I was lucky enough to take part in the dress rehearsal of the 21st Vancouver Winter Olympic Opening Ceremonies.
The same ceremonies that will be viewed by some 3 billion (with a b) eyeballs later today.
I spent most of the time with tears coursing down my face. If you were there and if you inhaled deeply enough you would have been able to smell the slight tinge of saline mixed with an older, slightly musty smell… the smell of Canadian pride being brought out, dusted off and worn for all to see.
Shivers danced up and down my spine like aerial acrobats. My mouth gaped like a kid on Christmas day, getting the present ever. Ever.
I was caught off guard by the emotion, the deep swelling of pride in this nation.
The same nation we’re slow to praise and quick to make fun of.
We’re not noisy about our love affair with our country like our neighbours to the south. In fact we often get drowned out by them. But the pride is there nonetheless.
For the first time First Nations were an integral part of the ceremony. Colours were a blur as nations from the east, west, north and central came and danced and welcomed the world.
The biggest roar was saved for the Canadian athletes as the rounded the bend. For a moment we were united in celebrating their feats to come.
Massive three-tiered banners of fabric hung from the ceiling alternately became the ocean, trees and totem poles as light was shone on and through them. Through some sleight of hand it transformed us, the audience. Gasps were audible. Hands became sore from clapping and throats hoarse from yelling.
The opening scenes were pure BC beauty. Remote snow capped mountain, rugged and regal. And then a lone snowboarder. On top of the world. With a kick he set off, all swirling snow and powder puffs. All eyes were on him as he skimmed effortlessly down crazy steep slopes. Then for a second he disappeared…
… until he burst onto the stage for real, sliding down a huge ramp and with a graceful flip ended up in the middle of the stadium. A sweet taste of what was to come. Magic. Being swept away.
A spoken word artist worked his magic by describing this, our indescribably country and that maybe being Canadian was a simple as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’. And yes, our Z rhymes with Ted dammit.
When KD Lang took to a massive central podium, dressed simply in white and captivated everyone with her version of Hallelujah, she reached deep into everyone’s heart and for a moment, removed the cynic. With breath caught and eyes kindled by with hope, you were caught up in a net cast wide with possibilities.
Audience members were given lights and we played our part as we lit them in sync, until wave after wave, the stadium was alive with light. Other times our lights were the constellations and yet others thunderbolts.
Confession time: for the dress rehearsal we didn’t actually get given the lights but rather pretended to wave them about. Ever resourceful though, folks brought out cell phones and the glowing screens were almost as good. Better in some ways as we all yearned to be part of the magic.
With my IPhone flashlight app I got to be a part of the ceremonies. Not passively sitting there, being a quiet receptacle. But rather, as the social media world has showed us, at the centre, involved, loudly and proudly.
Maybe we can do it. Maybe we can dig ourselves out from under the weight of poverty, war, racism, terrorism and other soul-crushing issues. Maybe there is a god above.
Let the games begin.
(We were asked not to share anything about the ceremonies until the real thing; hence the blackout the first time this post was published this morning. This version is the full version, now that the games are officially underway. I was filled with awe to be part of the rehearsal and have been slightly giddy with keeping the secret.)