Your RDA of Irony

Canadtonia: The Vancouver Wither Olympics

“I’m sorry you had nothing better to do, but welcome anyway to our coverage of the Winter Olympics here, someplace in Canada.  I’m Bob Costas, along with Matt Lauer.”

Matt:  “Thanks, Bob.  Did you know that Canada is the second largest country in the world, and that no two snow flakes are alike.  I have slides to prove it.” 

Bob:  The Opening Ceremonies for this, the 21st Winter Olympics, begin with an explanation how Vancouver is different from Calgary.

Matt:  You’d think that Calgary was named for two people, but it actually is named for a place in Scotland. 

Bob:  Following the three-minute tribute to Canadian history, there will be the procession of the Olympic teams.  Twenty-three teams are here, representing 112 countries.  For example, Norway has volunteered to be proxy for Uruguay, Qatar, Laos, Benin and Portugal.  If someone provides the flag, the Norwegians will carry it.  Yes, it is a scam but as long as the Canadians don’t know, they won’t be hurt. 

Matt:  You’d be surprised how many famous people are actually Canadian.  Three of the first four actresses to win Academy Awards were Canadian.

Bob:  Mary Pickford, Norma Shearer, and–I’ll guess– Marie Dressler.

Matt:  Well, I don’t know.  The staff didn’t provide me with those notes. 

Bob:  Our viewers probably can see one of their movies on Turner Classic Movies right now.  God knows, I wish I could.

Matt:  Canada is also famous for its red-coated Mounted Police, popularly known as the Mounties.

Bob:  I bet we could get some up here if I made a death threat against the Premier.  

Matt:  That would be Stephen Harper.

Bob:  And four hours of this broadcast left.  I think we’re ready for your slide show of snow flakes.  Will the last person in the stadium please remember to light the Olympic torch? 

p.s.  Here, from the archives, are the Beijing Olympics:

  1. Mary Ann Jung says:

    Vancouver wins the Gold Medal for the Most Boring Opening Ceremonies, music, and speeches. Oh, and worst French accent heard round the world. Couldn’t the Frenchman after him have coached?!

  2. Michael Gury says:

    Dear Mr. Finerman, as usual your true Olympic spirit shines through in your review. But let’s erase from our minds the failure of Wayne Gretzky’s torch to emerge from the stage, and his triumphal (emergency) parade in the back of a pick-up truck to light something else with a torch outside in the streets. Back indoors actors (temporarily employed) were swinging around in harnesses on cables from the ceiling with skis on. I couldn’t possible comment on the oratory delivered by the officials of this much-anticipated and august event other than to say that the encomium began to set in. I remember a bunch of people with violins running around and some Grizzly Adams guy up there doing Canadian poetry and a number of what they called “aboriginal” tribal people dancing around in the opening (I have to do some research but I’d personally call them “indigenous” — I had no idea they wandered around; well maybe some of them did). The stagecraft was a bit lacking in that there were giant mysterious blobs created from fabric that emerged from the floor on the director’s cue, then there was some kind of shower of paper confetti that I later learned were paper versions of what maple trees produce. Surely the highlight was the confetti of costumes assumed by the teams that entered the stadium. Personally I felt that the team from Bermuda was impressive in their shorts and high calf socks, although I think they only have one Olympian competitor, however the fashion made a statement.

    Speaking of which, Nelson Eddy, made a fashion statement in “Rose Marie”, with his Canadian Mountie outfit donned for Jeanette MacDonald. Of course, he wasn’t Canadian, but we miss them both against the phony background of Canada as provided by the cinema.

    You are surely too young to remember this, but there was a winter Olympics opening in Grenoble decades ago that was wonderful, slightly bizarre, and worked quite well. I cannot say that this one worked as well.

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Dear Mr. Gury,

      I know that Canada does have one wandering tribe, and they are indeed the Abe-Originals. Its members include William Shatner, Leonard Cohen, Mia Kirchner and, of course, the Bronfmans. (I could also mention David Frum but why embarrass Canada.)

      As a Turner Classic Movie addict, I certainly know the Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald canon. And you are right: Canada did look better on a MGM backlot than “in person.”

      And despite my apparent adolescence, I am old enough to remember the ’68 Winter Olympics in Grenoble. However, my memories might be idiosyncratic. For instance, I seem to recall the broadcast with 11-year-old Matt Lauer and 16-year-old Bobby Costas.

      Matt: The opening ceremonies will begin with President Charles DeGaulle. You know, in French, his name means “of Gaulle”.

      Bobby: The Chairman of NBC has said that I can’t slug you more than three times per day.

      Matt: And I’ve been warned about saying “oui, oui.” But it is so funny ’cause…you know. Ouch. I’m telling!

      And, as I recall, after Matt began a discourse on “the silly way the French say John”, Matt put him in a headlock and the two had to be separated by Huntley and Brinkley.


  3. Brent Hoffmann says:

    Gene: Bless the Winter Olympics which, every four years, reminds us there is a sport called “curling,” played by plaid-pantsed men who have laid up their golf clubs for the winter. It’s a diversion widely practiced in far-northern climes, even by the under-40. I know, having lettered in it at Wausau Sr. High School. (Despite what you would think, the captain of the curling team does not “get the girl.”)

    • Eugene Finerman says:


      From a historic perspective, I can understand the appeal of curling. The Scots would find it more fun than Culloden.


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