We are More

Canada is so much more than the malfunction of one of the four torch-lighting pillars during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremonies. The real story, and the one rarely mentioned in the media coverage, is that the organizers got it right…dazzlingly and delightfully right.

In addition to being totally engaged and entertained, I was one of millions who were unexpectedly, deeply, and profoundly moved by what was the most-watched television event in Canadian history. The Ceremonies presented Canada to the world and in doing so helped every Canadian articulate what is unique and good about our country. 

In the words of Canadian slam poet, Shane Koyczan, the collective performances demonstrated as clearly as anything we’ve ever seen that, “We are cultures strung together, then woven into a tapestry, and the design is what makes us more than the sum total of our history. We are an experiment going right…..we are the surprise the world has in store for you”

This diversity was reflected in the wide range of music, dance, and participants – our best known as well our young and unknown. 

It began with a clever countdown orchestrated with audience participation, the Canadian flag being carried in by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and then officially kicked off with O Canada sung by 16 year old Nikki Yanofsky. While she is unknown to many, that might not be the case for long as she has been nominated for Junos in both the New Artist of the Year category and for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year. 

The presence of our diverse aboriginal nations was so very appropriate as was the tribute to Olympic athletes sung and written by Canada’s own rock and roller Bryan Adams with Nelly Furtado. 

The technology that allowed a snowboarder to land, a giant illuminated Spirit Bear to float up out of the “snow”, and giant orca whales to swim across the stadium floor was fabulous.

And what could be more Canadian than the elegance and simplicity of one young man dancing above the clouds to Joni Mitchell’s haunting “Both Sides Now” or Sarah McLachlan performing “Ordinary Miracle” as totem poles transformed into a forest of Douglas firs with members of the Alberta Ballet dancing among them. And, if that was too sedate for some, in no time flat, fiddlers and step dancers had you tapping your toes, and then skiers and snowboarders were suspended from the Rocky Mountains with skaters circling below.

And while I was truly appreciative of opera singer Measha Brueggergosman singing the Olympic anthem, it was k.d. Lang’s heartfelt singing of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” that had me reaching for the Kleenex.

I loved that we broke the rules by choosing more than one torch bearer and it seemed just and fitting that our heroes were as diverse as our country – Paralympics gold medalist and activist Rick Hansen, Olympic gold medalist Catriona Le May Doan, British Columbia-born basketball player Steve Nash, and hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky. 

It was the best and the most beautiful of all that is simple and yet complex in our country. And, it will no doubt contribute to a phenomenal growth in pride as well as the anticipated positive economic impact of being showcased on the world stage The Olympics will also promote a growing awareness that everybody wins if more Canadians of all ages are actively engaged in physical activity and that children who participate in sports programs are not only likely to be physically healthier, they are less likely to smoke, drink or do drugs, be better able to cope with failure, and develop self confidence and feelings of self-worth.

But there’s something too about sports that is perhaps just as important and that’s the life lessons we learn by being involved. Friday night, we were involved. We defined our country as one that while rich in beauty, talent, and diversity, is also one that speaks with courtesy and friendship. We are good, kind people who work hard at being the best neighbours we can be to countries around the world. I might not have been able to explain it quite that way before the opening ceremonies but I can now and, like every other Canadian, I’m standing just a little bit taller. 

Posted on 02-14-10

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