Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympics Opening Ceremonies

Originally published on My Life Is Like A Song on August 9, 2008

If you read my pre-Olympic thoughts, you will know that I wasn't that excited about the Olympics starting. After writing it, I did look at the schedule a bit, read about my favourites (and my event favourites) and scheduled my PVR for the Opening Ceremonies.

Now, I'm not sure if it's because of the PVR (where you can start watching before it ends recording - not like VCRs where I would have had to wait), but when the 5 kids (including sleepover kids) were up and watching the ceremonies, I didn't rush down (like I would have in the past).

I really only sat down to watch it when the athletes starting entering. Seeing the joy in their faces made me forget all my negativity from the previous day. This is what the Olympics is all about (for me). Sport. Seeing those small countries with just a few athletes, living their dream with less resources than are available to the bigger countries is so inspiring and watching my favourite countries enter was exciting.

The highlight for me definitely has to be when the Canadians walked in (isn't it every time?). I loved Adam van Koeverden as our flag bearer. I loved his enthusiasm. I loved the way he was waving the flag like if it was much smaller and lighter (as opposed to many flag bearers who let it sit in the holster). The mother in me was thinking - don't injure yourself - but as a viewer, I loved it.

Another highlight for me was the American flag bearer. Unlike many of the other countries with professional athlete flagbearers (Roger Federer for Switzerland, Dirk Nowitski for Germany, Yao Ming for China), the U.S. could have chosen a very well known professional or amateur athlete (Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Williams sisters, Michael Phelps, Tyson Gay).

Instead they chose Lopez Lomong who will run in the 1500m. In 1991 (at the age of 6) he escaped Sudan with his family. After 3 days of running in the African wilderness to escape, he became separated from his family. He lived in a refugee camp for 10 years as one of the "lost boys of Sudan". In 2001 he wrote an essay about what he would strive to accomplish if he lived in the U.S. and was given that chance. He became a U.S. citizen last year and is now their flag bearer. Now that's a Cinderella story (more Cinderella stories to come on future posts).

Part of the opening ceremonies is seeing what the teams are wearing. Green really stood out for me, not a beautiful green but a vibrant bright sometimes neon green. You couldn't miss the teams from Lithuania, Iran and Turkmenistan.

The brightest team that I saw though was Estonia. Some athletes/officials came out in bright yellow/green, others in bright orange or blue. There weren't many of them, but they weren't lost in the crowd.

Hungary had the outfits I feared for Canada with what looked like red polka dots (more splashes than dots) on white.

The Canadian outfits were good (not as bad or loud as I feared). They wore white pants or skirts.

I especially loved the maple leaf design on the back - the leaf being in white and the red at the top outlining it.

I loved the soccer/football scarves of Angola and Portugal.

OK, this is getting way too long, so I'll stop there with the fashion.

I almost panicked when CBC missed Great Britain walking in during a commercial (and they were talking to a Canadian as the rest of the team was walking in - with two screens). Luckily, they replayed the whole team coming in a few minutes later - otherwise, they would have received a letter from me (perhaps others were quicker which was the reason they went back).

After seeing the athletes walk in and being more excited, I did end up watching the beginning. I was very pleasantly surprised. As much as I am not a fan of the Chinese regime, I was awe-struck by the synchronization and the precision of the performers (especially the drummers at the beginning and the 2008 Tai Chi performers - all in perfect symmetry). It was also quite simple yet incredible. I had gotten kind of tired of the over-the-top theatrics of past ceremonies. This was quite refreshing.

Unfortunately, part of the excitement for me most years is wondering who will carry the torch and who will light the flame. Not knowing any Chinese athletes, this excitement was missing, but it was done in a simple, yet unusual way which made in interesting. I also had to pay better attention at the countries coming in since they didn't do it in traditional alphabetical order. I didn't want to walk away in case I missed one of my favourites.

Naomi Klein said: "when the opening ceremonies begin friday, you will instantly forget all that unpleasantness as your brain is zapped by the cultural/athletic/political extravaganza that is the Beijing Olympics." (thanks for the link Kelly).

I have not forgotten, but for a few hours, I did enjoy the Olympics. I concentrated on the athletes and will try to continue to do so during the next two weeks. With the Chinese dominance that I am expecting, it will be difficult to forget how they get to excel. As a mother I will wonder about the lives these athletes lead and their families.

I will be thankful for my Canadian athletes who perhaps will not win as many medals, but who have and will enjoy the freedom to do what they choose.

No comments:

Post a Comment