Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Random Bullets of Men's Figure Skating Short Program

  • Our seats were indeed way up high, but the stadium is so steeply raked that we still had a really good view. And we had a side view of the Kiss & Cry, the bench where the skaters and coaches wait to hear their scores. We could see them hanging out there putting on their jackets while the monitors replayed their best and worst moments. And we could see that there were boxes of tissues (green and blue Olympic logoed boxes) down on the floor. In case of crying, I guess.

  • There were a lot of empty seats, too--including some really choice ones lower down and across the stadium from us, and practically a whole section behind the press seats. The ones across from us were eventually filled by skaters and their families as they finished their routines, but the big blue section never did fill. At first I thought the seats belonged to bigwigs who were going to show up late and just catch the highest-ranked skaters, but then as the evening continued and the seats stayed empty, I started to get mad. Why not give those tickets to volunteers, at least? I couldn't believe there weren't a few hundred people around here who wouldn't be happy to see an Olympic event.

  • In spite of the threats from the official Olympics ticket people, there's obviously a huge scalped-ticket market. On our walk from the bus stop to the front gate we saw at least ten or twelve guys selling tickets, I met a woman sitting near us who had gotten her tickets free from her friend, a scalper who buys huge quantities of Olympics tickets every two years, flies to the host city, and scalps them.

  • Our favorite skater was the Swiss guy who danced to the William Tell Overture. And I also liked the guy from Japan who skated early on and was in 2nd place for a long time. They both had chops *and* musicality

  • I don't actually know that much about skating. I always thought that the audience at a big event like this would be made up of really dedicated fans, and there were a lot of those, but as we found out, mainly what you need is proximity and/or money and/or luck. So I felt like kind of a fraud and like I should have done more research beforehand to have really appreciated it.

  • Fortunately, Uncle Skaterboy was with us, and he's a real expert. He was so knowledgeable and opinionated that the people in front of us were turning around between skaters to ask him how he thought the next one would do. He took to calling each skater's rank after their program was done and before the judges announced the score. He was right more often than not, too.

  • And his commentary was a lot more colorful than you get on TV, too. When a skater who had been a major contender would blow a jump or fall down, Uncle Skaterboy would murmur "buh-bye," and I was know that was that.

  • Figure skaters simply should not wear white costumes: they become basically invisible against the ice. We noticed this in the couples skate on TV yesterday, and it was equally true tonight, though there was a lot less white.

  • No shortage of black and sequins, though.

  • We got to see a lot of the little girls who skate out to pick up the flowers and stuffed animals that fans throw onto the ice. Actually, they're not so little-- these girls were about 11 or 12. We could see them in their spot on the sidelines and they looked absolutely thrilled to be there.

  • It was interesting what happened to all those tributes, too, after the flower-sweepers picked them up from the ice: they'd bring them back to their home base and hand them to an adult volunteer, who'd drop them in a bin lined with layers of plastic bags pick up the innermost plastic bag, twist it closed, and remove the bag from the bin and spirit it further backstage to somewhere we couldn't see. Maybe they were donated to hospitals?

  • I seem to be a more patriotic Canadian than I was/am an American. It really was a thrill to see the sea of Canadian flags and the huge roar of cheers when both Patrick Chan and the other Canadian skater came on. I'm watching the broadcast on NBC right now as I type-- it's delayed by a few hours--and the cameras really don't capture either what it looked like or how it felt.

  • Wasn't that skeleton costume weird? Also, the farmer-boy one.

  • We had a great time. The Mermaid Girl especially. I can't think of a more interesting or eloquent way to say that, so I'll just leave it as it is.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Where My Job Went: Part II

So, almost immediately after I'd remedied the hot dog situation and gotten back to my seat, the rehearsal began. First, a woman in a red toque came out and talked to us. We don't really know what she said because the acoustics in BC Place are terrible (RW: "The acoustics in here are awful!" MG: "What??") but she was projected on two big screens and between that and the few words we could catch here and there we figured out the gist of it:

Bienvenue, mesdames et messieurs, to the Opening Ceremonies of the 21st Winter Olympic Games! The 230 volunteer cheerleaders scattered around the stadium will now direct you in the use of your Audience Packets. (massive rustling as everyone looks for packets.) Okay, you don't actually have Audience Packets. The real audience will have them on Friday. For now, I'm going to pretend you do so that the cheerleaders and I can practice instructing. Everyone take out your (nonexistent) white ponchos and put them on. Watch the cheerleaders for cues on when to wave your (nonexistent) flashlights to create special effects. And also [Charlie-Brown-Grownup-like mwa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.]

Then Fireworks! Ohboy!

Then, some singing performed by stand-ins. Note on screen says "Talent ID." RW: Do you think that's really their name? Or just a note for later?

Artistic Director comes out and begs us not to tell anything to anyone ahead of time. Oh, okay. If it's so important to you.

And now! The Opening Ceremonies!

The room darkens. The two screens show a montage of scenic Vancouver, ending with a guy standing on top of a snowy mountaintop. Way up high. Then he starts snowboarding down...down...down...all the way down the mountain!

Partway through, one of the screens goes dark. Oh well, minor glitch, I'll just watch the other one.



Real-life, non-film nowboarding guy bursting through paper wall below the screen and swoops down ski run and onto the floor! So cool! My favorite part!

[note from Friday-- did they cut this part after the Luge athlete died? Don't know, I didn't get to see the actual opening ceremonies except for little bits on break, since I was at work tonight]

First Nations! First the 4 local Nations welcome everyone in their languages, then four big totem poles rise up from the floor in provocative fashion & provoke me to low-minded choking hysterics, especially because there's this big concentric-ovals centerpiece thing hanging from the ceiling which suddenly looks very vulvic. But once they're standing upright they do look more like big white totem poles than like, um, anything else, and I'm able to pull myself together and stop snorking and gather the shreds of my dignity around me.

Then all the First Nations of Canada (well, representatives) come out and start dancing. My second-favorite part. My reaction: This is so cool. The US would never do this. RW's reaction: This is Canada showing off that they're cooler and more PC than the US. So irritating.

Flag of Canada raised, national anthem, sort of moving. Flag flapping in the breeze. How are they doing that? Is it coming from the big vulvic thing? No, maybe not.

Then representatives of the BC and Canadian government and IOC bigwigs are announced, but turn out to be actually Olympic volunteers standing in for the actual bigwigs.

Then! The parade of athletes (or, well, flag-bearing volunteers holding long ropes representing athletes) from all participating countries! This is pretty much endless, at least an hour. RW comments that the breakup of the USSR must have added several minutes to this segment all by itself. You can tell where the big waves of immigration to Vancouver have been from the volume of cheering for various contries: Italy, Iran, India, China. Great Britain. Australia. Jamaica, too, for some reason-- there isn't a big Jamaican-Canadian population in Vancouver that I know of, so it must have been on the strength of the famed Jamaican Bobsled Team from that "Cool Runnings" movie I've never seen. We cheered for Israel and Denmark and the U.S. I cheered for Ukraine and Russia and Poland, too, as I think that's where Vilna is these days. It's one of those cities that's hard to keep track of.

Then Canada came out last, and everyone stood up and cheered like crazy, and I got all choked up in spite of myself.

And the First Nations reps had to keep dancing through the whole damn thing. Though I noticed they spelled each other so that not everyone was dancing at once. And a lot of the dancing was just sort of place-holding jogging from one foot to the other. But still!

Then all the First Nations people dance off the stage, including one guy who seemed to really, really not want to leave.

Then the performances!

The room got dark and there was all this lighting effect and tissue-paper snow that everyone started grabbing for. And then some strange dancing in white costumes and a huge weird lit-up ice bear that rose up and then sank down below the floor. and then! Sarah Mclachlan singing "Ordinary Miracles!" and I think it was really her, not a stand-in. Excitement all around, and I forgave them for the ice bear.

Then all the white dancers finished and were replaced by a bunch of Riverdance dancers and a fiddler on a big platform in the middle, while tissue-paper maple leaves rain from the sky everywhere except our section. Is that Ashley MacIsaac? Maybe. Could it be? What do you think? I think so! Cool! Last time I saw him he was skulking around at the edge of a stage at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, performing semi-incognito with his cousin. He'd been wearing a big coat and looked sort of worn out. He seems to have pulled himself together since then.

OK, Riverdance off, next performance on. Now the big vulvic thing kind of droops and drops down four big fabric drapes and light projects onto them so they look like Emily Carr tree paintings. Cool. Actually that was my third-favorite part. More dancing in front of the trees, and people spinning around in the air on wires.

Then the trees are gone, and there's a big sun and a projected field, and a lone dancer running in place and the chords of the next song start and--oh wow--can it be? RW and I clasp hands in wonder and gasp--Joni! Singing her all-grown-up, jazz-inflected version of "Clouds!" But no, soon we realize it's just a recording. Though the dancing-- which soon turns to more swinging around in the air on wires--is gorgeous. And maybe it really will be Joni in person on Friday; we'll find out, I guess.

Then the centerpiece bulges and droops and transforms again, this time into a snowy mountain, and again we have performers on wires, though this time they're all wearing winter clothes and skis and snowboards and pretending to ski and such on the projected slopes. It's very good, but I can't help remembering this parody that one of MG's circus coaches did in a performance a couple years ago that was just like this, only funny. How did he know??

Then, with all the airborne skiiers still doing their thing, a whole fleet of rollerbladers zooms in! One of them is Uncle Skaterboy, but it's impossible to pick him out from the crowd, especially since they're all wearing red, pretending to be speed-skaters on ice. (Oh-- the floor is white, so everything looks kind of icy.) Yay, Uncle Skaterboy! Yay, athletes! Yay, performers! Okay, bye!

Then with great fanfare they announce that the Olympic Torch is coming in only 27 minutes (only it isn't really; it's still wending its way around the Lower Mainland this week). Photo montage of all the places it's been. More fanfare! Announcement that a big High Muckety-Muck will now speak!

Camera focuses on mild-mannered Olympic Volunteer, who steps up to podium and introduces himself, to huge enthusiastic cheers, as the stand-in for High Muckety-Muck. He explains that Muckety-Muck will be giving a four-and-a-half-minute speech, and proceeds to fill the next four minutes with a boring encyclopedia travelogue about the City of Vancouver, while MG and I dart forward and grab as many tissue-paper maple leaves as we can from the section in front of us.

Another speech from another stand-in, and then mounties march smartly out and raise the Olympic Flag beside the Canadian one. RW figures out that the wind machine is INSIDE THE FLAGPOLE, which we agree is very clever.

Now all please stand for the Official Olympic Song! (There's an Official Olympic Song?) Camera to young, slightly embarrassed stand-in, who holds a microphone to her face and grins while a recorded voice sings a very operatic anthem. Occasionally the volunteer mouths a particularly aria-like syllable, and sort of waves her arms around, and everyone cheers extra loud.

Somewhere in there there was another song, only we don't know what it was because it is A Secret. A stand-in stood on the platform for a few minutes while an instrumental version of "Hallelujah" played. We took bets on who the real performer will be: Shania Twain? Celine Dion? Leonard Cohen? Maybe Leonard Cohen. Wouldn't that be a kick? Or kd lang-- didn't she make a big splash at the last Canadian Olympics? Well, by the time you read this, everyone will know, but I don't yet. [Note from Friday: It was! It was kd! Looking quite stunningly butch and soignee, don't you think?]

And another song. Before that one, or after, I forget. But the lights went down and the cheerleaders did a lot of waving their lights around, and finally at the end several audience members got the bright idea to wave their cell-phones in the air. I did, too. It was fun, even though I don't have one of those fancy iPhones with a simulated lighter-waving app.

Was there more? I think there was more. Oh, there were all these white-clad Olympic handmaidens (and hand...men, I guess. Anyway, there were men and women) who just walked and stood around the edge of the stage in formation for the whole performance, off and on. They didn't dance, or anything. They were like snow nymphs. Sort of militarized snow nymphs.

They lined up to welcome the (imaginary) torch and light the (imaginary) Olympic Cauldron! Yay!

And then it was over! Good night, mesdames et messieurs! Twenty thousand people rushed for the exits. More blue-clad volunteers shepherded us out of the stadium and told us to go over the little bridge. And as we all surged for the bridge...fireworks! off the top of the stadium! Ooh! Pretty!

"That's where my job went," I said to RW, gesturing to the explosions behind us.

"Yep," she said. "Up in smoke. Well, you might as well enjoy it."

And I did, pretty much. Then we used our tickets to get a free ride home on the Skytrain, and that was the end of that.