Ten Things We Learned at the Opening Ceremonies

  • Share
  • Read Later

Big fireworks were the big finale of a magical night. Now on to the games.

Ten things learned at the opening ceremonies of the XIX Winter Olympiad in Salt Lake City:

1. No matter how many layers of clothing you wear, you are going to be very cold if you sit on a metal bleacher and get snowed on for five hours.

2. The audience at this Olympic Games is inordinately good at following directions. Friday evening's extravaganza was punctuated by commands posted on a giant teleprompter above the stadium. We were instructed, at various, key moments, to "Prepare Flutes!" and "Play Flutes!" and, eventually, to "Put Flutes Away!" We did everything we were asked, and hence, the magical evening of light and sound experienced by the viewing public.

3. It is generally not a good idea to set off extraordinarily loud fireworks, without warning ten feet behind a press corps that's just been put through two hours of exhaustive security screenings, (a very cold and disorganized process which involved being barked at by a vicious-looking, presumably blood-thirsty German Shepherd.)

4. Ukrainians do not understand the first thing about the concepts of "lining up" and "waiting your turn."

5. The Czechs are awfully snazzy dressers. Their delegation, dressed in beautifully tailored peacoats accented by natty red and white scarves, tied for first with the Russian group (in drop-dead gorgeous fur-trimmed coats and hats) in the very informal "Best Outfit" contest held in the press bleachers. On the other end of the sartorial scale, the British delegation (orange and white rugby-type outfits) tied with the Swiss (silver shiny cape-thingy) for Worst Dressed. The Mongolians scored for Best Hats (big, furry and topped with a pom-pom — tough to beat.)

6. When holding an Olympics in a state not exactly known for its ethnic diversity, it is probably unwise to ask every audience member at the opening ceremonies to don a white cape and pointy hat.

7. If you're going for goosebumps, always use Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." It never fails.

8. Don't ask an international audience to sing "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain When She Comes" in unison, even with the aid of a giant teleprompter. It's not a good song, it doesn't translate, and, well, so what if she comes around the mountain when she comes?

9. Robbie Robertson is a great untapped resource, much like solar power. He should be invited back to open every future Olympic Games.

10. And finally, if you are in charge of a multimillion-dollar international event, and you can arrange to have it start snowing on cue, it's probably not a bad idea. As we learned Friday night, snow is a cheap — and extraordinarily potent — special effect.