As I posted yesterday, my favorite ice dancers, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, skated to music from The Phantom of the Opera in their free skate. There was some discussion around Twitter as to whether Charlie was skating as Erik (the Phantom) or Raoul (the, uh, non-Phantom guy). I thought he was Erik, but I wasn't sure, so I asked Rachel, my on-call Phantom expert, to watch it and give her ruling. Here's what she said:
Wow, that was fantastic. I'd say he's Erik (the Phantom). There's definitely a feeling that he's alternately wooing/abducting her. He's *dressed* more like Raoul, and I have a hard time getting past the fact that he looks more like a pot-smoking college sophomore (I can NOT get used to the way guys wear their hair these days) than either a French nobleman or a tuxedoed and emotionally tortured musical and mechanical genius, but IMO his role is Erik. They don't even include "All I Ask Of You", which would have made it a harder decision since that's Raoul and Christine's major song together. All their songs were Erik songs.
Okay, I really don't. I love the Olympics. But they're wreaking havoc with my sleep schedule, not to mention my TV watching or my quest to see Oscar nominees. I keep staying up so late watching that I then sleep late. I think I've given up and switched my alarm time to six for the week. Oh well.
At least they seem to have planned the figure skating events around my schedule - there haven't been any on Wednesdays, when I have a standing West Wing date with friends, and they skipped Saturday night when I had other plans. Last night was the ice dancing original dance, and my favorites Davis and White did wonderfully as always. If you missed it, you can watch their dance here.
The pairs team of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won China's first gold medal for figure skating on Monday night. I was happy to see them win, for a variety of reasons. It's always nice to see a new country break into a sport previously dominated by another. And Shen and Zhao themselves have been around for a long time: they won the bronze in the past two Olympics (and came in fifth the time before that), so it was nice to see them finally win gold.
To expand a bit on my comment at Ta-Nehisi's place, I think it's really interesting that the solo skating events are all about the kids (more so in women's than men's), but in pairs and ice dancing, there's definitely some advantage to age. The length of the partnership really matters: Shen and Zhao have been skating together since they were 14 and 19. That's longer than Caydee Denney, one of the American pairs skaters, has been alive. This gives them a synchronization and knowledge of each others' bodies that I don't think you can really rush. Sure, some teams just naturally have better chemistry than others, and I'm sure there are plenty of tricks to help the skaters learn to skate together. But can all the chemistry and tricks in the world make up the difference between a couple who has done this every day for eighteen years and one who just met three years ago?
Another issue: Shen and Zhao are married (although they got married after skating together for fifteen years). From the commentary Monday night, it seems that virtually all the other teams have some sort of drama: they're dating people from rival teams, they used to date but broke up, they hate each other for unspecified reasons. I kept thinking that it was weird that the coaches didn't try to do something about this, but what could they do, really? These teams generally start out as adolescents who train together for hours a day, often with highly sexualized routines. Odds are, some romantic drama will ensue. I guess the brother/sister teams manage to avoid this, but they open up a host of other issues with sibling rivalry, etc. Plus, all those romantic routines are downright creepy then.
But anyway. Yay for Shen and Zhao! Did you miss them? NBC doesn't seem to allow embedding of their videos, but here's their short program and their long program.
Here's the Loreena McKennitt song that they played at the beginning of the part of the ceremonies last night with the fiddler in the floating blue canoe, before the madness with the plaid and tattoos and dancers started. This is actually my favorite of her songs, but I just thought it was weird that they chose to use a song so obviously about Ireland in the yay-Canada part of the show. In fact, they said that segment was specifically supposed to pay tribute to Quebec and French-speakers, did they not? Anyway. It's a good song! Listen:
7:30: The actual ceremonies don't start until 9, but the broadcast starts at 7, so here I am. I actually have no idea who's supposed to be there. I mean, besides the athletes. Don't they usually have a few celebrities? Wasn't Bjork involved at least once?
7:31: Bob Costas and Matt Lauer! Oh, starting with the luger's death. Going to see the video. Ack.
7:34: How sad. Poor guy. Is luge the most dangerous sport, I wonder?
7:37: Training has been suspended. I hope they don't cancel the event, really. Padding the support beams sounds totally reasonable, though.
7:41: And now . . . Tom Brokaw! Okay. Now we're seeing the peace marker at the border. "May these gates never be closed." Big sweeping views. Canada is really, really pretty.
7:44: Canadian stars we have appropriated! And now: "If you're in a fight, you want Canadians on your side."
7:47: Summary of the last five minutes: We love Canada! Also: The Canadian government is encouraging people to be "uncharacteristically patriotic" and, you know, cheer for people.
7:50: Actual sports coverage! Skiing started today.
7:53: Ski jumping, that is. I'm finding the lack of on-screen graphics somewhat disorienting. Tell me who I'm seeing, people! Ski jumping looks terrifying.
7:57: More sweeping shots. Canada still pretty.
8:00: Now they're telling us which athletes we're supposed to be interested in. Wow, Evan Lysacek has long legs.
8:03: Vancouver is the largest city to host the Winter Olympics. Less than an hour! It's raining! But we're inside, so no one panic!
8:05: Hey, it's Shaun White and his crazy hair. "It feels like a weird school field trip."
8:12: Now off to Whistler, the ski town. They couldn't ski today because of the weather. Rain! Hello, global warming! Going through some results from a training run yesterday. Bode Miller! He's semi-local so I'm kind of sick of hearing about him already. The bad weather is good for Lindsey Vonn, because her first event was postponed. Now interviewing her. They're asking her about the controversy over whether she's actually injured. Shockingly, she says she's not faking!
8:20: Belbin and Agosto, ice dancers. Sorry, but they really aren't asking any of the athletes anything all that interesting, so I don't have a lot to say about it. It's not like any of them are going to say they hate each other. Oh, they just stated that they're not a couple. Is one of them dating one of the other skaters, maybe?
8:25: I love the Olympic fanfare. They're showing the route of the torch. It went to 1000 communities in Canada. Longest ever. Now they're 200 miles from the Arctic Circle. It looks cold.
8:33: Apolo Ohno has some unfortunate facial hair. That can't help with his aerodynamics.
8:35: Now we're on to the ads that imply that your child, too, could be an Olympian, if only you buy these products.
8:38: The American athletes are wearing gorgeous cabled sweaters and complicated colorwork hats. I wonder if they're selling the patterns? Lindsey Jacobellis kind of has a Luna Lovegood thing going on, no?
8:44: The world premiere of the new "We Are the World" video? Must we?
8:50: This video is not particularly interesting, and I don't recognize at least half of the musicians. At least they're not doing it during the actual ceremony.
8:54: Moving on: The half-pipe girls. They're friends no matter what. They want to do their personal best. They know their talking points.
8:59: And we're starting! Someone is saying something in French! Oh, one minute to go. Okay. The Opening Ceremony has been officially dedicated to the memory of the athlete who was killed today. The Georgian delegation is marching to pay tribute to him. There will be armbands.
9:01: And here we go! More of Canada, being pretty.
9:04: Whoo! Snowboarder sweeps in, snow coming from Olympic rings. Nice.
9:06: Queen Elizabeth: Not attending. The Governor General is here, instead. "God Save the Queen" leads into "O Canada." Nice instrumental version.
9:08: Canada didn't adopt the maple leaf flag until 1965? I had no idea. Mounties are carrying in the flag.
9:09: The Canadian anthem is exactly what I thought it was. This is a relief, because in Torino, the Italian anthem sounded entirely unfamiliar, and I've watching about five thousand Formula One podium ceremonies that involved Ferrari, so you'd think it would be recognizable. I don't know who this girl is signing, but she's doing a reasonable job and her dress is nice. Looks like she'd be a bit cold, though.
9:12: Commercial: Every marriage needs celebrity advice. Really? REALLY?
9:14: Blessing by First Nations people, with slightly creepy giant totems made of . . . ice?
9:17: According to the Slate Liveblog, Steve Nash and Bryan Adams are coming soon.
9:20: Lots of First Nations representatives, dancing, singing, wearing awesome things.
9:21: Parade of Nations! Greece is first, as always. Fine but boring blue and white track suits. Albania: One guy.
9:23: I can't tell if the Andorran sweaters are real or printed fleece. Most of the other outfits are pretty boring so far. Lots of track suits.
9:25; The Australians look like they're wearing spacesuits. Austria, on the other hand, has actual suits and they all look quite dapper.
9:26: Azerbaijan has mind-blowing paisley pants in the colors of their flag.
9:28: Shockingly, the Bermudans are wearing shorts. Tucker Murphy! Went boarding school in NH and then Dartmouth. They just showed some very attractive Bosnian. Brazil's green clashes with their flag.
9:30: There are a lot of athletes from random warm countries who are in fact Ivy League students, it seems. We are assuming that all the black armbands are for the luger.
9:34: Czech Republic: Also crazy pants. North and South Korea are marching separately. Unclear why North Korea starts with C.
9:35: Estonia has odd hats. Finland hosts the world sauna championships, and has very confusing jackets.
9:38: France's jackets are . . . flaggy. The French athletes seem to have way more cameras than the others.
9:39: Oh, here are the poor Georgians, with black scarves and armbands. Standing ovation. They're not smiling. Ohh, ribbon on the flag, too.
9:41: The German jackets are very gendered. Pink and blue. Hats are distressingly uncoordinated. Ghana: The Snow Leopard! First Winter Olympian from Ghana.
9:42: Great Britain: The Birthplace of Curling. Looking dapper in blazers and berets.
9:44: Hungary also doing the weird underarm flag thing on the jackets. Iceland has great furry hats. India also has good hats. Iran: Flag bearer is first Iranian woman to compete at Winter Olympics.
9:47: Ireland is the buffer between Iran and Israel. Hope they're up to it. Israel's only full-sized ice rink is called "the Canada Center."
9:48: Italy's jackets seem like a good attempt, but some of them are ill-fitting, and they're trying to put too much in the pockets. Jamaica: the bobsled team did not make it. But the guy has a nice bright jacket.
9:50: Kazakhstan flagbearer has an awesome traditional costume of some sort.
9:54: Latvia; No mittens. Disappointing. Lithuania has a nice green. Mexico has the oldest athlete, who actually seems to be a German prince of some sort.
9:56: Monaco bringing the argyle. Mongolian flagbearer has a great traditional costume and fur hat.
9:57: Nepal: Only non-rectangular flag. More interesting albeit uncoordinated hats. Nice Dutch orange. New Zealand had some sort of alarming cape made out of fur? Feathers? Something.
10:02: Already on Romania. This is going pretty quickly. Russia has nice swirls on their jackets, but are holding some sort of odd blue stuffed animals.
10:06: Slovenia has great colors.
10:09: Sweden: Nice yellow jackets. Dreamy flagbearer. First crocheted (rather than knitted) hats I've noticed. We're on to Switzerland and apparently someone is a butcher and is missing a thumb, but those two are unrelated. And now there's a Harry Potter lookalike.
10:11: Here comes the U.S. Huge cheering. White pants and navy parka with red trim. The knitted hats still, with the white arans underneath.
10:13: Joe Biden!
10:14: And here's Canada! Red jackets, plaid scarves.
10:17: Excuse me, buffalo print scarves. And the flagbearer had a Hudson Bay blanket scarf. I now kind of want one.
10:19: Those totems really are pretty phallic. Oh, it's Nelly Furtado and Bryan Adams. That's kind of unfortunate.
10:23: Will this song ever end?
10:26: Now we're onto poetry or something. It's not much better. And now it has begun to snow indoors. Tour of the physical and cultural diversity of the country.
10:29: Oh, the creepy voiceover belongs to Donald Sutherland.
10:30: I have . . . no idea what's going on right now. Sorry.
10:32: Eek! Giant pink sparkly bear! I guess it's supposed to be a constellation. And now the floor made of ice is breaking apart. Or maybe there's an oil spill. Unclear.
10:34: Now there are whales. Shatner must be coming!
10:35: Whales gave way to salmon gave way to totem poles. Now trees.
10:37: Sarah McLachlan. Perhaps singing something not depressing, for once.
10:38: My mother points out that Donald Sutherland is not creepy. She is, of course, correct. It was more the disembodied nature of the voice that was creepy.
10:44: New segment: Rhythms of the Fall. Nod to Quebec and French-speakers, apparently. Violinist in a floating, glowing canoe!
10:48: Okay, Loreena McKennitt is Canadian, but that song was actually about Ireland. Fiddling . . . tartans . . . screech? A frightening number of giant maple leaves.
10:51: Tap dancing! How . . . Canadian? I need a drink.
10:53: Tap shoes on fire! This whole bit is rather baffling.
10:59: Back with beer and ice cream. Wish I'd thought to get Canadian beer for the occasion. I love "Both Sides Now," but it seems a little odd for this situation, no? What is with this floating person?
11:03: Now we're on to the Canadian Rockies. Apparently it thunders a lot there.
11:06: Fake snowboarders, because obviously we won't have a chance to see real snowboarders in the near future.
11:10: Now fake ice skaters in the form of rollerbladers. My dad wants to know where Neil Young is. Wait, slam poetry from YouTube? Noooo.
11:13: I take it back. This guy is good. Yay for zed.
11:15: WHERE IS WILLIAM SHATNER?
11:16: Executive types doing an official thing for the athlete who was killed. The podium is pretty ugly.
11:22: RARE MAGIC. This sounds exciting. A minute ago, he called them "the best Winter Olympic athletes in history." But no pressure!
11:26: That speech was long. Wait. ANOTHER speech now?
11:30: I believe he is now repeating the whole speech in French.
11:33: Okay, I love kd lang's version of "Hallelujah," but why are we calling it a "song of peace"?
11:40: Canadian legends of various sorts bringing in the Olympic flag. Jacques Villenueve!
11:43: Opera singer with awesome hair singing the Olympic hymn.
11:44: A minute of silence, in which I will actually look up the poor guy's name: Nodar Kumaritashvili.
11:48: Someone else whose name I can't spell is reading the athletes' oath. Someone I've never heard of doing the officials' oath.
11:53: A Coke ad just made me cry.
11:54: Rick Hanson, a paralympian, is bringing in the torch. Giving it to... Catriona Lemay Don (?). Speedskater? She gives it to Steve Nash. To Nancy Greene. Oh, now a senator! And yes, as we all figured, it ends with Gretsky.
11:58: Kind of just standing there. Technical difficulties?
11:59: Seems like three obelisks are appearing where there should be four. And the cauldron appears in the middle.
12:01: Flames travel up the large icy phallic symbols and light the cauldron in the middle.
12:02: Fireworks: Real or fake like last time? Oh, apparently we're having a second cauldron lighting.
12:06: The Bidens! It was exciting. They liked it. Dr. Biden has lots of pearls. They are adorable as always.
12:10: Oh my God. Blagojevich commercial for some reality show. Noooo.
12:11: Gretsky being taken in a pickup somewhere to light the outdoor cauldron.
12:14: They're saying the crowd was "tipped off in advance" about where the cauldron would be. Um, it's huge. Maybe they could SEE it.
12:19: And we're out. Bedtime! More Olympics stuff tomorrow.
I love the Olympics. I'm not that huge of a sports fan in general - although I have been making an effort to learn more about sports, of late - but I'll watch anything if it's the Olympics. I love all the drama and the breathless excitement of the announcers and the emotional little stories about the athletes. And the winter Olympics are my favorite, because figure skating is the one Olympic sport I really follow on off years, and I love curling and the luge and all that crazy stuff. Plus it seems like 90% of the summer Olympics has become beach volleyball, and that gets boring.
All of this is to say - yay! The Olympics are starting tonight! I'll be liveblogging the Opening Ceremonies coverage starting at 7:30pm Eastern. See you then!