it for the show since it might be cold (and also, on a night like this, everyone’s Canadian).

Well, duh – the arena was indoors! So really, no need for the hat. But that’s ok. I like the hat (it’s the same one that Team Canada wore when marching in tonight)

So we walk in and they’re going through the audience participation stuff. We had a smock that we wore the whole time, there was a flashlight, a light-up candle and a drum stick to use on the case all the goodies came in. The case doubled as a drum! Those drums came in REALLY handy. My hands would have hurt like heck had I been clapping the entire time. But instead, we were just all banging this make-shift drum over and over.

When the show opened with that dude snowboarding down that ramp, I kind of cringed, thinking, “wow, really Vancouver? You’re following Beijing with that?” And then I immediately scolded myself for thinking that and reminded myself to not compare this show to that show. Because there’s just nothing that will compare.

I had guessed that Canada would go with smart simplicity and woo-hoo! I was right. The show that followed that rather uninspired opening was gorgeous. Simple, elegant, clever and beautiful. And a lot of moments of just plain fun!

During the song with Nelly Furtado and Brian Adams, the entire audience was playing along on the drums. There were people in the aisles showing everyone what to do and when to do it so the entire audience would follow along. It was very cheesy… and VERY fun. The whole place was going nuts banging on these drums and playing along with the song. My neighbor said “I’m totally putting on my resume that I played back-up percussion for Brian Adams.”

That snowstorm was just gorgeous. It looked so real – you almost started to feel cold! I tried catching some flakes on my tongue (luckily I missed, those wouldn’t have been too much to swallow)

During the winter (? Not sure of the real name for the section) there were two constellations that dropped down – oh wow, so gorgeous. Again, totally had no idea how it was happening. When the bear appeared, I fervently hoped it wasn’t there to eat the natives. You could tell something ominous was about to happen and all I could think was holy crap, that bear is going to swoop down and swallow the kids. Luckily the ominous thing that happened was the Northern Lights appearing – not bear homicide.

Without a doubt, the coolest part of the show was the whales that swam across the stage and then had those blowholes puff out air or water. The entire audience gasped – it was SO cool. Everyone’s inner 5 year-old started gleefully applauding. When I watched it back, it had nowhere near the same impact as it did live. Bummer, because it was really, REALLY cool.

The best thing about the stage was that you couldn’t tell where the light was coming from. Was it lit from above or under? Was it projected? I had no idea how it was happening when I was there. (I heard Matt Lauer say on the broadcast that it was projected but I never would have guessed)

There were just so many simple but surprising moments in the show. Like when that tree appeared. It came out of nowhere – all of a sudden it was growing and the lights were morphing and you couldn’t quite tell what it was going to become and then, oh wow! It’s a tree! I loved that as an audience member, you were trusted to be smart and figure it out. It made it very interactive – and more memorable. Because I wasn’t following someone else on their journey – I was taking my own.

In the fall piece, as the fiddle player was battling his shadow, the entire stage was filling up with maple leafs. It was so visually stunning. It was this strange combination of real leafs falling from the ceiling, giant real leafs being brought onto the stage by people and then projected leafs moving all over. And then add in electric dancing and energetic violin playing…. Wow. I was on the edge of my chair. Along with everyone else.

OH! And then, what the heck, they lit their feet on fire!?!? YES!!!!! SO AWESOME!!!

The only thing that was a little sad about the fall piece to me was that the spring/tree/dancing piece had been so beautiful, so elegant and pretty. When the fall piece ended, all I could think was, “well, no one’s going to remember that piece now!”

The prairies piece where the boy flew to the Joni Mitchell song was so simple – and so captivating. When he started to run and the field was moving below him… everyone kind of figured out what was happening at the same time and you could feel the audience do a collective “oooh!” Watching it back on tv it looked a little silly, but live it was gorgeous. There was something very hypnotic about that piece.

You could tell they probably could have used a few more rehearsals on this one though – there were some points where he wasn’t touching down quite where the field was, or the field would be late. Just a few places where the timing was a bit sloppy.

Actually, throughout the entire show there were visible mistakes (besides that tiny little cauldron mishap). But after the crazy stories that came out after Beijing’s Opening Ceremony, it was refreshing to know that Canada probably didn’t lock any people in any boxes for 50 hours wearing adult diapers. I’ll take a few mistakes over that, thanks.

During the KD lang song, we were supposed to light our candles row by row making it look like the light was spreading. Well, the second KD started to sing, everyone grabbed their candle like it was a lighter and put it up in the air. There was a guy in front of me who was REALLY excited about kd lang singing. When she appeared and started to sing, he let out this kind of primal “Yeessssss” – ooohhkay. Big kd lang fan. Noted.

So yea, as an audience, we kind of blew the participation piece during that song. But come on, you played Hallelujah and you gave us candles. What did you think was going to happen?

It was a beautiful performance. Like the prairie piece – captivating.

Ohhh, the cauldron. Are there even words for how embarrassing that was? My Canadian neighbor sort of sighed and said “ugh, that’s just so Canadian of us! We get the attention of the world on us and we blow it. We can never perform under pressure!” Thought that was a rather fascinating character study!

She also told me that Canadians believe that the role of flag bearer is jinxed and that athletes will actually turn it down. She said she thought Clara Hughes, the flag bearer in Vancouver, would be fine because “she’s already been in so many Olympics.”

But of course, the entire ceremony had a dark cloud over it. At the very beginning of the show, after the warm-up acts and right before the countdown, they flashed a sign that said the ceremony was dedicated to the Georgian luger. The entire crowd was worked up – but that really subdued brought everyone and brought them back to earth. And then when Georgia entered, the entire audience jumped to their feet.

Well, almost everyone. There was a group of Russians sitting in front of us and as everyone rose to their feet for Georgia, they remained seated. Didn’t clap, didn’t do anything.

I was really disappointed to see that. I started thinking that I need to return that Tam Russia jacket I just got – I can’t feel good supporting a country whose people do that. They at least redeemed themselves a little bit later on in the night when there was that moment of silence for Nodar when they stood and removed their hats.

There was definitely an underlying sadness to the entire night.

As I was trying to find my way home, there were people just streaming out all over the place – I figured I’d be able to just follow the crowds and find my way back downtown but people were headed in every direction. Scattered around were NBC people shouting directions and apparently guiding us to our buses if we wanted them – or so I thought. I wanted to be smart and figure out my own way home since I knew it was within walking distance. I see a girl with an NBC sign and I stop to ask her which direction downtown is. She says very quickly, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you now.” Wait, what? But you have a sign! You’re supposed to be Canadian and friendly? What the?? I look behind her and ooohhh… that’s why. She’s herding Meredith Viera and other NBC execs. Sorry Meredith! (who, by the way, was looking positively adorable in one of the Team USA white polo sweaters. Super cute!)

Great night, beautiful show. SO happy I got the change to go!!

1 comment:

Russian Wulfgar said...

Great Commentary, Stacey! And I feel the same way you did about the Russians. Thanks for mentioning that in your piece.