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  • 2 weeks later...

This has to be a misunderstanding....surely, they mean the actual artistic portion of the ceremony is 90-minutes long, not the entire ceremony. Last I read, the opening is 3 hours and closing ceremony is 2.5 hours.

Ninety minutes - that's all he can say

Jean Grand-Maître, choreographer for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics, can reveal little about the show. The process has been like 'doing 10 Cirque de Soleil shows at the same time'


VANCOUVER — From Monday's Globe and Mail Published on Monday, Jan. 04, 2010 12:00AM EST Last updated on Monday, Jan. 04, 2010 2:24AM EST

'Hi honey, how was your day?" has become a complicated question for Jean Grand-Maître.

When he returns to the temporary Vancouver home he shares with his partner near Granville Island, there's not much he can actually disclose about his day. As the choreographer of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2010 Olympics, Grand-Maître is under a strict confidentiality order: so no asking for advice, no gossip about the dance routines or costumes or sets - just short, vague answers.

"I can just say today was tiring, today was amazing, today was fulfilling," says Grand-Maître over a much-needed latte (his fifth of the day). "But you can't say too much. You can't say how many people are in the room with you, what the concepts are - especially that."

The stress is high and the perks non-existent. Free tickets to the ceremonies he's helping to create? Forget it. Grand-Maître, like everyone else, had to enter the online lottery. He managed to get a single ticket for both the opening and closing ceremonies for his partner ("not the expensive ones," he says).

What Grand-Maître, 46, will say is that it is an exhaustive (and at times exhausting) process, bringing thousands of volunteers together to create ceremonies that he says will represent the essence of Canada.

"You want to show your country to the world in a beautiful way that represents us intellectually, artistically, our amazing diversity." He is careful to point out that he is executing concepts that are coming from above - from executive producer David Atkins and his team, but adds that he's on-side. "I wouldn't have participated if I didn't like what they were going to do."

Grand-Maître, whose day job is that of artistic director at Alberta Ballet, says many of the ideas came out of the symposia Atkins and VANOC held two years ago, bringing in big thinkers in the arts from across the country to discuss their visions of Canada, and the ceremonies. Grand-Maître did not take part in those discussions, but he has been working on the ceremonies since last February, spending one week a month, and the entire month of June, in Vancouver. He's now moved to Vancouver for the duration and will return to Calgary - and Alberta Ballet - after the Olympics.

The days are long - some of his colleagues are working seven days a week, 14 hours a day - with meetings at offices in the Downtown Eastside and rehearsals in the big white tent next to BC Place. (They'll move into BC Place for rehearsals in early- to mid- January). Grand-Maître has a team of about 15 choreographers and assistants working under him for the enormous project. "It's like doing 10 Cirque de Soleil shows at the same time, that's how big it is," he says. "And it's exciting, it's a whirlwind."

Time is divided equally, he says, between rehearsing the opening and closing ceremonies. "You're working on both simultaneously," he says. "This is rocket science scheduling."

When Grand-Maître is backstage wearing his headset for the opening ceremony on Feb. 12, it will be his first in-person Olympic event. At 13, he drove with his family from Aylmer, Que., to Montreal for the 1976 Olympics, hoping to get tickets once they got there. They were out of luck.

But he has certainly watched enough Olympic ceremonies on TV to know the bar is high. "They say the opening ceremonies set the tone of an Olympics, so if the opening ceremonies are highly successful, there's a better chance of everything going well." He's less concerned about the world leaders who will be watching, than he is about the athletes. "For them it's the beginning of the adventure after so many years of sacrifice."

While Grand-Maître's background is ballet, there will be no classical ballet in the ceremonies but rather "a complete fusion of things ... a fusion of ideas and thoughts and people from different mediums of art." Reading between Grand-Maître's cryptic lines, it seems there will be a strong First Nations component to the ceremonies - not a surprise. Also, he lets slip a length for the opening ceremony: an hour and a half.

It is all being overseen by Atkins, an Australian, who created the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2006 Asian Games in Doha. Grand-Maître gushes about Atkins: He is full of energy and ideas, an innovator, a great leader who knows how to motivate volunteers. "He's a machine ... a beautiful inspiration," says Grand-Maître. When things are tense, Atkins cracks a joke. He never loses his temper despite the enormous demands.

"As it's getting more and more intense, you feel like he's a guy on a surfboard riding a hell of a wave. There's an energy but at the same time, precision. It's quite a ride."

The pressure is certainly on following the eye-popping opening ceremony at the 2008 Beijing Games. How will Vancouver be able to top that?

"You can't. Basically you go in a completely different direction," says Grand-Maître. "For me [beijing] was an extraordinary performance that will never be done again. They rehearsed I think for three years. Now if you ask a guy in Vancouver to rehearse for three years he's going to give you the middle finger and go play beach volleyball."

There are rumours: Céline Dion and Bryan Adams will perform; Sarah McLachlan won't (hard to believe); a huge pit is being dug underneath BC Place to accommodate the shows' technical requirements. None has been substantiated. And at every single rehearsal, the volunteers - and staff - are reminded of the strict confidentiality agreement they have signed.

It's not an easy thing to keep secrets in the age of camera phones and YouTube (cellphones are allowed into the rehearsal hall but have to be shut off), but Grand-Maître says it is important to keep the secret.

"The IOC's very, very adamant that this has to be a surprise to the world. And I understand that, because it should be unveiled like a Christmas gift."

Upgrades needed for Olympic ceremonies: Report

By Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

Last Updated: 4th January 2010, 1:09am

The producer of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies pleaded for major spending at B.C. Place Stadium in a report obtained by the QMI Agency.

David Atkins Enterprises Productions Canada’s Ceremonies Capital Works report listed 21 items “required so that a world-class ceremonies can take place.”

“The opening ceremonies are a vital part of any Olympics and set the tone and vibrancy for the rest of the Games,” said the April 14, 2009 document. “If these works are not completed then the ceremonies will suffer and this will directly impact on the Games.”

Improvements were called “fit for purpose” or “capital works required for broadcast and media concerns.”

A key item was the building of the Olympic cauldron in the centre of the stadium floor.

The four metre by four-metre by four-metre, concrete-lined chamber required a one-metre diameter, 13-metre deep clear internal shaft. The report also called for carbon dioxide detectors, upgrades to air pressure control systems and a constant internal air pressure of 300 pascal to keep the fabric dome inflated.

The VANOC board voted secretly last May 20 to spend another $8.3 million at B.C. Place. VANOC deputy CEO Dave Cobb said in June that it was a capital cost “directly tied to the show that our executive producer wants.”

“We like to keep what we're doing secret until the ceremonies happen for the surprise element,” Cobb said.

The federal government pledged in February 2008 to pay half of VANOC’s $40 million budget for opening and closing ceremonies.

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While Grand-Maître's background is ballet, there will be no classical ballet in the ceremonies but rather "a complete fusion of things ... a fusion of ideas and thoughts and people from different mediums of art." Reading between Grand-Maître's cryptic lines, it seems there will be a strong First Nations component to the ceremonies - not a surprise. Also, he lets slip a length for the opening ceremony: an hour and a half.

I'm really worried now, I feel a great embarrassment coming...

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^ i'm certain it won't be a 90-minute show, that would make the Vancouver Opening the shortest in decades...and shortest by a wide margin.

More importantly, it has already been announced that the Opening is 3-hours long. It's listed on the website and it's being printed on tickets.

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- workers inside BC Place are immensely impressed with what is going on inside, the stadium looks totally different

- 5 circular white curtains/drapes are being suspended to hide the dirt of the roof

- roof curtains will improve sound quality inside stadium

- aisles are being painted light grey

- drapes are being installed at all the audience entrances

- and as previously reported, the Olympic cauldron is located in the middle of the stadium

WATCH VIDEO: http://www.globaltvbc.com/video/index.html...aFekjTxcAZq7TP1

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- plead that it will be impossible to hide the stained roof without curtains

- removal of stadium advertising boards

- removal of stadium audio system

- removal of stadium sports lighting

- removal of 2,000 stadium seats and stored elsewhere until after the Games

- tons of rigging

- CO2 detectors for cauldron

- 8,500 temporary seats on bleachers on the stadium floor

- large drapes that can be rigged/derigged in an hour for Victory Ceremonies so that Closing Ceremonies performers can practice during the day

- drapes at all audience entrances

- stained roof inner liner to be hidden by five circular drapes, will improve acoustics

- aisles painted

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I have a view of Harbour Centre tower from my living room...I'd love it if they put a flame up there. :) But yeah, it is a bit of 1988 all over again.

My personal fave for an outdoor cauldron would be floating in False Creek...in the centre of the section between BC Place, Plaza of Nations, Science World, Cambie Bridge and the Olympic Village. Visible to a wide section of Olympic venues and spectators. There are a number of pavilions going up along the way there too (although some of them look kinda tacky).

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I think the thing for everyone to consider with BC Place is that being the first indoor Opening Ceremony, you need to think of the venue as less of a sports stadium and as more of a theatre. Or possibly a big tent. But since no sports are being contested there, it has a roof, and it is not an architectural jewel to be shown off to the world, this will not be your average Olympic stage.

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Am I the only one who finds it quite awkward that they have to cover the dirty roof with drapes? I thought that they wanted to clean the roof in time for the Games! Or did they try it but the roof was uncleanable?

And that thing with the five circular drapes (most probably in the shape of the Olympic Rings) sounds somewhat cheesy to me.

By the way: According to that leaked David Atkins paper, the cauldron seems to be constructed by the engineering company Genivar. Does anyone know that company? Can we expect something unusual from them or rather a conventional cauldron, simply rising out of the ground à la Calgary?

Their website: http://www.genivar.com/en/index.asp

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I don't think that BC place is an embarrassment at all. The stadium is actually quite distinctive and relative to other Olympic opening ceremony arenas, it is rather grand.

Vancouver as a city has the wow factor so I don't think Canadians should be worried what the world will think - the world will be impressed!

The more pressing matter is the actual content of the ceremonies. As several Canadians have stated, this obsession with the first nations is completely driven by political correctness and as a result, the first nations are getting more representation than other groups - namely white Europeans and Asians.

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I'm actually glad to hear about the draped roof. Even if the stadium roof was perfectly clean, it still looks like the inside of a volleyball. The drapes can add a very unique aspect to the ceremony and the venue. And who knows what they will be? Clouds? The night sky? A canopy of trees? A circus big top? An umbrella? Could be anything!

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