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Friday, February 10, 2006

And we're off! I'm back on the Olympic wagon, and we'll see how much I can stand before I have to jump back off. But for now, let's jump right in...

• Torino! NBC bet big money on the word "Torino" sounding cooler than "Turin." It took them all of a minute into the broadcast to say it. Oh, and since NBC is insisting that the Italian pronunciation sounds cooler, I'm going to Italianize words for the entirety of the Games.

• Oh, and this opening sequence? Technically it's fluff-o, but for the first show, I'll let it go. Let's call it a teaser for everything you'll expect to see on a later broadcast.

• Torino! You know, my dad once had a Ford Torino. But it was never shot in slow-motion high definition television like this one is. As I recall, though, it ran in slow-motion.

• Jim Lampley says we'll be joining Bob Costas for the Opening Ceremonies in 40 minutes. Forty minutes?! There haven't even been any events yet! What are we waiting for?

• We watch an interview with Michelle Kwan about her figure skating trevails this year, Kwan having qualified without actually having to qualify. You know... this whole thing is being tape delayed anyway, so why not just jump right in the Opening Ceremonies? Oh... because NBC can get another half hour to put ads in. Dumb question.

• Hmm... mountain fluff. Or not. What starts off looking like a fluff piece about the downhill course turns into... practice? NBC spent $613 million to show us the USA's downhill practice? I don't really know how to count this. It's not really an event, but it certainly doesn't seem like fluff. I guess if it's showing action I'll be generous and count it as an event.

• Actually, it turns out that this downhill practice is being used by the US team to choose which four skiers will be skiing for the team, so now it's definitely going to be counted as events.

• Grrr... Jimmy Roberts, my old nemesis. It goes without saying that anything Jimmy touches is counted as fluff. Tonight, he interviews Bode Miller. For Jimmy, it's actually a pretty good segment, as he keeps his treacly mitts off of most of the interview. However, he does the entire interview while wearing a plaid lumberjack shirt and black overalls. Next to Bode he looks like even more of a geek than I thought he was before. Overall, not too bad, especially for Jimmy, although Jim closed with some ominous foreshadowing, telling us that Jimmy would be back on a later date with more of the Bode Miller interview. Curse you, Jimmy Roberts.

• Well, we've seen downhill practice, now it's time for snowboard halfpipe practice. Note the uniform differences between downhill and snowboard. Downhill racers wear spandex-spiderman uniforms. Snowboarders wear big, baggy clothing that's more for show than for performance. Plus, their sport is scored by judges. Ohmigosh! Snowboarding is figure skating for extreeeeme kids!

• Finally, we're at the Opening Ceremonies (from now on referred to as "The OC"), and what's the most striking thing? It's NBC anchor Brian Williams towering over Bob Costas. Who knew Bob was so tiny? Or perhaps Williams is a giant. Maybe THAT'S how he won that coveted anchor position.

• Yay! Melissa Stark! She's awesome, and not just because she's good looking. She was one of the few reporters ABC had on the sideline for Monday Night Football who was actually any good. It's good to see her here.

• Andrea Joyce asks U.S. flag carrier Chris Witty if she's practiced carrying the flag. How exactly would you practice something like that?

• An anvil, fire, and a sledgehammer. I like this already.

• Bob tells us that the performers come together to form a beating heart, the universal symbol of passion. Hmm... looks like they've got a little arrhythmia going on there, Bob.

• Skaters with their helmets on fire tear through the stadium, and one of them has a camera on their back. Flaming-skater-cam!

• "Here come the Treemen!" Who knew the Stanford mascot was going to show up in Torino?

• And now we've got dancing cows. If I wanted to see dancing, I'd be watching Stacy Keibler on "Dancing With The Stars." Oh, and Stacy? She's gonna win easily. Just my prediction.

• A nine-year-old girl emerges from this web-like thing in the infield to sing the Italian national anthem. I think she's lip-synching. She must be Ashlee Simpson-o.

• Now the dancers have formed some kind of oddly shaped man on skis. It's sort of like a marching band formation, except it's more densely packed and no one's playing any instruments. It's actually a pretty neat effect, but how am I supposed to feel once the dancers break up? Eek! That skier has exploded!

• In a very odd set, a Cirque-de-soliel-like group balances on some scaffolding that looks like a concert set. After a few minutes of cryptic balancing, they descend and it becomes clear that the scaffolding is actually a metal version of the Olympic rings. Said rings tilt up and, with more fireworks, light up when they reach the appropriate positions. Very nice.

• During the Parade of Nations, the athletes march in to a selection of American disco hits from the '70s. Yes, the Olympics may represent all nations, but it's clear which one's culture is now dominant, whether the French like it or not.

• Bermuda has an winter athlete? Ah... a skeleton competitor who was born in Bermuda, went to college in the U.S. and now works in Tokyo. Well, of course!

• As Bosnia comes in, Brian Williams relates how most of their athletes don't remember the Sarajevo games. I like Brian, and he's clearly very smart, but every time he talks, he sounds like one of those people who can't enjoy anything unless they turn it into an educational moment. Relax, Brian! It's the OC! It's supposed to be fun!

• The Koreas enter, with 40 athletes from the South, and 6 from the North. Best I can tell, those are the six North Koreans who have actually been fed.

• The Denmark team enters, and angry Hezbollah supporters promptly set them on fire! Ha! Just kidding! No one in Hezbollah would never overact like that!

• The German team enters, and all of Italy throws down their guns! Ha! Just kidding! Germany has a luger nicknamed "The Speeding White Sausage." And much like politics, you don't want to see how that nickname was made.

• The U.S. Virgin Islands has one athlete, a 52-year-old female luger. So kids, if you've ever wanted to be in the Olympics, but you didn't want to bother with all of that meddlesome "practice," move to the Caribbean and sign up for something on ice!

• The background music has moved forward in time. It's now up to American hits from the '80s. "Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This." I suppose that's appropriate.

• Bob catches on to the fact that we're listening to '80s American pop songs, and puts in a special request for "Bette Davis Eyes." I noticed that while "YMCA" is playing, I can't see anyone in the background semaphoring out the letters. Odd.

• Here comes the U.S.! Laura Bush looks cold as the U.S. team enters the stadium, and NBC stays longer on them than on any other team. Don't be shocked. First of all, they ARE our home team, and they're also one of the biggest teams out there, so it's only natural that they'd get this much screen time.

• The Turkish team enters. Hmm... looks like that woman could have used some flag-carrying practice.

• Hungary and Uzbekistan enter to "Disco Inferno-o." What does this mean? Probably nothing, I just like that song and wanted to make a note of it.

• And here come the Italians! They're all wearing silver jackets. They must be from the future! Now that all the teams are here, the really weird stuff can start. And you know the weird stuff is coming.

• Italian men in tights wave a bunch of flags around the athletes, but they leave once the rhythmic gymastic semaphore flag jugglers come in. And you thought I was kidding about the weird stuff coming up.

• Mmmm... Eva Herzigova is playing Venus, the goddess of love. Of course she is. In a land of fine food, what would the OC be without a little cheesecake?

• Okay, there are now some people floating overhead attached to balloons, and they're flying over women with dresses so big that there are people living inside of them. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? Someone needs to do drug testing on the Olympic choreographers.

• Uh... fire, dancers, and golden statues. And now... uh... wow. The dancer has disrobed so that we can see his pasty white spandex "flesh" covered by veins and arteries, and his hat has been removed to reveal a spiky mohawk haircut. Yeah. Okay, Italy. Whatever.

• Had enough interpretive dance? Well, then, here comes Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari F1 car, doing doughnuts on the stage. Yes, really. That's for all you NASCAR fans.

• Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee gives a nice speech from a podium not at the end of the stadium, but rather in the middle of the athletes. Nice touch, Turin!

• Sophia Loren, Susan Sarandon and six other women carry in the Olympic flag. Susan Sarandon? Really? The only thing she's done in sports is make Nuke LaLoosh wear lingerie. What is she doing in the OC?

• I guess I don't get the whole women empowered thing for the flag carriers. Did I miss some special "Year of the Woman" Olympic message again? I thought 2000 was the Year of the Woman. Or was it 2004?

• And now, the Olympics hymn. "We are the Olympics. We are the children. We are the ones who make a brighter day..." Wait. That's not it. Never mind.

• The Olympic oath. An Italian in his shiny, metallic jacket steps up to the podium and says, "Klaatu, Barata, Nikto." No, not really.

• More Cirque-de-Soleil stuff. Acrobats in silver suits climb up a net and do little dances and formations. This is all cut with shots of the athletes looking up at them. What must the athletes think? They've all spent years of their life perfecting their bodies, applying rigid scientific training methodologies to every aspect of their lives, and the first thing they get to see when they finally get to the Olympics is a bunch of professional wall climbers arranging themselves in the shape of a dove. It's surreal.

• Yoko Ono is now on stage. Presumably she's here to break up the Olympics. Why is she still famous? Her poem sounds like something a 7th-grade girl would write. Should you really get a lifetime ticket to fame just for marrying someone famous?

• In the meantime, Peter Gabriel is onstage singing Lennon's tune, "Imagine." He looks depressed. Peter! Three billion people are watching you! Smile!

• Finally! Here comes the torch. We pass it off from skier Alberto Tomba, who you may know, to four successive Italians whom you've never heard of. The last woman lights a small metal structure that ignites fireworks which circle the stadium before finally igniting the cauldron.

• Luciano Pavarotti closes out the OC by singing some opera. Wait a minute... if this is over, shouldn't it be a fat lady singing?

• Here's the wrap up. Brian Williams and Mary Carillo loved it! So did Bob! I'm so shocked! Did you think they were going to say it was just okay? Right.

• We close the night with some fluff, namely a musical medley of what's happened earlier tonight. Is this necessary? After all, we've been watching for almost four hours at this point. And all of these events are now happening out of context. Although, am I really missing any context by not know where the Visible Man and his mohawk fit in? I doubt it.

So that's it for day one! Not too bad, fluff-wise, although I suppose the severely anti-fluff would regard all of the Opening Ceremonies as fluff. I wouldn't argue against those people, that's just not how I'm grading here. So, tune in tomorrow as the events get started and we'll see how NBC is keeping up. See you then!


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