Going for gold

Scandals, photoshopped fireworks, ugly girl non-singers, whatever - we were enthralled with the Olympics.

That's what a friend of mine said recently. The opening ceremonies---with CGIed fireworks and a lip-synching nine-year-old---have just gone too far.

The packaged event---in China, where the markets are open but based on the closed mouths of protesters it's still clearly a Mao, Mao, Mao, Mao World---had too many folks throwing their arms up in an understandable fury over human rights. The closing ceremonies? Jimmy Page.

Still, I can't agree that the world's biggest sport gathering is past its best-before date.

The Olympics continue to count for something. And that's because the world loves a spectacle.

Sure, sure, I wrote in this space back in February that there wouldn't be another Olympic torch run. And I stick by that. Beijing's torch jog became a nightmare for organizers the moment it became a PR event for protesters (which, frankly, I don't mind so much, but I don't think lunging lunatics are what the IOC has in mind). I predict we'll see a vastly scaled-back torch run next time in Vancouver, and if not in 2010, surely by 2012in London.

The rest of the games? Faster, Higher, Stronger. Also? Bigger, Better, More Expensive. The Olympic Games---and especially the opening ceremonies---are gauche one-upmanship at its global peak. And we totally live for that shit.

These Olympics were a watershed---it was the first time (or, at least, the first time publicly) the world was witness to blatant fakery in the opening ceremonies---specifically, the computer-generated fireworks footprints that "walked" across Beijing and little, perfect Lin Miaoke lip-synching to the sounds of another little girl, Yang Peiyi, who, while dulcet-voiced, was apparently too ugly to sing.

The Chinese defended both decisions in their quest for flawless execution on all fronts, at all times. The rest of the world, for its part, gasped in horror at the lameness of fake fireworks and the cruelty of replacing a bucktoothed kid for a straighter-smiling one (cripes, China, why don't you go step on puppies' tails, too?).

After our collective outrage? We shook our heads and promptly got over it. Because it just looked so jeesly good, didn't it? I mean, did you see those box-dancers? The dudes in the LED suits? Those gravity-defying runners!? Fuckin' A!

But it comes to this: We swallowed a hoax. And a serious one at that. Please, will you tell me the difference between CGI and doping in sport? The pleasure of these games is that there's at least a semblance of reality in the skill of these athletes. Strip back the layers of training camps, the spirulina shakes and the sport-psychology sessions and what have these people got? Ability that's bred in the bone. The unfair advantages lent to athletes from affluent nations we are willing to tolerate, but only that. Throw in performance-enhancing drugs and you reach the world's breaking point. Synthetic boosts are just not on.

But apparently that doesn't apply to the opening ceremonies. Beijing proved that. We won't OK human growth hormones, but we will suck up forged pyrotechnics and casting-for-cuteness because we love to look at the colossal scene.

Face it: We couldn't even have an Olympics without opening and closing ceremonies. It would be like a Super Bowl without a half-time show. The events would be like every other Saturday afternoon on CBC. Like every other world championship. (Oh, yeah, if someone could tell me the difference between a world championship and the Olympics, I'd appreciate that, too.)

So, what trickery and treachery has Canada got up its sleeve for the Vancouver opening ceremonies?

A recent access-to-information-released memo tells us the Harper government will hand over $20-million for the opening ceremonies "in order to ensure that the event adequately reflects the priorities of the government and helps to achieve its domestic and international branding goals."

Shall we expect dancing beavers and the RCMP musical ride? Ski-jumpers in fur bikinis doing an artistic rendition of the Federal Accountability Act? Dancers coming together in the shape of Pamela "she's actually a Canadian" Anderson's breasts? Stephen Harper hanging off a cable running laps around the world with a maniacal smile?

Wouldn't matter, so long as it looks good. Because the world loves a spectacle at any cost.

Send suggestions for tasteful by edgy opening ceremony acts to lezliel@thecoast.ca

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