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Vancouver 2010, an armchair-dispatch: Ice dancing, poets, A-stan and hockey

February 23, 2010

Tonight I joined the great unwashed of Olympic non-ticket holders, and bowed before the TV. Lithe athletes performed “twizzles” and other eyebrow raising feats. The world releases its inner strange during figure skating championships – no more so than during events like this evening’s “ice dancing” in Vancouver. Yay! We won gold!

And Tessa Virtue, whose performance wowed even a goggled-eyed nerd like me, wore what had to be the prettiest dress – a bodice of sparkly silver, halter style, with a low back, her partner, Scott Moir, (super-dufus on the podium!), in black pants and a white tailored shirt – no wacky cut-away fabric like the more avant garde Russians, who won bronze.

Confession, I do not now nor have I ever competed in any skating events, although once, as a young girl in Saskatchewan I witnessed my mother give um, heck, to a bunch of figure skating moms over the state of my costume. It was a matter of sequins. Or lack thereof. In tonight’s category, “original dance,” there were no lack of sequins; and no lack of schmaltzy music, opera-esque facial exaggerations, an inversion of the usual figure skating fable of Romantic Hero and Fair Damsel with many brother and sister pairings and although not vouchsafed, surely more than a little, er, diversity regarding, well, gender. But it’s all good!

Skill, risk-taking, beauty, bodies doing what most bodies can’t.  And there’s an interesting split in the local body politic – to cheer or to not cheer the Olympics – in Vancouver, I’ve observed “degrees of” ranging from indifference to hostility to acceptance and participation. Writers blog about the poet Shane Koyczan and his opening night performance. Vancouver’s “Youngest Ever Poet Laureate” declined to attend those opening ceremonies and published his declaration, which in turn generated more discussion.

Monday night, there was no joy in Mudville as Team USA took down “our lads” – and today, coast to coast, in addition to the burning question: Brodeur v Luongo,  (now solved and it’s Luongo in goal against Germany), Canadians weighed in with hockey statistics, historical records, analysis, and a depth of deliberation missing from the debates on our role in Afghanistan.

The spring grinds on there, and perhaps some Canadians can recall other Olympics, where boycotts and the war in Afghanistan had more impact.

From the time provincial and city governments decided to “bring the Games to Vancouver,” my instinct was to glide along the continuum of “liking/not liking” the concept, the event, the expense, the contradictions, without feeling the need to align myself with either polarity.

When the flame arrived steps away from my office, I was there – at first irritated enough by the Coca-Cola freebie truck, that I scolded school children when they stretched out their hands for red curvy bottles. Then, standing with my neighbours, watching their pleasure at seeing “The Flame” arrive, seeing folks beam, dressed in red and white, I couldn’t stop smiling myself.

Opening night, although I intended to watch the ceremonies on the internet, I managed to get bogged down in a writing assignment and missed the whole thing. I haven’t paid to see any Olympic events but took in sites and sounds around the city and on Feb. 14 I joined the Memorial March for Missing Women and their families – this was one day after an ugly episode of window smashing and yes, as we walked along some of the city’s oldest streets, I looked askance at certain fellows, feeling much more solidarity with the men and women from social agencies and community centres, with the families of the missing women, than with that tribe of urban youngish men who seem to bristle with an energy that says to me, “inauthentic.” Perhaps an unfair assessment?

Canada’s “world” meets no limits when it comes to the issue of missing women. From Vancouver to Ciudad Juarez, working women, women of colour and especially aboriginal and Indian women have been disappearing.

But my concern over social issues hasn’t prevented me from taking in free Olympiad events around town – I enjoyed IKONs an exhibition attended by people from many nations. I had high hopes for a video installation about memorials, culture, and the idea of belonging staged by an African Canadian and a Vietnamese Canadian – a disappointment – grainy blurred images, no signage to give context to the piece, and no one around to welcome or to give a tour.

Earlier in the month, I attended a poetry and fiction reading staged in a new art gallery, the line-up and host being “anti Olympics” but the physical venue, made possible, in part, by public dollars. I liked the mix.

On the sky-train, our rapid transit (much maligned by many environmentalists, used a lot, by, er, me) I note the many suburbanites heading into the Olympic sites, decked out in red and white and maple leafs; no, most of them do not have tickets, too expensive. Yes, they make me smile.  Yes, they are heading down to “soak in the vibe,” and perhaps many of them will soak the streets with, um, substances. At literary events around the city, among writers I admire, the atmosphere is more dour but not unfriendly – not too many flags. Still, I wear my wee Canada pin.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. reneethewriter permalink
    February 23, 2010 11:21 am

    oops. apologies. In my above post, i believe the word public appears as, um, something else.

  2. reneethewriter permalink
    February 23, 2010 11:18 am

    Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to post comments – I enjoy the range of reactions. Yes to all. Heh. Currently, I’m reading about Keats and “negative capability” – Toni, this phrase, “a fan of fans in bars” intrigues. I think it picks up on a thread that’s running through me – about media events, “happenings,” colossal amounts of pubic/private dollars, the “people,” about writers and literary and avant garde communities and The People. About curiosity. About not wanting to pay for things but still “be in on it.” About intellect and critical thinking and waste and hypocrisy; about neo-liberalism, globalism, many other “isms, about entertainment as consumption and also, in me that drive to partake, to sip at the well of product and F-U-N. About tight and loose. About the Athelete and the Poet. I hope folks will get a chance to click on the links I’ve chosen. You know, my own little way of smiling.

  3. D'wayne Marsonis permalink
    February 23, 2010 10:11 am

    Hmm…I wonder what would happen if the 1 billion spent on Olympic security was instead spent on: a) funding police to figure out who’s killing the women on the highway of tears b) addressing why women are considered expendable. Just asking.

  4. Adrienne Drobnies permalink
    February 23, 2010 9:15 am

    My favorite part of this story is your mom giving the other moms “heck” — wish I could have been there.

    With regard to poets at the Olympics, I guess some people need to take a stand by taking a stand and others need to take a stand by not taking a stand.

    And re: the men in black – no, not unfair.

  5. toni permalink
    February 23, 2010 7:12 am

    I’m enjoying the…er, heck…out of the Olympics too. I didn’t expect to. Aside from the fact that I agree with many/most of the protests about the whole business, I’m not a big fan of sports or crowds. I considered leaving town for the event. But now that it’s here I’m having fun. I like the ice dancing and also figure skating. Not that much of a hockey fan, but I am a fan of fans in bars. I enjoy all the yelling and passion. And some of the cultural Olympiad stuff is amazing.

    I think most of the protesters blew a good chance to make their voices heard. Too diffuse a message, too few specific, achievable demands, and smashing the windows at The Bay was pointless and alienated a lot of people. The big exception is, as you note, the March for Missing Women. I gather they do this at this time of year regardless, so they’re played in, but I still think it’s worth noting what they did right: no violence, quiet dignity, enough bright shiny stuff (in this case First Nations which was also appropriate) to attract the media, and a clear set of short, simple demands…which I think they have a chance of achieving.

  6. Hugh Rose permalink
    February 23, 2010 5:27 am


    That Olympic circus still in town?

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