Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Vancouver Olympics -- Closing Night

UPDATED FREQUENTLY -- SEE BELOW. (This post, for better or for worse, has turned into a live-blogging effort.)

The closing ceremonies got off to a great start with the fourth arm going up -- the one that didn't work during the lighting at the opening ceremonies, the malfunction that got all the overhyped buzz and took on a life of its own in the media -- and with Catriona Le May Doan finally getting to light it, and I enjoyed seeing the athletes come in, all the Canadians, with Joannie Rochette carrying the flag, Team Martin's golden curlers, and all the rest, and the others as well, athletes we've come to know the past two weeks...

But then it went downhill from there, with a pitifully bad musical performance by Nikki "I Believe" Yanofsky, and a couple of other meagerly talented young people. That was simply awful, the low point. (Let's face it, "I Believe" is a horrible, horrible song, the one serious embarrassment to Canada from these Games.)

Since then, it's been utterly interminable. The Greek national anthem, the Olympic anthem, the passing of the flag from Vancouver to Sochi. The whole up-with-Russia extravaganza was okay, I suppose, if far too long. And now it's the head of Vanoc, John Furlong, the head of the Games, going on and on and on, as he did at the opening ceremonies. (It's painful listening him try to speak/read French. Could he not have practised and improved?) And now it's IOC head Jacques Rogge...

Seriously, this is supposed to be a party? And there's supposed to be a sense of humour to the proceedings? I realize there are formalities to be observed, but come on.

Also, Canadian TV ignored the medal ceremony for the 50K cross-country race today. (NBC showed it.) It's only one of the premier events of the Winter Olympics. Bad move, CTV/TSN/Sportsnet.

And... they're over. The Vancouver Olympics, that is. Done. Officially closed.

Oh... Neil Young. Finally, a talented Canadian singer/musician, someone we should be showcasing for the world as one of our own. Okay, k.d. lang is pretty talented, too, and her performance of "Hallelujah" at the opening ceremonies was great. But that Bryan Adams/Nelly Furtado duet? Remember that? That was bad. Not as bad as Yanofsky et al., but not good.

How about Rush? Wouldn't it be awesome if they came out and broke into "Tom Sawyer"? Or maybe The Tragically Hip, the most Canadian of all rock bands? Couldn't they come out and perform, say, "Fireworks," not least after today's huge hockey win?

Just as long as Celine doesn't show up.

And those arms are going down... 

What time is it? 10:02 pm. This has been so dull.


10:03 pm -- Gotta love this. Canadian geese followed by William Shatner, a fellow Montrealer. This is fairly amusing. Not as funny as when he does "Rocket Man," but still. 

10:07 pm -- Catherine O'Hara. She's funny, this isn't. Alas.

10:10 pm -- I love Michael J. Fox. And this is fine. Too much reliance on stereotypes throughout these three so far, but I guess that's the point. 

10:13 pm -- Michael Buble. Not one of our greatest Canadians. Ugh. Seriously, where's Geddy Lee? This is awful. We need this shit at the Olympics?

10:17 pm -- This Mountie routine is a new challenger for low point of the evening. I get that it's supposed to show off our sense of humour about ourselves, and that it's all tongue-in-cheek, but it's boring. 

10:19 pm -- One of the commentators on Canadian TV, I can't remember her name, just said that Buble was the "perfect" person to charge up the crowd. Really? That's a challenger for stupidest comment of the entire Olympics. 

10:23 pm -- I just read that possible performers are Nickelback and Diana Krall. Noooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What are we trying to showcase, our musical awfulness? 

10:27 pm -- Nickelback. I'm officially embarrassed now. Terrrrrrrrrrrrible. Besides, these idiots are from Alberta, not Canada. (Yes, I did just write that. Yes, I'm kidding. Sort of.)

10:33 pm -- Avril Lavigne. I wish I were kidding. Here's an idea. The Tragically Hip does "Fireworks" and the men's hockey team comes out on stage. I should be running this emerging fiasco. At this point, I'd even settle for the Trailer Park Boys. 

10:36 pm -- Alanis. I saw her in concert years ago at Jones Beach in New York. The opening act? Radiohead. Seriously. I had a backstage pass, and I went back after the show, but she never came out. Bummer. But the Radiohead guys were hanging out. Too bad I didn't know who they were. (That was a younger and stupider time in my life.)

Anyway... Alanis is a vast improvement over the previous two, but she was a lot more relevant, like, 10-15 years ago. That was okay, a pretty good song, if slow and a bit of a show-stopper, bringing it down when it needs to be brought up. 

10:42 pm -- Is it bad that I don't know who Simple Plan is? No. Because they're derivative and redundant. Canadian music sucks. Bring back Neil Young!

10:46 pm -- Hedley. It really sucks. I can barely believe the country that put on such a great show, and that did so well, and that aroused such national pride, produces such crap.

Hey, here's an idea. How about a Bare Naked Ladies reunion? I'd go for that. They're proudly and distinctly Canadian. Maybe they could change the lyrics to "If I had $1000000" just for the Olympics.

Have I mentioned that I should be in charge? 

10:49 pm -- And now, from Montreal... wait... who? Mary May? What? Does my ignorance reflect central Canadian bias? Not my own, of course, but the English media's. Are we too dismissive here in Anglo-Canada? Oh, it's Marie-Mai, or something. Whatever. Maybe she's big in Quebec. It's not bias, she's just not very good. Or even just good. Still, this sounds like something Europeans would like. (Update: A commenter says Marie-Mai is indeed big in Quebec. Okay. But shouldn't we be going for bigger names?)

10:52 pm -- k-os. Great. I only know who this person is from iTunes. No, that's not true. He's popular, and I've heard of him, well, I don't know where, just out in the ether. But there's a reason I don't know any of his music... it's gargage. And he's representing Toronto? Again, I can only hope the foreigners think this is cool. I can only add it to my list of embarrassments.

Is it over yet?

10:58 pm -- Percussionists?

Wait... that was it? It's over? That's the best we could do? That was hardly a "bang," as Canadian television commentator James Duffy put it. That was more like a loud whimper at the end of a long line of farts.

Again, why not Rush or the Hip to close it out? Something really big, something really Canadian, something truly memorable?

James Duffy's fellow commentator, whatever her name is, just called the closing ceremonies "spectacular." Wrong. They stunk.

And now we go back to Brian Williams, presumably to sum it all up with all the usual platitudes.


You know, I really got into the Vancouver Games. All the hype leading up to them annoyed me, as I wrote that first night, but I followed them closely from the start. In terms of medals, the first week was pretty rough for Canada, but we picked it up in the second and ended up doing incredibly well. And, overall, despite those early gaffes and glitches (the arm that wouldn't rise, the ice at the speedskating oval, etc.), the lack of snow (and, generally, winter weather), and the bad policies (the fence around the cauldron), it was, overall, a truly amazing event.

I say that from afar, from here in Toronto, but that's how it seemed, and it sure seemed like the people of Vancouver, Whistler, and British Columbia generally, enjoyed themselves. I know many of us did all across this great country. The Games really brought us together -- not because we won a lot, picking up a record number of gold medals, or because we "owned" the podium," or not, but because they made us all proud to be Canadian, and they allowed us to show ourselves and our beloved country off to the world in a way we don't often get to.

And I'll miss not having them on TV. It's been a wonderful two-plus weeks, with some wonderful moments. When we won the hockey gold today, I jumped off the couch and celebrated like I rarely do for anything. I can't remember ever being that excited for a sporting event. Maybe when the Steelers won the Super Bowl last year, but not even that matched today. That win was the highlight, along with the men's curling win, but I found myself cheering on my fellow Canadians -- and genuinely appreciating the athletes from all the countries -- frequently. Whatever it was -- short-track speedskating or skeleton, even figure staking -- I was there, and I was united with the rest of Canada, urging our men and women on.

It's hard to believe, actually, that the Olympics could mean this much to me, or to Canadians generally, but they did, and now they're over, and hopefully some of that togetherness will persist.

There's a reason this is the greatest country in the world. And it was on full display these past couple of weeks.

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  • enjoying your blog better than the ceremonies. Oh, and as far as OHara goes, ya, she is great but PEEING IN THE SNOW? i couldn't believe she would make Cnd's look like Hosers like that.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:43 PM  

  • I don't care what the Brit's say. The Canadians are top shelf folks, and did a great job putting on the 2010 Winter Olympic Games despite some very adverse circumstances.

    So Cal Dude

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:43 PM  

  • Hey, I think we did a great job, too. I say "we," but I mean Vanoc and the people of British Columbia. We'll see how the Brits pull off the London Games. I doubt they'll go on without any gaffes.

    And thanks Anon #1. I suppose I've got nothing better to do. O'Hara's bit was painful.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 10:47 PM  

  • Thank you for the updates. It really sucks here in the US. Being cut off by NBC to show "The Marriage Ref."
    But hey, I love Avril Lavigne. D:

    By Anonymous Shannon, at 10:53 PM  

  • Hey, any fan of Neil is #1 in my book. Would have been nice if they had brought out a bunch of ppl to back him up, sing harmonies..

    Most of the musical numbers are pretty big (Marie Mai is huge in PQ) and I appreciate that, but I am thinking how I would have felt watching television if the Beijing Games were simply an exposé of local talent... anyway, I don't have the chops to do a better job, so hats off to VANOC, but bringing out Shattner & Ohara seemed really desparate...

    By Anonymous Helene(anon #1), at 10:54 PM  

  • Thanks, Shannon and Helene.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 11:06 PM  

  • Doesn't it suck to be Avril Lavigne, when she's considered one of our great Canadian singers and the female who sings the "I believe" song has a better voice than she does? guhhhhh...

    Totally agree to all your music comments. We had MUCH better choices for authentic Canadian artists.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:19 PM  

  • Avril Lavigne and "great" certainly shouldn't be in the same sentence.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 11:22 PM  

  • thx for "sharing the moment" Michael et al.

    bonne nuit... Canada A.M. will be back to normal tomorrow...

    By Anonymous Helene, at 11:51 PM  

  • Thank you, Helene, and everyone else, for taking the time to visit. I'll be back to writing about politics tomorrow.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 12:10 AM  

  • Watching from the other side of the world I was disappointed that the indigenous peoples of canada weren't better represented in the closing ceremony.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:41 AM  

  • The Tragically Hip should have been asked to perform for the closing ceremonies. They are all things Canadian and hockey! This would have been a great tribute to Canada and a great opportunity to showcase their genius to the rest of the world---particularly the US market which has been slow going to recognize their talent. Since they missed the mark on this one, I don't think the closing ceremonies deserve even a bronze.

    By Anonymous Gord, at 10:26 AM  

  • I was a naysayer when the Olympics were considered and then awarded to Vancouver. Too much a corporate thing, only the politicians, corporate sponsers and developers would benefit,not for the everyday person.

    This changed. Truth be told, I was super impressed and bowled over by the opening ceremonies. I found myself transformed into this proud Canadian, anxious for the world to see us in the best light. I went downtown, walked the streets uncharacteristically crowded with people(couldn't muster the patience to wait in four hour plus lines) and saw first hand this strange phenomenan, all ages, all wearing Canadian pride on their sleeves.

    Not a sportsfan, I watched the Olympic competitions even the womans final in curling (which I still don't get).

    I was disappointed in the closing ceremonies, embarrassed at times and thought the choice of "talent" left something to be desired. It looks like I am not alone.

    Overall, a memorable party and now time to nurse the hangover and deal with the inevitable scandals to follow.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:25 PM  

  • Catherine O'Hara! There was dead silence as she insulted all our guests to the games. I was appalled. I'm guessing the crowd was too. Not funny.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:08 PM  

  • Marie-Mai is a big star in Quebec. She's hugely talented and would be a big star everywhere if she sung in English.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:12 PM  

  • Marie-Mai is not only good in Quebec. She beats many anglo singers on the charts. She has been in the o-50 top 100 albums on Jam for about 5 months. I don't like the comment suggesting we shouyld have gone for bigger names. Not kowning an artist does not make her/him a small name. Many Quebec artist also do better on the France charts in Europe, competing against the likes of Rhianna. Very few English-CDN artists make that chart either. Doen'nt mean they are not good.Keep in mind France & Belgium represent twice the population of Canada i.e. good album sales potential there,

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:52 PM  

  • Those closing ceremonies were the worst ever. Where to begin? It was a mess.

    By Anonymous dahlberg, at 11:26 PM  

  • Yes, I agree with the general consensus that the music could have better showcased canadian talent. What I disagree with is everyone's portrayal of Neil Young's performance as stellar or god-like. Really people? Just because he's a legend doesn't mean he's invariably perfect. His performance was so lackluster. Not to say Avril Lavigne singing 'girlfriend' or Hedley singing 'Cha ching' were any better...but why is everyone quick to say his performance was rock solid? Hardly!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:00 AM  

  • My theory on why Rush wasn't there (and also The Hip) is that they were busy with other things and probably just didn't think the olympic closing ceremonies would be the right venue for them. My theory is ,they were asked and they declined for various valid reasons. Both of those bands are bands with high integrity and not all about shameless self promotion. I bet that most of the "artists" (using that word very loosely!!) were basically (except a few) all that was left and had agreed to do this "gig". So, we were left with mostly CRAP...examples: Nickelback, Avril Lavigne, Simple Plan.

    By Anonymous Mark-in-Ont., at 6:08 PM  

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