TORONTO — The opening ceremony for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games was at times breathtaking, and at other times, just weird.

Let’s be nice and go over the breathtaking first. Sarah McLachlan and k.d. Lang sang wonderfully. The actual lighting of the Olympic cauldron was inspired, as three Canadian heroes got to participate instead of the traditional one, including Rick Hansen, who IS a national icon.

Oh, and when those cartoon whales swam across the floor and began to spout water, that was neat.

But a lot of this ceremony, which was so heavily anticipated after Beijing’s opener, did not represent Canadian culture. That wasn’t Canada.

I can’t comment on whether the Aboriginal peoples of this country were done justice during the ceremony last night, but I do find it strange that we so glamorously portray their culture on a world stage, even when they are treated so poorly at home. That can’t be fair.

Don’t get me wrong. Aboriginal culture is beautiful and interesting, but Canada is definitely not a land of ice, snow and people dancing beneath giant trees and totem poles. We’ve a rich multicultural society that inhabits a a few vibrant cosmopolitan centres and cities in between, many of whom have successfully intertwined their ancestral cultural values with Canada’s light cultural values. That’s what Canada is; a mosaic. That’s what we should’ve seen last night.

And the clich©s! The mounties, the icy, barren landscape, Nelly Furtado in a tight dress. It was all embarassingly there. We perpetuated many stereotypes last night. Especially when VANOC’s speaker spoke after Jacques Rogge. He almost put me to sleep, just like those kind, timid and shy Canadians tend to do.

Oh, and that terrifying Coca-Cola bear that emerged from the ground, that wasn’t a clich©, but it was creepy.

And then finally, at the last moment, when The Great One and his fellow all-star Canadians were all set to light the flame, technology bitch slapped us. We waited and waited. Even Gretzky looked pissed for a second.

Then finally, the cauldron emerged, in all its glory, and was lit by three Canadian heroes. Then Gretzky ran outside to light the outdoor flame, and received the wonderful treatment Canada allots to all of its national icons. He rode on the back of a truck while it rained on his face. Nice.

But world, don’t take that image of Canada home with you. It isn’t what life is like here. We don’t all live in the Arctic circle among the Orcas and the ice floes.

But we do rule the Winter Olympics. So look out.

About The Author

Sachin Seth is the Blast Magazine world news reporter. He writes the Terra blog. You can visit his website at or follow him on twitter @sachinseth

22 Responses

  1. Kim

    Are you on drugs! The opening ceremony made me proud to be Canadian. It was amazing and showed the dynamic range of culture in our country. I’m proud to be Canadian and I’m more proud that we’ve shown the world how awesome we truly are. Because lord knows we won’t blow our own horns like the americans.

    • Victoria

      Kim, Chill and let people appreciate Canada for Canada –getting a dig in at Americans only shows how insecure you are. Btw, as an American, I found the opening ceremonies a bit of a snoozer… 😉

  2. michelle


    I was there with thousands of others and it was freaking awesome. We loved it. It was more then cool and I was soooo proud. Not sure what you are on about. You can’t capture everything. Relax.

  3. Kari

    Nicely written – I laughed out loud. Wonder if anyone else noticed the chaos in the executive box at the beginning of the ceremonies. It seems the 4 Nations Leaders couldn’t be bothered to arrive on time despite the fact most of the ceremony was in celebration of our aboriginal ancestry. The whales were very cool.

  4. John

    You made me laugh as well .. but I think that it is soo Canadian to be able to laugh at yourself. I was moved and felt very proud and one of the surprises for me was the ‘slam poet’. kd lang’s performance was phenomenal.

  5. Oh My

    The good, bad and just plain ugly.
    The respect paid to the Georgian was a downright tear jerker. The world stood still for one minute. Inspiring.
    1. Beginning: Olympic box- People weren’t ready, someone taking off their coat, empty seats because people can’t be there on time. OY. Tacky.
    –Snowboarder video–beautiful but could we have had more video to showcase that our country isn’t all ice and snow? I know, I know it’s the winter Olympics but people (whether dumb or not) truly think we live in igloos and roam among the polar bear.
    1a. Snowboarder through Olympic hoops-I held my breath and he made it!! Awesome!
    2. English wasn’t first–well that just ticked me off as a Canadian in an over 75% English speaking country. I know, I know French is the official language of the Olympics but too bad.
    3. Bryan Adams-if you can’t get that microphone up to your mouth to match your lip-sync moment, then back out of the invitation
    4. First Nations stuff-too much, not choreographed OY.
    5. Middle Part- Just plain awesome, great job-whales, wheat fields, mountains, skiers, skaters —beautiful
    5a. Loved the poem dude.
    6. K.D. Lang–inspiring and finally a true singer that can actually sing-refreshing
    7. Opera Singer with Diana Ross over the top hair–painful
    8. French man singer–Lord what was that? Embarrassing.
    9. Torch lighting–man glitches happen but at that moment??????? WTF?

    So overall I put myself in another country in my head and asked so what is Canada all about? I came up with…..a poetic people who speak French in an icy and cold land filled with bear, who dance among totem poles in bold costumes.

  6. Shannon M

    I sense the writer has never left his overpriced Toronto bachelor pad to explore his country coast-to-coast. The ceremony planner made the right decision to pay tribute to our country’s geography; this is what Canada is all about and this is what makes us unique. Every quote shared in the Donald Sutherland voice-overs rang with the quintessential character of our nation. I was thrilled with the inclusion of Canada’s aboriginals and saw it as a sign of hope for a better future. The writer describes Canada as “a rich multicultural…mosaic” – well what could be more true to that definition than a ceremony which featured such a diverse array of people…genders…abilities…ages…talents? The crowning touch was the inspired idea to have four Canadians light the torch together – what a marvellous sign of unity. The technical glitch didn’t faze me – I remain very inspired by the event. I think everyone at the ceremony was too – watching the athletes from around the world (many of them with eyes fixated and eyes agape) was as enjoyable as the ceremony itself. Great job Canada!

  7. brady

    Sachin Do not be sorry about Canadians opening ceremony They were great I,am sorry Sachin you can not look at the good things in life, Just because you have problems in your life don,t manifest them on the Canadian people. The Olympics are hear in joy them and yes everything in life does not always turn out the way it should, thats life.

  8. jon

    I love how the american says that the opening ceremony was snoozer. Ive never been able to watch a baseball game for more then 10 mins but i watched the whole opening ceremony, i thought it was well done!!

  9. Blaise

    Nailed it! Exactly what I was thinking. I’m from Vancouver and although I realize this is entertainment and spectacle, it is also statement and barometer as to where we are as people. And who we are as Canadians. The opening ceremony represents Vanoc and corporate culture more than we as people. They are selling a stereotypical image and not done well. How about a show reflecting all the varying backgrounds we as Canadians have, and some of the values that we uniquely hold? I think that is more of a statement. The only thing we seem to agree on is how we look compared to Americans. Well this was our chance to look ourselves in the mirror and I would have to say we failed miserably. Maybe because we import so many of the behind the scenes talent to dictate our creative expression and forgo control to corporate interests. Probably because we are so desperate to appeal for foreign investment. Either way, major disappointment and somewhat pathetic. Sorry people it’s true. One day we’ll get it right.

  10. Marcel

    it was a fantastic show, full of emotion, humour and even poetry – really touching. Most of all I loved watching and listening to Sarah and k.d. – absolutely fabulous! great job, canada! greetings from germany!

  11. kylie

    The First-Nations “not choreographed” ? Please give me a break, these were not a So U think U Can Dance, American-style dance show, it was real first-nations people from far flung regions of Canada celebrating their culture in the traditional style. Love that the Opening ceremonies were more real than glitzy. Great job, proud to be a Canadian last night. KD and the slam poet were inspiring. Great job in lighting the torch as a collaborative effort. The 4th pole not rising was a fitting erie tribute to the fallen Georgian athlete. GO CANADA GO!

  12. Nicole

    Although the Hallelujah song was sung beautifully, I felt is was very inappropriate, what do the words “you saw her bathing on the roof” & “she tied you to the kitchen chair” have to do with the Olympics & inspiring our athletes? They could have picked a much better song. I also wasn’t impressed with Nelly F’s wardrobe, why such a tight fitting skimpy dress…why couldn’t she show more class?

    Other then the above, it was a great night, can’t wait to watch our athletes shine!!

  13. Nigel Parry

    “I can’t comment on whether the Aboriginal peoples of this country were done justice during the ceremony last night, but I do find it strange that we so glamorously portray their culture on a world stage, even when they are treated so poorly at home. That can’t be fair.”

    The problem is a bit deeper than merely whether native people’s culture was “portrayed glamorously” during the ceremonies or not. Here’s why the indigenous Canadians are unhappy. New ecological destruction for the Olympics is a big part of it:

  14. craig

    Even in the olympics , ignorant Canadians are divisive. They talked incessantly about themselves , that they say please and thank you like other people don’t do the same thing.

    They talk about Canadians are these , Canadians are that .They take jabs at their American neighbors instead of trying to use the olympics to bring people together.

    Their ignorance and arrogance is so obvious. Canadians are not a sincere people. Its all for show.

    They do a lot of things just to boost their giant egos.

  15. vomitingdog

    Sorry! You’re totally out of touch with the West Coast. The trees, the snow (in the North) the rainforest, the natives all are here in abundance. Even the local whities like yourself participate in variations on the original native beliefs (the 4 directions)(eagle, bear, wolf)… I think you can’t understand it because you must live so far away from the coast and the people both native and white and ethnic who inhabit it. Sorry the themes weren’t centred on Ontario and Quebec, in fact both were more or less missing from the show but that’s what made it special.

  16. Ian

    get a freakin life, if you did not like, why watch, and if you do not like Canada or what we do, then go somewhere else.
    last time i will visit this site

  17. Katie

    LOVED the opening ceremonies, some parts better than others…

    Loved the whales — way cool.
    Loved the big bear and the aurora borealis — way cool.
    Loved the Joni Mitchell song with aerialist — way, way cool honor to the prairies — one of my favorite parts.
    K D Lang’s fabulous voice and all that simulated candlelight — very very cool — another of my favorite parts.
    I wonder if any of the following will show up for the closing ceremonies: Celine Dion, Michael Bluble, Gordon Lightfoot.

    Katie from Minnesota

  18. cupacoffee

    Where do I start?? At least we know we won the gold for the worst opening ceremonies ever. Where was the technological innovation and creativity? Very good that Canada just discovered the projector but we had one of those in our house 35 years ago. I just wonder what the Japanese must be thinking. Why all the Indians? I have not seen an Indian in 20 yrs. It’s nice that they were there but aren’t there other people in Canada? The fiddlers in kilts? Didn’t we get over the freakish 1980s yet? What must the Parisians and Italians be thinking? The four Indians chiefs who were late? They only had four years to get there. The grotesque malfunctioning rising cauldron that looks like a recycling plant. The sombre music by our renown Canadian artists. My grandmother called and asked who the man was singing the funeral song (“Alleluia” with candles lit everwhere)? But the best moment had to be Wayne Gretzky in a pick up truck surrounded by a bunch of rednecks running down the street. So embarassing, why can’t we start thinking bigger?

    With an opening ceremonies like that I would not trust them to fix the luge track. Please just pack up your sleds, stay safe and go somewhere else.

  19. Sylvia Stephens

    Why are we all so stupid, while the poor people living on the Downtown Eastside are living on handouts, the province shows the world a different story. As an Aboriginal, of course, the dancers feel the thrill but why won’t our leaders sign the UN Declaration? Plus many other issues, just a damn cover-up, show and tell, how many billions spent on this extravaganza while cuts are being made to essential services, so chidish to me.

  20. Randy

    I loved how the artistic director did so much with so few materials. Anyway can put on some grandiose show with 100’s of millions of dollars to patch together creativity gaps. It takes an innovative genius to use the same space and materials over and over again but presenting an entirely new canvas. The aurora borealis became treetops and then clouds and mountain peaks; Naysayers should keep quiet or show the world they can do the same world class show on 1/10th the previous budget.

    The jabs back and forth between Americans and Canadians is more vicious than I was aware of. I’ve lived my live in the Deep South or outside the country, so I assumed the banter was silly neighborly quips. However I’ve learned that it’s taken as a serious offense to many inside Canada. We Americans, perhaps due to amount of jokes demeaning us, seem to shrug of bitter remarks with ease. (Our egos save us? We KNOW how awesome we are? We are desensitized to it?) I personally wager we take the Canadian jabs so well because we don’t take it to heart.

    Yet Canadians in person, on youtube and commenting online put a serious tone in the dialogue. The silly eagerness to prove their unique identity independent from America is off putting and a sign of weakness. When the first and most powerful cultural tool you have is “Not American”, it doesn’t show the independence and quality you aspire to. Other than emotive buzzwords rhetoric how is Canada so drastically different from the US? or the UK? All three speak English, have had strong histories of French influence, Common Law judicial systems, etc, etc.

    When Americans refer to Canadians as our “Hippie Cousins” it’s a jest that includes familiarity, family and closeness. Americans enjoy how alike we are. Canadians see it as some worldview curse.


Leave a Reply