Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremonies: What's wrong with this picture?

I watched the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and something didn't sit right with me.  Vancouver is always being touted as a multicultural city.  It is the “most Asian” city in North America.  It is the city with the most mixed-race relationships.

It was very nice to see a welcome from the Four Host Nations of Lil'Wat, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tseil-Waututh nations.  Four totem poles were raised, and each host nation welcomed the world in their own language, followed by English and French.  And then other First Nations groups from across Canada, were also recognized: from the North; the East; and the Prairies.  It was a wonderful way to acknowledge and infuse First Nations culture into the Opening Ceremonies.

I also enjoyed how the many regions of Canada were represented during the Opening ceremonies.  The prairies of W.O. Mitchell's “Who Has Seen The Wind”… the snow of the north… the fiddling of the Maritimes, Quebec and the East.  The killer whales were my favorite part.  Projected images of light, moving across the floor, punctuated by actual puffs of water, to simulate the exhaling of the whales.  But during after the fiddling was over, I asked myself – “Where are the Chinese fiddles or erhus that are part of Vancouver's multicultural music scene, and it's cultural history of 150 years of immigration.  Where is the erhu from Madeleine Thein's children's book “The Chinese violin”

It was an exciting moment to recognize and identify each of the flag carriers, as the Olympic flag was brought in.  Donald Sutherland, Betty Fox, Barbara Ann Scott, Gilles Villaneuve, Bobby Orr, Julie Payette, Anne Murray and Gen. Romeo Dallaire.  I was especially excited to see Betty Fox, because I have personally met her many times, as I have been a member of Terry's Team since 1993 – cancer survivors who speak at Terry Fox Runs and at schools.

Then anticipation for the final torch bearer.  A silouette of a man in a wheel chair! Yay! It is Rick Hansen – my favorite choice to be the lighter of the cauldron.  Rick passes the flame to Catriona Le May Doan, who passes the flame to Wayne Gretzky, who passes the flame to Nancy Greene Raine.  All four stand, as the caudron rises from the floor.  All four light the cauldron together.  Whoops, only 3 light the cauldron, because one pillar didn't rise out of the floor.  Was this a sign?  Was it a symbol?

But, I also saw a lack of diversity in the flag carriers and final torch bearers.  While recognize and admirer each of the chosen flag carriers and final torch bearers for their individual accomplishments and contributions to Canadian society.

But…. if all the flag carriers, and final torch bearers had been male, we would hear women complaining.  If all the flag carriers and final torch bearers had been Anglophone, then the Francophones would be complaining.  And if all the flag carriers and final torch bearers were blonde, would brunettes, red heads and black haired people be complaining?  Yes!

Part of the selling point for winning the Olympic bid, is that Vancouver is a multicultural city, and Canada's “Gateway to the Pacific.” Politicians and VANOC have been proudly telling the world that every athlete from every competing nation will find somebody in Vancouver that speaks their language, cooks their food and could welcome them to their home.

And yes, David Suzuki, is a wonderful choice. He was the top living “Greatest Canadian” in the CBC show and #5 overall.  Tommy Douglas was #1 (whose son-in-law was flag carrier Donald Sutherland) and Terry Fox was #2 (whose mother was Betty Fox, another flag carrier).  Wayne Gretzky was #10.  Romeo Dallaire was #16, Bobby Orr #19 and Rick Hansen #30. Chief Dan George was #80, Donovan Bailey #89, and Anne Murray #94.

There are many past gold medalists that could have been included.  Lori Fung (gold LA 1984 Rhythmic Gymnastics).  Alwyn Morris (Gold & Bronze LA 1984 Kayak-pairs) who had held up an eagle feather on the podium, Donovan Bailey (Goldx2 Atlanta 1996 100m + 4X100 Relay), Daniel Igali (Gold Sydney 2000 Wrestling), Carol Huynh (Gold Beijing 2008 Wrestling), and Jerome Iginla (Gold Salt Lake City 2002 Hockey).  Just the inclusion of one of these medalists, or all of them, passing the flame onto the final four would have been a tremendous inclusive moment.

Remember that Sydney 2000 chose Cathy Freeman, an aboriginal to light the cauldron.  Atlanta 96 had Muhammad Ali.

VANOC opening ceremonies missed a chance to showcase the diversity of both Vancouver and Canada, and that we are just as proud of ALL our Canadians too!

Maybe many people would have said “Who?” if Alwyn Morris had been holding an eagle feather in one hand, and a torch in the other, if he had walked into BC Place with the Olympic Flame – but it would have been both an educational and a proud moment for all Canadians.  Morris is the first and only Canadian aboriginal to win an Olympic gold medal.

It could have been a proper bookend to the inclusion of First Nations people – in how we have overcome Canada's racist history of residential schools and apartheid reservations, head tax and exclusion acts, internment camps and property confiscation – not how we still portray First Nations peoples as stereotypes in traditional costume, dancing and beating drums.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

× 6 = eighteen