Well, I watched about half of the opening ceremonies. I can't help it; I'm still a sucker for the pomp and circumstance, or at least, what I remember
as pomp and circumstance from my childhood. The Olympics were a big deal in our house when I was young, and I keep hoping that it will be like that again, though by now I should know better.
I gave up after an hour and 15 minutes - just too tired, being 3 time zones later than Vancouver, and it was too boring to make the effort to stay up until the end.
The whole thing was dominated by the multiculti version of Canada's "official" culture, which comes down to exotic feathered Native performances. You know, the culture 95% of Canadians never experience from one year's end to another, unless the government decides to administer it to us in some "official" setting. (And bigshot Anglicans at their meaningless palavers - having stripped their Christianity naked, they try to clothe it in borrowed feathers from pagan spirituality. What the hell, nobody believes in it anyway, but it's pretty!)
I didn't mind it when it appeared at Calgary, because it was one part of a smorgasbord of cultural performances. Incoherent, but not altogether fake. This was fake. Native culture is a minority culture, and that isn't cancelled out by being older than the majority culture. No wonder foreigners have a stupid idea that Canadians live in isolated shacks, and encounter bears on our daily walks - what else should they think, if they're paying attention to what we say about ourselves? They must believe that we all know about Indian star constellations, when I'll bet hardly anyone in that auditorium had ever heard of The Wolf, The Bear, The Eagle and the other one. I'd never heard of them.
The only tip of the hat to the real Canadian culture was when the Mounties brought in the Canadian flag. Guess they didn't dare enlist 8 Mohawk Warriors for that, out of fear that they'd set up a blockade in front of the Parade of Nations.
I shut it off after the "Spirit Bear" floated up and then floated down - was it perhaps supposed to do something? The commentator said it was supposed to move among the tiny knot of people wearing paper turkey leg garnishes on their heads, but it just stood there then went back down.
I can't say I liked anything at all about the opening ceremony. OK, it was pretty when they did the swimming killer whales and red salmon with trick lights on the floor - nice.
I missed the torch-lighting, but I'll catch it today sometime on the repeats. I gather one of the prongs failed to come up (shades of Spinal Tap!) but mere mechanical failure doesn't bother me that much. I just sighed when I discovered that the great mystery of Who Will Light The Torch was revealed to be 4 people. Good God, can't we just pick ONE person we think is worthy, like normal people, have done with it? No, we have to muddle around satisfying constituencies and making sure everyone has a share (except in the cultural stuff - that was pretty uniform) so we send a crowd up there. (I thought it was dumb the year the Americans sent their whole hockey team up to do it, too, just to be clear that I'm not being hyper-critical of my own.)
Naturally, this inspires a quote from G.K. Chesterton, describing the angst that arose when his little village wanted to erect a War Memorial at the crossroads.
One lady wished to have a statue of a soldier, and I shuddered inwardly, knowing what such statues can be; fortunately another lady, with a nephew in the Navy, called out indignantly, "What about the sailors?" Whereupon the first lady said with hasty but hearty apology, "Oh, yes; and a sailor as well." Whereupon a third lady, with a brother in the Air Force, proposed that this also should be included in the group, and the first lady with large and generous gestures accepted all and every addition of the kind; so that this magnificent sculptural monument was soon towering into tanks and toppling with aeroplanes.
In Vancouver, where there was room to construct something that would combine lots of unrelated elements, the 2+ hour 'cultural segment', we were treated to the narrowest slice of Canadian life, completely divorced from the real life of the people of the country. But where simplicity was demanded - when the focus would be on one point at one moment for one act, the organizers fell apart and started heaving in more and more bodies so the effect would be confused and incoherent. It seems right that that was the moment even the physical props fell apart.