Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Last Friday we watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies of the XX Winter Olympics in Turin, this Italy.

(“Turin” is the name of the city as it has been translated and is known in the English-speaking world. The official name of the city in Italian, buy however is “Torino.” National Geographic reports that NBC thought that “Torino” sounded more exotic than “Turin” so they decided to use it in their broadcasts. The IOC decided to stick with the city’s official name in Italian. On the other hand, there the BBC is using the more familiar “Turin,” but plans to introduce the word Torino into broadcasts “at appropriate moments.” And now you know why some people call the city “Turin” and others call it “Torino.”)

I have to say, the whole event was more exciting than I expected. I had a great time! There were a couple of parts that we had to rewind on the TiVo-like recorder that is part of my parents’ digital cable package.

My favorite parts of the event, in no particular order:

  • The Skier. There was a part in the ceremony where people in colored costumes stood on the stage, such that from a distance you could see that they formed the shape of a skier. The “skier” reached up, pulled down his goggles, then leaned forward, and was off, then he went off an apparent jump, and you could see the ski come up while the skier was flying through the air, and then you could see the ski drop when the skier landed. It was pretty cool. We probably watched it three or four times; we watched it at about 2x speed too, and it was even cooler.
  • The dove. At one point there were a bunch of acrobats dressed in white who were climbing up parable poles (think of the scene in Ocean’s Eleven when Rusty and Danny are watching the Amazing Yen and decide that he will be their ‘grease man’). Anyway after some beautiful acrobatics, they all came together in the shape of a dove, as a symbol of peace. They used to release a bunch of doves at the Olympics, symbolizing peace. But not many years ago, amid public protests of the inhumanity of releasing the doves, most recent organizing committees have foregone the use of live doves. I thought this was a very interesting and beautiful nod to the dove tradition, and I thought it was executed very well.
  • The fireworks after the Formula 1 car. This one is hard to explain, but I’ll try. There was a formula 1 race car that did some spinning demonstration on the stage, and then immediately after that, there was a really cool fireworks demonstration, where the fireworks came out in a circle around the stadium, shooting up in the air. I don’t think I can describe it adequately for as cool as it was.
  • The parade of nations. I really liked the dresses worn by the nation placard holders. They were large hoop skirts in the shape of the Alps. And I really liked watching the athletes from all over the world enter the stadium to applause and glory. For many of the athletes, this was to be their moment of glory.
  • The lighting of the cauldron (of course). The climax of the opening ceremonies is always the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron, and this one was pretty cool. The torchbearer lit an on-stage firework that set off a chain reaction of fireworks around the stage, and then around the stadium, and then the cauldron was lit. My only complaint was that it didn’t appear that the flame that lit the cauldron was the same one that had been carried into the stadium. I mean, they go to all the trouble to bring the torch from Greece, and then they light the cauldron with a different flame source. But visually it was appealing.

Overall the ceremonies were very good. I was really glad that for the most part NBC kept the commercials to a minimum. I expected more commercials, and I was pleasantly surprised.

I’m looking forward to watching the games in the coming days.

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