Sunday, February 28, 2010

James Hope Howard Liveblogs the 2010 Winter Olympics Closing Ceremonies

No tape-delays this time!

I just finished watching the insane Men's Hockey final, which is going to go down as one of those legendary games people bring up for decades to come; good thing we won, because all of our other gold medals would have meant approximately squat if we'd lost this one. I'm not kidding; people would have looked back twenty years from now and gone "friggin' Vancouver". Instead the entire country gets a feel-good moment, and good for everybody involved. (Must be awesome to be out partying in the bigger downtown centres, right now; the footage of the celebrations going on in downtown Toronto right now is quite impressively nuts.)

So! The Closing Ceremonies ought to be a hoot, and if I'm reading this correctly the television coverage should be starting in about an hour. I'm off to the fridge to start pregaming! I'll meet you guys back here in a bit.

7:00 PM

Well, the show starts now, but the Closing Ceremony proper apparently starts in half an hour. So, uh, talk amongst yourselves.

Winnipeg is apparently having its own little downtown celebration for the Men's Hockey victory, with Portage and Main closed down. Nice! I'd totally go out there, but if I've made it this far into the day without changing out of my jammies I'm not about to get dressed and go out now.

You know what I'm looking forward to tomorrow? All the television stations running different commercials.

7:10 PM

The closing ceremonies are allegedly going to be about "poking fun at ourselves", with 60,000 foam moose-antler hats handed out to the attendees. This, uh... might or might not end well.

I would be remiss if I didn't note that "Hate Sidney Crosby" is currently one of the United States' top ten Twitter trends, which is pretty funny.

Lloyd Robertson, interviewed by Brian Williams, has the temerity to suggest that "No one had to tell us to be excited about these Games." Lloyd Robertson apparently lives in a wonderful bubble-world where he didn't have to watch any of the advertisements since the beginning of the year.

7:25 PM

Ugh, a bilingual version of "I Believe". Nothing in the world gives me greater satisfaction than knowing I can potentially go the rest of my entire life without hearing this overproduced turd of a ballad ever again.

Oh, hey, there's the venue! Clearly they're already going for the lols with this event; they put the three-pronged podium back up, and now they're having everybody cheer for the fourth prong as they open it up and have sparks flying out of it. A mime dramatically plugs in the power outlet, seventeen days late, and the fourth pillar arises! It actually is pretty funny, but forcing the announcers to contribute big fake laughs kind of kills it.


7:35 PM

Oh, shit, Inward Eye! Nice! I think now we can finally say they've made it big, right? Kind of funny that they were just playing the Pyramid, like, two weeks ago, but then again if you're an Olympic Closing Ceremony band you get to play wherever you like.

Kind of wonder how they got this gig; they aren't actually playing one of their own songs (lyrics of song thus far: "WHOA, VANCOUVER / WHOA, VANCOUVER"), so maybe their record label just pulled every string in the world. Or maybe somebody tricked the organizers into thinking they were Francophones coming to balance everything out? Whatever! They're there, and that's awesome.

Yikes, they're back from the commercials and the song is still going "WHOA, VANCOUVER" on loop. But they threw a thousand high school kids with snowboards on stage, so I guess that's something.

7:40 PM

They have a special introduction for all of the Chiefs; none of them wearing a wolf, though, so it isn't as cool as the Opening Ceremony was. Then the Prime Minister enters, to a... uh... subdued reception.

The flag is raised to a particularly awful rendition of the national anthem (seriously, would it be that bad to just play the thing like it's written), and we go to commercial again before the Parade of Athletes. Interesting note: Inward Eye is still up there on the performance stage.

7:45 PM

This is a lot quicker than the Opening Ceremony rigamarole, thankfully. Just all of the flagbearers come out at once, and then all the rest of the athletes come out at once after them. And they make 'em run, too! Just in case they haven't had enough exercise. They don't have the rows of white-clad dancers shimmying along for two hours this time, though, so hey. It's progress.

Still have to say, those Russian jackets are pretty sweet. I'm not sure what I think of the sweaters the Canadians are wearing, though.

Funny commentary: "Aww, there's our bobsledders! Awwwwwww--"

7:55 PM

Montgomery shows up without the sweater, which is a great visual; everybody else is wearing grey knit sweaters and then here comes this scrawny dude in a red short-sleeve T-shirt and togue, chewing gum and not looking fazed by the apparent cold in the slightest. Guess which province he's from!

So, yeah, there are two thousand, six hundred athletes and it takes about as long as you'd expect to get them all seated. Not particularly compelling television, but it gives them time to ramble variously about different aspects of the Olympics (primarily, of course, Norwegian curling pants).

8:00 PM

Please welcome Nikki Yanofsky, Derek Miller and Eva Avila! I don't... really want to hear any of them. But dutifully the production raises the three of them up on podiums, and they play some song that sounds like a photocopier choked on Avril Lavigne sheet music.

Oh! And you'll note (although it's hard not to notice) the hamfisted attempts to sing the song half in French, because the French complained (as the French can be counted on to do) about there not being enough French at the Olympics. So, congratulations, Francophones! Half of this suck is your fault.

Still to come: Olympic flag handover to Sochi! Smell the excitement!

8:15 PM

That god damn commercial break was FIVE MINUTES LONG. I'm not even kidding; I'm staring right at the clock, here. Jesus Christ, you'd think Panasonic or Coca-Cola were going to go out of business if we didn't see their Olympic-themed ads and consequently buy their products.

Please welcome the new members of the IOC! Are they serious about dropping Women's Hockey when they've just now put a woman hockey player on the International Olympic Committee? Wouldn't that be a hilarious dick move!

Ariana Chris performs the Greek National Anthem, as part of the tradition honouring all those winter sports that the Greeks played when they founded the Winter Olympics. Right? That's how that works, yes?

I didn't notice until just now that they made everybody in the backing symphony wear a little red toque. Kind of funny.

Now please welcome Ben Heppner, as he performs the Olympic Anthem while they lower the flag. They really should commission somebody to write up a second set of lyrics for the past tense, because the lines about welcoming everybody to the Games make a lot less sense when you're packing everything up and taking off.

8:25 PM

The Mayors of Vancouver and Sochi accompany the IOC President out for the ceremonial handing-over of the Olympic flag -- don't drop it, Rogge, careful careful careful -- okay, there we go. Welp, that's that taken care of.

With that incredibly important and sensitive ceremonial rite taken care of, out comes the Moscow Choir rolling fifty-deep to bust out a suitably impressive rendition of the Russian Anthem. Hey, see what those guys are doing? Singing an anthem like it's usually sang? Isn't that nice? We should try it sometime.

8:30 PM

And now, the Sochi 2014 presentation! Enjoy this weird CGI video of ice palaces and tiny bells and women in fur hats driving bobsleds, and here's a ballerina on a snowboard, and -- wow, that was like twenty-five seconds of crack with ice crystals on it.

"This presentation is sort of Russia meets Avatar," the announcers warn us announce. Back live, a Russian supermodel strikes a magic ball and some guys run around in giant glowballs.

Oh, shit! A Russian maestro shows up out of nowhere on stage and starts conducting a full symphony orchestra who are back in Russia, with the power of the internet, and some ballet pairs start dancing and everything is very touristy. I didn't catch the composer but the piece is apparently called "Time Forward", and it is awesome. Lots of frenzy and percussion and chaos, I'll have to look it up later.

Thanks to the power of the internet, we get a live(?) ice-dance from a Sochi ampitheatre, and then back live to Vancouver as they roll in this ridiculous butterfly-carriage-rotating-globe... thing. It looks like something out of a Sarah McLachlan fever dream. Then the Russian supermodel whacks the magic ball again, causing a spree of fireworks and the official lighting of the... uh, logo.

8:40 PM

Please welcome Jacques Rogge, again, as he and Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee CEO John Furlong come out to make another pair of speeches. Furlong does his best to include a bit more French than last time, but then nope he goes right back into English as he talks about the spirit of peace via Olympic competition and... actually, none of this really makes sense in English either. Furlong claims that these Olympic games have made us as a nation stronger and more connected, awkwardly working an "eh?" into his speech, but I have to say I don't particularly buy it. He also busts out the cliche "wind beneath our wings", gives a specific shout-out to Bilodeau for winning the first home gold, and then draws the cheap pop by mentioning the hockey victory earlier this afternoon. (Reminds me of an old George Carlin line: "One day I wanna see the Pope come out and give the football scores.")

Holy smokes, just the mention of the Men's Hockey victory today draws a spontaneous standing ovation from the entire assembled stadium of sixty thousand, then a large portion of the stadium going LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU because somebody figured out where Luongo is. Our country likes hockey, apparently.

The volunteers get thanks, everybody cheers politely; he uses some more French, everybody cheers politely; he thanks the Troops, everybody cheers a little bit more loudly. He thanks the IOC -- using the phrase "we did our best" -- and offers Sochi the best of luck in 2014, possibly because they're going to need it. Everybody stands and applauds the memory of the Georgian luger, as well, which is nice.

Aww, Hamelin and St. Gelais are sitting next to each other! Those two are adorable.

Anyway, to sum up: Furlong is grateful to everybody for everything and is very bad at French. Now for Rogge's speech!

8:52 PM

I have no idea what Rogge is saying during his speech until he switches to English, because I am hilariously bad at French. He does switch to English to congratulate Canada -- "you have won!" -- so I guess he believes in gold medal counts more than in total medal counts, unless he's just trying to suck up to us.

He declares the Games closed, a couple people boo, and we throw it to -- Neil Young! Yes! Whoo! He's just down at centre ice with a guitar and harmonica, like it's any other stadium show, because Neil Young is awesome. Long May You Run! The producers make a point of cutting to crowd shots of athletes swaying and cuddling to the song, and as he concludes the song they cut both of the Flames out at the same time. Nice visual.

Coming up next: "I Am Canadian". Uh-oh. One of the announcers helpfully adds: "I'm sure we'll find a way to laugh at it." Uh-oh.

9:05 PM




Shatner narrates a semi-comic interlude backed by a series of visual jokes on the big screens, most of which the camera misses because it's focusing on him. Good effort, though.

Catherine O'Hara narrates herself down by having curlers sweep her to the centre of the ice, which is admittedly a lot funnier than I make that sound. The rest of her routine falls pretty flat, actually, but... wow, okay, there's no 'but'. This whole segment is bombing, to the point that she starts making jokes about the weather and everyone claps politely. Boy, her writers kind of hung her out to dry on that one.

Michael J. Fox gets a big pop just for showing up, which is kind of weird for a guy who hasn't been able to appear in anything longer than a commercial since Mars Attacks. We get some references to toques and back-bacon and poutine, which I guess is supposed to be funny, and then a joke about claiming all the medals could have been funny except it looked like the graphics weren't activated at the right time, and... well, I'll wait to see what an actual comedy writer makes of these sequences, but so far I think they're not going very well.

9:15 PM

Michael Buble busts out a high-class jazz rendition of "The Maple Leaf Forever", which immediately does its best to redeem the last few segments by just being better produced and less, well, desperate. The part with the dancing mounties is kind of weak, the GIGANTIC TABLE HOCKEY GAME is actually kind of cute, but then it all kind of falls apart into this weird quasi-satirical orgy of floating blow-up moose and canoes and giant twoonies, and... you know what? The continuing rendition of The Maple Leaf Forever is pretty good, but everything else about this production has seemed pretty ill-advised so far.

The number concludes with Buble being raised above the ice on a gigantic mountie hat, and... I don't know. This just didn't seem half as clever as it was probably supposed to be. If you enjoyed it, well, I'm happy for you.

9:28 PM





9:31 PM

And now here's Avril Lavigne to perform a medley of a song from 2004 that I don't like and a song from 2002 that I don't like.

Am I just too old for this? It is me? Is the whole show thus far secretly really enjoyable and it's just something inherent in my character that keeps me from realizing it? Because it's either that or somebody genuinely thought that a live performance of Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" in 2010 as an Olympic epilogue would be a really good idea, and honestly that wouldn't be a world I'd want to live in.

9:36 PM

Alanis Morissette? You can't even--this isn't--I mean you can't--WHAT

This is part of the joke from earlier, right? Like they're just going to keep rolling out increasingly older embarrassments from our national cultural history as part of the gag? Is Snow up next to perform "Informer"?

Hey, Alanis, at least bust out some Too Hot while you're up there, will you? We need something positive to take away from all this.

9:42 PM

Simple Plan. Wow, huh. Somebody somewhere must have seen Alanis come on stage and invoked the magic words of "This couldn't possibly get any worse", because that's the only way to explain everything immediately getting worse anyway.

Things got inadvertently hilarious when they cut to the 'dancers' on the floor, absolutely none of whom are dancing. There were a couple cute Asian girls doing their very best to clap along, and the song is so slow that they really had to strain to time it.

If these Closing Ceremonies were an Olympic event, you know what they'd be? The downhill.

9:46 PM

Oh, god, and right when I finish typing that -- Hedley? HEDLEY?

I'm actively running out of exaggerations to describe how terrible the musical selections were for this event, because what in the fuck. Somebody send help.

9:50 PM

Oh, good, phew. I don't even know who "Marie May" is, but honestly it can only be a step up from everything else thus far.

Their music immediately turns out to be a Francophone hybrid of Rammstein and the closing theme music from The Raccoons, but you know what, I'll take it. At least it sounds suitably apocalyptic for the way this show has played out thus far.

9:54 PM

And then out comes k-os, which means we're still technically on our way up. The main floor fills up with a phalanx of glow-painted hip-hop dancers, which as you all know is an immediately recognizable staple of our Canadian heritage.

It's a well established part of our history that when Pearson and Diefenbaker would cross paths outside of Parliament on Friday afternoons, they brought their DANCE CREWS

9:58 PM

The hip-hop dancing goes on for... for a very long time, and then we get some percussion group doing a lot of percussion so that the dancers can breakdance some more. Is this the Electric Circus component of the show?

They do a bit more drumming, a bit more dancing, and... that's when the fireworks start up above the stadium. What? "This concludes the Closing Ceremony of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games." This concludes the...?


10:01 PM

Well, sure enough, we're out to commercials and that appears to be the end of that.

Wow, I just... I'm not even sure written language has words to express how awful I thought that whole thing was. It was disappointing and it was insulting and it was infuriating and it was just straight-up terrible at almost everything, and I don't mean to launch into hyperbole but a lot of decisionmakers should be entirely ashamed of themselves.

The commentators are trying to sell this as "a remarkable end" while a clipshow of the ceremony rolls, but honestly this ending was an almost complete shitshow and now it'll have pissed away the goodwill of the event when everybody goes back to asking how many millions of their taxpayer dollars went towards an Alanis concert.

If we ever do this again we should just put on a DVD of Heritage Minutes, fuck it. At least then people might learn something about us besides the awful state of mainstream music in this country.

In conclusion, the Olympics are over, and now we can put this all behind us. Congratulations to our Athletes, and may whoever organized these Closing Ceremonies live in misery and eventually die a painful and ignominious death alone and penniless. I think that's about as nicely as I can phrase it.


cherenkov said...

I almost cut off my ears listening to Furlong try to speak french.

reedsolomon.matr1x at said...

God it was horrid.

I thought they started with Neil Young, then they were going to go with all their crap acts first then end with something great, but hedley? then k-os then nothing?

Who was in charge of this garbage? There needs to be a televised tribunal. This isn't some little Glen Murray street festival. I'm surprised they didn't invite Great Big Sea to this thing, though that would have oddly been an improvement. PATHETIC.

Mykael said...

To borrow a facetious quote: "This is the best Much Music Video Awards Ever!"