VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — “I feel like I want to explode,” said David Morris, a freestyle skier from Australia, about marching in the opening ceremony. “I want to run around and hug everyone.
Um, my sentiments exactly.
No, I’m not marching. That’s way more amazing than what I’m doing. But sitting in a press tribune minutes from the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver is still pretty darn exciting.
BC Place in Vancouver is bathed in iceberg blue. The stadium, which is packed to the gills with more than 60,000 fans, media, officials and, soon, athletes, is North America’s largest air-supported domed stadium.
Tonight, it feels downright huge. A soft snow covered floor lays in wait. The buzz in the air is vibrant, alive and electric.
6:12 pm: I just got chills watching Canadian Mounties hoist the Canadian flag to “O, Canada.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little verklempt. And I’m not even Canadian.
6:21 pm: Here come the athletes! First up Greece and then a handful of Albanians and four Nigerians. Nigerians? Where do they train?
6:25 pm: Here in the press tribune, friendly people dressed in blue come by and hand us handy information sheets. Did you know that 3 billion people worldwide are watching the opening ceremony right now? The ceremony will use 450 racks of costumes. There will be 100 fiddlers and 100 drums. And there will be 0 “worries about bad weather delays in an indoor stadium.” Thank you, Olympic News Service!
6:36 pm: I love Ethiopia’s uniforms. Red, green, yellow. So vibrant. Just looking at the Ethiopians puts a smile on my face. And they stand out against the white snow, so much better than, say, France, who kind of blend in with the white jackets. If anyone ever starts a new nation, let’s officially retire red, white and blue, okay? Think pink, purple or turquoise.
6:39 pm: Georgia gets a thunderous applause. Again, getting verklempt. Wishing peace for Nodar Kumaritashvili and his family.
6:42 pm: Germany stylin’ as usual AND forgoing their national colors for pink and baby blue. That’s what I’m talking about–all of us red, white and blue nations–France, Great Britian, the U.S.–take note!
6:55 pm: I wonder if the four nations dancers are getting tired yet. I have to say, they’re doing an amazing job keeping the momentum going during the parade of athletes. And their costumes are fa-abulous.
6:57 pm: Nepal–now they have some SERIOUS mountains. I was there almost 10 years ago. One of the most inspiring places I’ve ever been.
7:00 pm: Can I get a wup-wup for Poland? I know some in Canada and Krakow who are cheering right now.
7:03 pm: Some Russians in the press tribune are standing and waving at their compatriots and the Russian athletes look pretty psyched. They’re throwing hats and other unidentifiable objects at the crowd.
7:06 pm: Can I get a wup-wup for Slovakia? I know a few Slovaks too. Why do I know so many Eastern Europeans? I have no idea.
7:07 pm: Huge cheers for Sweden! Who knew? If you’re waiting for Team USA, we’re up in another five countries!
7:09 pm: Okay, the four first nations are taking a break from dancing and just waving. Phew! I was getting worried. That’s a long time to pump up the volume.
7:12 pm: Team USA! And the crowd goes wild! Literally.
7:14 pm: Team Canada. I think I’m deaf.
7:16 pm: The ground is literally vibrating in here from all the cheering. It’s kind of like being at an IMAX theater, except live.
7:23 pm: Nelly Furtado looks amazing!
7:32 pm: The giant polar bear is pretty cool. I was so mesmerized for a second I forgot to keep writing!
7:33 pm: I stand corrected. My media guide tells me it’s a Spirit Bear. They’re revered as “supernatural custodians of the lands.”
7:36 pm: Canadians love Sarah McLachlan. Not that they shouldn’t. They just love here a lot. But let me ask you this? Where is Celine?
7:40 pm: The totem pole originated right here in the Pacific Northwest. They’re traditionally made from a single giant cedar tree. Really gorgeous. Well done, Canada.
7:45 pm: I think this is where those 100 fiddlers come into play.
7:46 pm: MAPLE LEAFS! Yes!
7:48 pm: Everyone in here seems sort of mesmerized now. And things keep falling on us. Snow, confetti, now maple leafs about the size of a palm.
7:50 pm: The camera flashes are non-stop. I mean, non stop. It’s like there are 60,000 strobe lights in here.
7:57 pm: The acrobats are from Ecole nationale de cirque, Canada’s national circus school. It’s based in Montreal, which is also home to Cirque du Soleil, who you have perhaps seen in Las Vegas.
8:03 pm: That was Joni Mitchell singing.
8:05 pm: Now we enter the Canadian Rockies. Mount Robson is the tallest peak at 12,972 ft.
8:07 pm: Watching the aerialist snowboarders is kind of like watching real half-pipers but in slow motion. Pretty cool.
8:10 pm: This is Shane Koyczan performing “We Are More.” Zed instead of Z. The crowd really liked that. Koyczan wrote this poem and is also an Olympian–he won The Canadian Spoken Word Olympics.
8:17 pm: That deep rumble you hear is the crowd banging on drums (not booing). Everyone got one at their seat (including us media).
8:21 pm: I think we might see nationalism on a level never seen before in Canada. The vibe is optimistic, excited, and hopeful. And one word seems to be on every Canadian’s lips (at least all the ones I’ve talked to here): Hockey.
8:31 pm: Michaelle Jean, the Governer General of Canada, was born in Port-au-Prince Haiti.
8:33 pm: I had no idea k.d. lang is Canadian. Evidently, she grew up in Alberta. Her voice is velvet. I could listen to her sing the alphabet from A to Zed.
8:35 pm: I don’t know what the acoustics sound like on TV, but here in the stadium I’d liken the sound to a big hug. It’s kind of wrapping around us from every direction, a little echo, but not too much. Sing it k.d.
8:37: The crowd is waving electronic candles provided, along with the drum, in their seat kit. They’re loving this.
8:38 pm: k.d. lang. Best performance of the night. Hands down. Love that Leonard Cohen song too: “Hallelujah.”
8:47 pm: Every single person stood during the minute of silence for Nodar Kumaritashvili. Not one member of the media was typing. His death has raised many questions about the safety of the sliding course. How this will play out? Who knows.
8:50 pm: This is Garou performing. Just one name like Beyonce. Garou. The song he is singing translates, “A Little Bit Higher, A Little Bit Farther,” and references the Olympic motto, “Higher, Faster, Stronger.”
8:53 pm: Here it is! This is my favorite part: The Flame!
8:55 pm: You all guessed it: Wayne Gretzky is the final torchbearer!
8:59 pm: The crowd section leaders are instructing people to wave their flashlight in circles.
9:01 pm: Everyone in the audience is taking pictures. Everyone.
9:02 pm: That’s all folks! Thanks for joining me. Tune in tomorrow when I come to you live from speedskating–long track and short track!
This post originally appeared on the Washington Times Communities here on Feb. 12, 2010.
All photos copyright Karla Bruning