Off On The Wrong Foot.
Friday, February 12, 2010
• What a horrible way to start. Not the
Olympic broadcast itself, but if you haven't heard the news, Georgian
Kumaritashvili --only 21 years old-- was killed during
a practice run just hours before the Opening Ceremonies. Obviously,
it's not NBC's fault that this happened, but it can't help but
make tonight's festivities a little less festive. Clearly this
wasn't how anyone wanted to start the day.
NBC takes the right tone here, delaying the
happy open they wanted to show and instead dedicating the first
ten minutes of their broadcast to Kumaritashvili's tragic death.
Olympic organizers have already stated that they'll do something
during the Opening Ceremonies to honor the Georgian luger, but
it's just a sad story all around.
• But back to the broadcast. Amazingly,
now, before even the Opening Ceremonies, we get an event! From
get previously-recorded footage from the ski
jumping qualification round. Question: What's the world record
for ski jumping length? Answer: It doesn't matter! The starting
location on the ramp is adjusted depending on the weather conditions
so that a jumper doesn't fly too far, i.e. crash into the bottom
of the hill. Therefore, it only matters how far you fly compared
to your opponents on any given day. And really, isn't that what
Back from the ads, we get... Canada! HERE is where the continent
ends! HERE is where athletes have come to compete as Canadian's
do! HERE is where fluff begins! You know, had NBC started their
broadcast with this pompously-narrated "athletes to watch
for" segment, I might have been more forgiving. But now that
they've wetted my appetite with events, I feel kind of cheated
going back to fluff.
And now the real show starts. We're back with Bob Costas and Matt
Lauer at the Opening Cermonies (from now on, "OC") stadium.
Matt tells us that the Vancouver OC planner was relieved when he
saw the Beijing OC because now he could make the 2010 OC "more
intimate." So... prepare to be underwhelmed, I guess.
It's the Flying Tomato! Cris Collinsworth interviews snowboarder
Shaun White. Cris apparently thinks there's going to be a blizzard
inside the B.C. Place dome and is dressed accordingly. His interview
technique seems less like an interview and more like he's sucking
when he closes with "Bring it, Bruthah."
Patrick interviews U.S. hockey player Jack Johnson of the L.A.
Kings. Dan at least knows how to ask a question, though he does
force Jack to guess "Gretzky" as to who he thinks will
light the torch. Is there anyone who DOESN'T think it's Gretzky?
An interview with Sports
Illustrated covergirl Lindsey Vonn! Will
she ski? NBC hopes so. They've got a lot of ad time riding on her.
She's optimistic, especially given that weather delays are giving
her more time to recover.
Ads! Sun Chips is now making a bag that decomposes. Does that mean
it's okay for me to litter?
Dan Patrick asks ice dancers Ben Agosto and Tanith Belbin about
their convoluted travel plans. There's nothing quite as exciting
as listening to people talk about how their plane was delayed.
Seriously, isn't there any more ski jumping footage we could watch?
Mary Carillo brings her first fluff of the games. Mary journeys
up to Iqalit to run a mile... or a kilometer... something, with
the Olympic torch. There really wasn't a whole lot to this story,
but it was kind of cute. Back in the studio with Bob, Mary tells
us that the torch was handled by 12,000 people, but not all of
them ran. Among the methods of transportation: canoe, dog sled,
and logging truck. What about via Ice
Road Truckers? That would
Oh no! Ohno --Apollo Anton, that is-- won't be marching in the
OC because he's skating tomorrow. Instead, he talks with Al Michaels.
I guess if you've marched in two other games' OCs, a third wouldn't
be so special. Especially if it's going to be underwhelming.
Cris is back with Lindsey Jacobellis. Is there anything she can
learn from last time? Well, how about "how
Again we're asked, "who will light the torch?" Gretzky,
right? Who else could it be? It has to be a famous Canadian athlete.
Let's see if we can think of some other options. How about Warren
It's the world premiere of "We
Are The World 25: For Haiti." Really,
I feel bad picking on something that's for a good cause, but come
on... Vince Vaughn? What's he doing in there?
And here we go! An hour and a half into the broadcast and we're
about to start the OC! Prepare to be underwhelmed!
I've got it! The lighter of the torch will be... Terrence
and Phillip and their asses of fire! No? I blame
Mounties! They always get their man. Is that man Gretzky? Hmmmm....
Is this the Celine Dion version of Canada's national anthem? I'm
underwhelmed. I do like that they have the singer standing on the
of Solitude, though. Will she also be singing the second
national anthem of Canada? It's Hockey
Night in Canada!
Giant ice totems! There's something you don't see every day. If
Indiana Jones brings in the other crystal skull will the alien
ship lift off?
Several aboriginal Canadian tribes take the stage in a giant pow-wow,
and then welcome the athletes into the stadium.
Clothing choices of the early countries... Azerbaijan: loud pants.
Bermuda: shorts. Brazil: thongs! No, not really.
As Finland enters, Matt tells us about the Finnish sauna competition,
where contestants see how long they can stay in an absurdly hot
sauna. He jokes that the winner is named "Stu." Isn't
that the guy with no arms and no legs in a hot tub?
Georgia enters the stadium to a standing ovation, their previously
eight members now seven.
Great Britain. They invented curling, says Matt. The Canadians,
he says, claim they perfected it. I'm assuming that has something
to do with allowing beer consumption during play.
•Bob claims that there is a website devoted
to finding people to skate with called icepartners.com. Because
I'm obssessive, I had to look and see. Turns out he was wrong.
It's actually icepartnersearch.com.
Iceland has never won a gold medal in the winter Olympics. That's
because adding consonants to your name is not a sport.
Alphabetically, only Ireland separates Iran and Israel. Bob says
that in the past Iran has withdrawn from sporting events rather
than competing directly with Israel, then calls that a black
mark on the Games. I'd call that a black mark on Iran.
Jamaica has only one athlete and no bobsled team. Why aren't they
training Usain Bolt to push a bobsleigh? That would be awesome!
Mexican skier Prince
Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg is the oldest
athlete in the games at age 51. Why is he here? Because chicks
Break dig Olympians!
Peru's flag bearer claims that Peruvians aren't big on cross-country
skiing, but they do like "eating and partying." Bob says
neither is a sport. Oh yeah? Tell that to Joey
Spain enters and former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch takes
his hands out of other people's pockets long enough to applaud
for his home country.
And now, the United States. Wooooooo!!!! USA! USA! USA! Joe Biden's
in the crowd, clapping along. And we follow them around the track
Oh, Canada! Here comes the home team. And the crowd goes moderately
wild. C'mon. Have you ever seen Canadians go wild for anything?
Bob says that Canada has never won a gold medal when they've hosted
an Olympics. Maybe Sidney Crosby can bring back a hockey gold for
the Great White North. You think the New Orleans Super Bowl/Mardi
Gras party is big? That would be nothing compared to Canada winning
gold in Canada. Ketchup-flavored potato chips and Molsons for everyone,
Now that all the athletes are all in, the show is about to start.
Is this when the crystal skulls come in?
Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado take the stage to sing an Olympics-specific
song that no one wants to hear them sing. At least he's not singing "Everything
I Do." We don't want the audience going to sleep. Maybe they'll
bring Nelly back for the Closing Ceremonies and she can sing "Turn
Off The Light."
Oh! Another torch lighting idea! This would be so awesome... SHATNER!
He could look at the cauldron and say, "Here
it comes... FIRE!" I'd
wet my pants if that happened.
Now it's snowing confetti inside of B.C. Place., and the northern
lights are descending from the ceiling. Coooool.
Bob tells us in a pitying voice that Beijing spent $300 million
on their OC, whereas Vancouver only spent about $30 million.
Yeah... you can't
with $30 million.
Giant electric inflatable polar bear! You know what would be $30
million well spent? Let the bear eat some of the dancers.
is a giant projector screen, and it starts as a polar ice cap
which then breaks up, and morphs --melts?-- into a sea
that has projected whales blowing actual water out through their
blowholes. Neat effect.
The all-knowing voice of Canadian Donald Sutherland booms over
the stadium's loudspeakers. They should let Kiefer say something,
too. "The events in this Opening Ceremony are happening in
Sarah McLachlan sings some syrupy song and dancers dance. Yawn.
You know who they should bring out? Rush! I think "New World
Man" would be a good Olympic song. Or how about "Tom
Sawyer?" "A modern day warrior..." It's perfect!
And now the French-speaking portion of our show. A man whose hair
has been shaped into horns rides in a floating electric canoe and
plays fiddle against his own shadow, which is projected onto the
moon. Lumberjack mohawked, kilt-wearing fiddlers and riverdancers
the giant maple
leaves. Then a bearded, tattooed man with a Flock of
Seagulls haircut tapdances. Sparklers on their feet! Sparklers
feet! Did David Lynch write this portion of the program?
A teenage boy "runs" over a projected field of grain,
then is lifted skyward by cables. What would an Opening Ceremonies
Oooo...here's a potential torch lighter: Gordie
Howe! He might
be the only one who could compete with Gretzky. Also, Bobby
On the other hand, Ben
Johnson? Definitely not.
Actually, the final torch run could sound like the most awesome
hockey game in the world. Imagine this: Patrick
Roy takes the torch
behind the net and feeds it to Lemieux, who takes it across the
blue line and shovels it to Orr. Orr crosses to Gordie who feeds
Gretzky HE SHOOTS HE SCOOOOOORRRRES! Just like that!
The stage is now a mountain. You know, $30 million can get you
a pretty impressive stage show. Various skiers all in Canadian
red descend from the rooftop and float around the mountain. What
does it all mean? Boffo ratings for NBC, that's what!
Bob once again compares this show to Beijing, as if we think it's
going to suck because it's one-tenth the price. Ease up, Costas!
Vancouver has nothing to be ashamed of!
Red-clad skaters have red lights on their left sides and white
lights on their right sides. Are those so they know which side
to pass on, like boat
Slam poetry? Okay, Beijing was better than this. "A to Zed,
and yes, we say 'zed' instead of 'zee.'" Did he really just
say that? I'm pretty sure that's from a
Jacques Rogge extends condolences to Nodar Kumaritashvili and his
Georgian teammates. The crowd is appropriately silent.
John Furlong, the CEO of the Vancouver Olympic Committee, stands
atop the Fortress of Solitude and gives his speech, which includes
journey has not been about the few, but about the many." What's
that? The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? SHATNER'S
GOING TO LIGHT THE TORCH! I'm going to have a heart attack.
Interesting: instead of clapping, everyone appears to be beating
on some kind of drum. It gives the applause lines a weird rumble.
Rogge starts his speech in English, then switches to French, and
the translation we get is... nothing! Bob and Matt have forsaken
us! For several minutes, the average American viewer has no idea
what's going on. Finally, Rogge switches back to English to officially
open the Games.
Lang sings Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." She's got
a great voice, but why is she wearing David
Byrne's old suit? B.C.
Place is all lit up by the crowd member's electric candles. Pretty.
Eight Canadian legends bring in the Olympic flag. Betty Fox. Donald
Sutherland. Jacques Villeneuve. Barbara Ann Scott. Ann Murray.
Romeo Dallaire. Bobby Orr. Julie Payette. All wearing white, hand
the flag over to the Mounties, who raise it to the Olympic hymn, "Money." Noooooo....
flag itself is having a wardrobe malfunction. Because B.C.
Place is a dome, the flagpoles have a wind machine built into them,
but something on the flag is keeping it from extending in the
wind. Well, maybe if they had Beijing's extra $270 million they
have built a better flagpole.
One minute of silence for Nodar Kumaritashvili as the flags are
lowered to half-staff. A stadium full of people, and you could
hear a pin drop.
And now, the Olympic oath. I promise to cash in on my gold medal
and get enough endorsement deals to pay for my retirement fund...
No, not really.
• Will any torch lighting ever top the Barcelona
games when they shot an arrow
over the cauldron? Doubtful.
The Olympic torch enters the stadium via yet another form of transportation,
the wheelchair of Rick
Hansen. He hands it off to Catriona
Le May Doan. She runs it over to Steve
Nash. He waves and
runs another 50 yards to Nancy
Greene. She turns a corner giving
The Great One! Wayne
Gretzky. Maybe he'll slap shot the torch into
Waiting... waiting... now four people with torches
are just standing around the middle of the floor. Is something
rising up? Nooo...
Uh-oh. Now Bob says there are mechanical difficulties!
Okay, THAT was done better in Beijing.
Finally! Four giant ice obelisks rise from
the floor... check that. There SHOULD have been four, there are
actually only three. But
the show must go on! These three columns intersect a middle
post with a cauldron on top and three of the four torch bearers
get to light something. The other person? Well, as they say,
only the top three people at the Olympics get a reward. Sucks to
But that lighting doesn't count! The official Olympic cauldron
must be outside and visible, says Bob. So now Gretzky is standing
in the bed of a Chevy pickup holding the torch up as they drive
him across town
like anybody thought any of this out in advance. They did know
the Olympics were coming to town, right?
This is probably the weirdest
thing I've ever seen in an Opening Ceremonies. Gretzky's slow-moving
pickup is being chased down the streets of
Vancouver by dozens of people taking pictures with their cell
phones. And now, at Cauldron 2: Electric Boogaloo, Gretzky finally
looks like what the cauldron at B.C. Place SHOULD have looked
like. He touches his torch to the bottom and...
SUCCESS!! Well, thank
goodness this one worked. There's probably already one flammable-hydraulic-ice-obelisk-maker that's been fired
tonight. It'd be a shame if there was another one.
So, a weird day. The torch lighting was obviously a little messed
up, but I'm betting most people actually at the event didn't
even notice, so that's not a big deal. But the Nodar Kumaritashvili
story is just a tragedy. And that's a real tragedy, not the kind
of "tragedy" that certain fluff pieces will try and sell you
later in the Games. Hopefully, NBC's editors are hard at work
right now re-editing those pieces so that Kumaritashvili's death
And let's also hope that this is the worst
news we hear from Vancouver for the next two weeks. One bad day doesn't
need to ruin an entire Olympics. Good luck to Vancouver and see