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Shortly before the Vancouver 2010 closing ceremonies were upon us, I came across a tweet that echoed my feelings almost perfectly:
@SethMeyers21 Nice work Winter Olympics. Now don’t blow it with an over emphasis on ice and whales at closing ceremony.
Now to be fair, we were warned that the closing ceremonies were going to end up a bit campy. We were not, however, warned that they would be emotionally scarring. Remember, for instance the small child on inline skates dressed like a hockey puck, who looked downright terrified (and also really resentful of whoever got him the gig) in the midst of those gigantic and horrendous cutout hockey players. Add to that the enormous inflated beavers, the midriff girl maple leaves, the real and oversized Mounties, the slutty Mounties, the men dancing in canoes… it was mayhem, and not the good kind (by which I clearly mean short track, the best kind of mayhem ever).
The beginning was OK; with the knowledge of what was to come I might even call it quite nice. The look forward to what we can expect for Sochi 2014 was a delight– an orchestra playing in the snow in Red Square, classy (the Sochi gear that people were already wearing was a reminder that Russian fashion definitely peaked around 1982, but I won’t dwell. Not until 2014).
The athletes marching in was heartwarming as usual. Ralph Lauren dressed the Americans up like New England-themed paper dolls. It was picturesque.
At first I forgot that the athletes get a specially designed outfit for their march, and since the cameras immediately honed in on Apolo Ohno I had a moment thinking, “Well that’s adorable, look at Apolo wearing a plaid shirt and tie with an old man cardigan, he looks so happy and Ivy League…” and then, “Oh hey, that other guy is rocking Williamsburg plaid too… Wait a minute! Oh, Ralph Lauren you sly dog, you tricked me into thinking that your Olympic gear is real clothing!”
As a sidebar, if you are a millionaire, you can go to the Polo store on Madison Avenue and get your own high-end Olympian gear. I would like very much for someone to purchase me one of those old man cardigans with the enormous Polo logo, the turn over collar and that authentic five ring appliqué. Or you know, if you have one and you are never going to wear it again, send it my way. I will wear it all the time. I think it is jaunty.
At one point during all this marching, either Bob Costas or Al Michaels said, “This may seem corny to some, but this is what the Olympic games are supposed to be about.” I have to admit that I really like seeing how happy everyone is and for once in my life I find myself judgement free watching the athletes snap pictures of the crowd and, even better, with each other. Again the cameras found Ohno getting a shot with one of the hockey players. A girl with what appeared to be a broken leg was carried in by two teammates. Evan Lysacek was rocking his gold medal and having a fine time. Everyone was wearing ridiculous moose antler crown thingies. It was nice. My heart was warmed.
You know what’s great about the Olympics? They make you forget about all the people whose dreams have not come true.
But you know, it is kind of nice for two weeks to let yourself become invested in and stoked about people who worked hard and were lucky enough for that hard work to have paid off in the ultimate sporting way– even if the closing ceremonies make me say snarky things like the above.
The arena went quiet as Neil Young– who Costas described as “still rocking in the real world after forty-some years”– sang “Long May You Run,” and the flame petered out. People around the world felt a sudden emptiness inside. I wondered what I would do without obscure winter sports to keep me occupied. Al Michaels would later reflect that, “when the cauldron descended I felt like everybody here was like ‘No, no, no– we’re not ready for this party to end.'”
And then it all went to hell.
William Shatner’s monologue seemed lost and torn between various tonal choices, as if six writers had gotten together, each written their own script and then told a non-English speaking intern to paste the bits together. When Catherine O’Hara appeared out of the ground I got really excited and then she bombed with a drawn-out joke about Canadian politesse: “We just like to say ‘sorry,’ It’s our real national past time. The delightful Michael J. Fox was not a whole lot better and the tinker tot graphics that accompanied him were mind boggling.
NBC kept hopefully resorting to their Vonn-cam in hopes that her delighted face would make it appear that things were going well. Lindsey Vonn, of course, in her never-ending quest to be the most overexposed athlete of the games willingly obliged.
On our end, Kathleen just exclaimed, “You are ruining the Olympics.” I felt similarly let down.
The mayhem had not even started at this point. It is difficult to even recount the dismay felt when the giant hockey players, mounties, moose and beavers appeared. I can only hope that in person it was less distressing because I would hate to be an Olympian who just battled through two weeks of grueling competition, stayed around to march with my countrymen in the closing ceremonies and then ended up with retina scarred by inflatable woodland creatures and Canadian stereotypes.
Best description of the theatrical meltdown belongs to Matt: “This is a Mel Brooks musical.” And yet not nearly as entertaining. What an awful day to be a Mountie.
At 10:20 an exasperated Kathleen cried, “Thank God The Marriage Ref is on in ten minutes, because I need to break up with Canada… I literally want to die now. Like, I really enjoyed these Olympics. I went to the gym because of these Olympics.” She did. She even signed up for a 6:45 am spin class. “It’s so un-Olympics!”
Sigh. Sour notes indeed. As if the end of the Olympic games is not bittersweet to begin with, this made it downright unpleasant. I certainly hope that the people who were there managed to have a good time. Maybe being in a tiny Manhattan apartment, stewing in my own failure to have achieved my dreams had something to do with my distaste.
But I’m pretty sure that it was actually out of control. A few Olympian tweets from the ceremony/ensuing concert that included Nickelback & Simple Plan (a more evidence for my judgement):
@airblais Wow…really playing up the stereotypes!
@airblais Nooooooooooo Nickleback! Omg…this hurts!
@SeanCrooks Get a new album Avril. I said it.
@SeanCrooks Ok , just clear it up. Hedley and Simple Plan…No
Of course most people were more positive about the situation– basking in the glow as is their right– very Olympian of them. You can go on twitter yourself for those, there are far too many.
At any rate, it’s over. We’ve had to say goodnight and goodbye to Bob Costas who sent us off into the night with “the traditional cavalcade of Olympic images” to the tune of John Williams’ inspired Olympian theme.
Until we meet again.
I’m just kidding. This week will see a series of Olympic recaps featuring Olympian advertising, a few top ten lists, profiles on some favorite ssuch as Mary Carillo the queen of the late night Olympic coverage, Johnny Weir and more. In fact, if you have a request feel free to leave a comment and I will see what I can do. It is going to be a process in which we mingle the Olympic with regular bloggy programming. Together we can slowly wean ourselves off the Olympics with minimal postsportum depression, hahaha.
Sorry for that.
I also plan to do what I can in the future to keep up with a few of my featured obscure winter sports for the future, to get us all through to Sochi. So stay tuned!