Saturday, February 13, 2010

Quick comments on the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics

  1. The opening show devoted huge amounts of attention to the First Nations traditions of the west coast. I've read a couple of complaints about this focus, (and I commented on early complaints about the branding of the Vancouver Olympics in general) but they largely - the latter link more than the former - miss the mark. It's telling that there was no real attention paid to Aboriginal people in their particularity: they spoke and danced as a mostly undifferentiated collective, while the spotlight and starring roles fell exclusively on/to the white celebrities. I don't know whether to describe the role of the Aboriginal people in this show as a fetish or a reflection of white guilt. Maybe it's both.
  2. At one point in the show, while representatives from all the participating First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities danced in the center of the stadium in some orgasmic fantasy of exoticized pre-historical (that is, pre-European) peace and love - this part was definitely in the 'fetish' category - I snarkily asked Victoria when the white guys were going to show up with guns. And then, with no intended irony, a bunch of mostly white people in entirely white outfits encircled them and stood, watching. It turned out that they were security, providing a barrier between the athletes, who were about to parade in, and both the dancers and the audience. That didn't lessen the creepiness, though.
  3. The head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee made note of the various peoples of Canada: "Aboriginal Canadians, new Canadians, English Canadians, and Francophone Canadians." I'm thrilled to hear he's caught up with the 40 year old Official Multiculturalism discourse that says Canada is a state with 'three founding nations' rather than the older 'two founding nations' rhetoric. Too bad that he managed to toss everyone else into the ridiculously inadequate "new" category.
  4. On a kinder note, the choice to use five athletes in lighting the cauldron - when it's customary to use one - was nice. VANOC said that when we found out who was lighting the cauldron, we'd say 'of course'. And they're right, this time. It was also nice to see people running alongside the truck that carried Wayne Gretzky to the outdoor cauldron. After 106 days where I was unable to escape hearing about the torch relay, this was the one moment that felt genuine and not wholly contrived.


Thad McIlroy said...

Very astute observations on how the First Nations challenge was so badly mishandled.

I too had a very strange feeling when the "Star Troopers" marched in and surrounded the First Nations' dancers. My first thought is that they'd pull out automatic weapons and shoot them all. And then I (sort of) recovered.

All very strange.

neilshyminsky said...

I would have thought 'stormtroopers', maybe, but I think that the sentiment is the same. Their attempts at 'dancing' provided some much needed levity, though. I'm guessing that someone decided it was too creepy to have them just stand there, but failed to ask whether any of them actually could dance...