What I learned about story telling from the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony

1. Less is more. At a tenth of the Chinese budget, Vancouver put on a visually stunning show. Suggestion and imagination filled in for sheer numbers (and I doubt anyone was threatened with re-education camp if they forgot their moves).

2. Less is more. Some of the songs and accompanying acts went on too long. What was enthralling for one minute, engaging for two, and interesting for three became excessive by four and excruciating by five.

3. Less is more. When national anthems are sung in crowds they should actually sound like the anthem and not a smoldering ballad. The girl can sing, too bad it wasn’t O Canada. As a writer, I think you have to know when to rein it in and keep it simple. This was one of those times.

4. Have a theme. The ceremony seemed a bit overly fixated on Vancouver and aboriginals, but they were focused and it fit…save perhaps for the opera turn and manic fiddlers (which I did enjoy).

5. There are times to luxuriate and times to rush. Watching the Mounties walk with the flag was stirring. Watching the white-clad dance line gyrate for an hour was not.

6. I still don’t trust polar bears, but they are cool. I think I’m going to add one to every book from here on out, even the military history books I edit.

7. Orcas are cooler. The breaking ice flow followed by the killer whales was brilliant. That it also appeared to be a comment on climate change was a nice surprise. Visually brilliant and definitely thought provoking.

8. Less is more. If you’re going to give people cameos then make it short, sweet, and powerful. For the most part they succeeded. Seeing everyone from Donald Sutherland to Jacques Villeneuve to Anne Murray carrying the Olympic flag was a proud moment.

9. Less is more. My guess is Matt Lauer and Bob Costas get paid the same whether they prattle on about how great the fiddle music is (as opposed to, oh, just being quiet and letting us listen to it) or just zip it and let the audience enjoy.

10. Less is more. Don’t belabor the obvious. Yes, the Georgian athlete died. It’s a tragic loss for his family, friends, and country, and a shock to his fellow athletes. Acknowledge his loss and move on. This is not and should not be the Olympics about one death. That’s grossly unfair to everyone who’s worked so hard to get here.

11. Colors matter. This much like theme, but colors set tones and feelings much quicker and simpler than a lot of exposition.

12. If you can’t fake it well, then don’t. I guess that’s another way of saying do it right or don’t bother, and yes, I’m talking to every lip-syncing singer out there. Perhaps it’s too their credit that they always sing live and weren’t familiar with the concept.

So I think it’s clear that if you take nothing else away from last night, don’t trust polar bears unless you’re faster than the guy beside you is worth remembering.

  1. petwaitress

    I’m sorry but I have to say it…
    I still don’t trust polar bears, but they are cool. I think I’m going to add one to every book from here on out, even the military history books I edit.
    A drunk, message delivering polar bear for instance?
    Bah I thought it was funny anyways.

    • admin

      I have a feeling I’m never going to live down Wobbly, and I’m entirely ok with that 🙂 The scary thing is my, deep in my brain there’s a cog spinning that’s trying to come up with a believable plot point for a drunk polar bear…


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