Hello people! I apologize for not writing sooner, but I was incredibly busy this week (gee I wonder why!). On top of my exam period and the several 13 hour rehearsal shifts and the big day, I spent almost all of Saturday in bed!
THE OPENING CEREMONY WAS SO AMAZING AND I GOT TO MEET SOME FANTASTIC PEOPLE! Most of them from afar, but meeting them nonetheless!
First the ceremonies themselves:
The whole thing was an incredibly emotional experience. I had done work for almost every segment at some point or another, including assembling the prototypes of the giant maple leafs which were kind of dangerous! One wrong move and the fabric cover would have snapped like a scrunchie, but only it was over a storey tall! That and there was much disbelief about how fast they could be properly opened and to get them to be as close to synchronized as possible, but the guys on leaf duty did a FANTASTIC job. Seeing the full rehearsals just in a tent without any special effects or anything was amazing on its own, and to see it in BC Place with Ashley MacIsaac was a total blast.
One of the inspirations behind the ceremonies is Douglas Copeland's 2000 book City of Glass which is a largely photobook containing short prose, poetry, personal stories, and a few travel guide-style tidbits all put together in a visual experience of Vancouver. I purchased the book when I found out about its role, and the colour palette assembled in it is very similar to the palette used by the games. I recommend this book as a gift for sure. It's a very earnest look at Vancouver around the turn of this century.
As everybody started to move into BC Place and use the real setting last month is when I began to have varying roles and ended up doing audio support in the concourse during the games for performers at one of the entrances. A few weeks ago during one of their rehearsals I got to be inside some of the fabric rings while the Peak of Endeavour aerialists practiced, because if they needed assistance with their audio gear it would be a pain to have to stop and reset the outer rings just so somebody could walk in for a few seconds. It was a trip to be there looking up at the performers all alone in the middle of BC Place.
During my audio assistance got to meet the primary choreographers who are such amazing, kind, and thoughtful people as well as many in the full team. I have a whole new appreciation for people who create and manage what goes into this scale of operation. They have to be, pardon the pun, on their toes ALWAYS and ALWAYS patient with people because with large groups everything has to be rehearsed over and over and over again and some times there would be 5 to 6 run-throughs with the same mediocre results, and even when that happened occasionally and it was extremely late at night none of the team ever lost their cool. They just laughed it off and encourage people to think about things in a different way. One night during a Hymn to the North rehearsal I could hear Phil Hayes tell one of the people on the icebergs "Woman in the black, well, if this had been real you would have become a wet frozen block about now. Let's try to take two extra steps at that cue so we can avoid this icy fate." Clever clever.
At the last big dress rehearsal on Wednesday, a cart coming down from the second level to the first stopped at an odd angle. Myself and a few of the volunteers next to that corridor walked over to see what was going on, and out comes WAYNE GRETZKY. When somebody realizes it and yells his name, the place LOSES IT and goes INSANE. Even many of the First Nations dancers, who had previously been in the waiting area behind the first curtain waiting for their cue, totally ignored their choreographer and made a beeline to the crowd oggling Gretzky. However after a few seconds and a few nice waves and greetings, he was off again as soon as it happened! At this point there was a ton of speculation about Gretzky and the cauldron (most people, including heads of departments, had no idea about the cauldron or torchbearers) and the smurfs (the nickname of us volunteers) had been just as frantic forming our own ideas as this board. Might I add it was really refreshing to hear these types of involved opinions from people not familiar with past games or the whole process like the good people of GB. My insight has TOTALLY changed. But anyways, since his appearance at BC Place caused this wide speculation people on the inside tried to assure us of his uninvolved role, which was extremely odd seeing as how he was VERY involved at the end. I'm still not sure what purpose that served. Moving on!
As far as the services goes, everybody was so helpful and nice. Even the crossing guards would go the extra mile for people needing assistance or having questions, pitching in when there was something heavy to be moved and stuff like that. And yes, the food was not the best, but it was still fairly tasty and did the job. Even though the food provided was always basic as heck, it was still FREE and the service staff were always courteous, even when facing crowds of burly contractors in the morning getting agitated because the break room people had run out of coffee during their coffee break.
The late morning while we were all waiting for the busy afternoon to begin a few friends of mine and the rest of my crew got word of Kumaritashvili's death. Everybody was in shock and we were immediately questioning what would happen in the ceremonies, but the organizers were so professional and prepared for anything that they had assured virtually everybody within an hour or so about how it would be handled.
The actual games night was abuzz. The place was jumping and all of the volunteers huddled around the tiny screens stationed around the concourse to see what was going on throughout the night (when we weren't busy ourselves, of course). Before the show actually started during the pre-show the athletes marched through the concourse and it was like we had our own athletes parade, they even had en escort carrying a makeshift placard that were laminated printed pages of the flags and NOC codes. We were cheering enthusiastically for all the athletes and the big names we recognized, but when Georgia came they were rushed through behind the row of people watching the athletes and one of the staff were loudly telling us "Don't clap! Don't look at them! Don't notice!" which was rather strange. Some people were politely clapping anyways, drawing the ire of the staffpeople who kept on admonishing people for showing acknowledgement of the team.
Other than Georgia, everybody cheered for every country, except for the USA who although was received well caught just a tiny bit cold shoulder from a few older uber-patriotic Canadians, so I made an extra effort for them. I got highfived by Steve Holcomb and an air fistpump from Shaun White. Was pretty cool! Much like the actual parade of athletes, Uzbekistan was largely ignored because of the US/Canada sandwich, and everybody STORMED the Canadians when they walked by. It caused such havoc that some of the stage managers were yelling at the top of their lungs and some say actually tried to physically remove people from the Canadian team due to the mania and hysteria going on. Many of the volunteers had brought in cameras and such for OC day, and their enthusiasm trying to get in with the athletes for photo ops was causing some breaks in the line. A few of the sympathetic Canadians did face the volunteers with cameras and posed after the distance was being as brutally enforced as the protests going on outside.
Now, we all knew that it was going to be a touching night, but we didn't quite anticipate waterworks to begin so early. When the First Nations dancers began traveling down the other side of the concourse to assemble at their entrances practically all of the athletes from every country were cheering for them. Seeing some of the elders becoming overcome with the global acknowledgment was a completely unforgettable moment for everybody present. I had come to get to know some of the dancers who are all from different communities throughout Canada and created some very special bonds.
While the athletes parade was going on (downtime for most of us) the staffing organizers made rounds to declare that everybody would get a free gift, ANOTHER free gift, actually. Previously we had gotten ceremonies 2010 pins and a bottle of one of the 2010 wines, and one of the 2010 participants' medallions which is like a large silver coin that combines the styles of the look of the games and the actual medals themselves. And just what was this free gift? An official audience kit and the official program! Both are BEAUTIFUL! The box doubles as a drum when emptied, comes with a drumstick, the candle (battery powered candle), the small flashlight with a coloured film put on it, a CodeCanada card inviting the audience members to share their pictures and videos online, a Canadian flag, and one of the trademark ponchos. The official program is GORGEOUS and unbeknownst to me until this morning, it has all of the ceremonies volunteers in the credits as well at the staff and principal performers! Mah name is in it, booyeh!
After the athletes parade, the cultural segments began and we were crossing our fingers everything would go perfectly, and it DID. Throughout the dress rehearsals there was always some point where the projections or fabric would skip, mess up, or tangle, and Friday night was actually the first time it all came together without one single flaw. We were moved to tears at the Sacred Grove, and when that finished we saw SARAH MCLACHLAN being carted by! I was kind of star struck and just blurted out to her "Sarah you're BEAUTIFUL" and she was sooo nice about it, smiling and waving with a small "thank you!"
When the Ashley MacIsaac projection work was about to begin we anxiously awaited to see if it was going to go smootly. At one point the bewitched shadow appeared mirrored, an obvious flaw, but the next timeafter that it came up upside down! VERY funny but also worrying. As soon as we saw the shadow come up perfectly we took a breath and knew the rest of the segment would be great.
Almost everybody was silent watching Who Has Seen the Wind, and it went amazing. There was actually another aerialist for that solo, and they had been alternately rehearsing that part. According to somebody who worked directly with the aeralists and their choreographers, they eventually they picked the boy, Thomas, because they liked his expression and apparently did not have to make a funny face while performing twists, flips, and extensions, but it's not for sure.
Peaks of Endeavour went perfectly, and I actually can't say that much about it! The skaters always had us laughing parading around in their 70's roller disco-esque outfits and doing funky moves before they went on.
The speeches were OK and the tribute to Kumartiashvili were perfect, although many in the concourse didn't know about the moment of silence because only people who had a radio could hear what was going on. The screens had no audio and the thick curtains buffered much of the stadium sound. We could still hear everything, but words were hard to make out. By the way, Furlong went WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY over the allotted time. It was supposed to be 4 or 5 minutes, 6 minutes maximum, but it ended up being 11. Now I know that there is a lot of room for going over because of the magnitude of the event, but why put that limit on it in the first place? That's something I have yet to discover.
And then the Song of Peace. Time stood still and nobody talked. People were more quiet and attentive than they were in the moment of silence. There was not one dry eye around.
Then the flag and it's deflating of the suspected cauldron lighter Betty Fox, but everybody who was behind her greatly appreciated her role as well as the rest of the flag bearers.
And, a bit like NBC, we didn't really notice Garou singing.
Anyhoo, the cauldron lighting may have not gone perfectly, but quite a few people had no idea there were supposed to be four arms and pleased all the same. Of course the Debbie-Downers in us all quickly put a hamper on that, but even with just the 3 it was still an amazing moment. Thanks to GB I had the scoop on the waterfront cauldron and many uninformed volunteers gave me mad props for my knowledge of the photo evidence.
It was such a long day after the cauldron lighting all I wanted to do at about 9:30 was go home and fall in my bed. Leaving BC Place and witnessing the masses of people in the streets wildly cheering and celebrating was in itself and overwhelming image of the games. As tired and weary as I was I felt like I owned a precious little piece of the world.
My overall score of the ceremonies? I gave the whole thing a 10/10. And like I said in a post somewhere earlier I'm probably a little bit biased due to involvement, but just being there in the moment working with the biggest team and making and showing something for the biggest audience was sublime, and listening to the background stories about all of the segments and music and effects made every little detail special, and we were all stunned with surprise when we realized that Atkins totally nailed it on the head that the ceremonies would be an emotional experience designed to move to tears. This was the first time I had ever cried in public. We were not all just Canadians, I met people working on the ceremonies from over 60 nations and before the games began there were already contingents showing national pride. It was truly something made for the world, by the world, using Canada as a home and mode of transportation. The medal events will be contested by the teams from different nations, but I think it's said best to say that being involved as a volunteer felt like you were a member of Team World.
To me the 2010 opening ceremonies were sacred and I can never be able to compare them with anything else in my lifetime. The Closing Ceremonies are still to come!
I promise to be more upbeat and lively in my next post, this is meant to be an entertainment blog, after all! Lets hope for good weather for the athletes, it was raining cats and dogs, er, no, bears and whales last night here on the North Shore.