Feb 10, 2010 Olympics, Cultural Olympiad

I know this blog is about dyslexia and hyperlexia but I thought it would be fun to add some diversity and share my wonderful time at the 2010 Olympics.

Day One:  February 10th/2010  – two days before opening of the Olympics.

It’s true, I am certainly meant to be here.  Everything worked like clockwork: It began with an easy trip from SF.  Yes, our plane left a few minutes late but the time was made up – and it flew by.  I couldn’t resist after I had settled into my window seat to turn to the man sitting by me and say:  So, why are you going to Vancouver?  I wasn’t surprised when he said:  The Olympics, But I was surprised as he continued: I’m a volunteer.   I looked at him, a volunteer?  Yes.  I will be working the ice arena at UBC for 21/2 weeks beginning with women’s hockey – as an usher.  I get a uniform, you know, it’s worth $1,000.  I pick it up tonight.  Tomorrow we have training and then we are off and running.

What made you do this?

I grew up in Vancouver.  I want to be part of it.

What do you do?

I am executive with Chevron!!!!!!!

 And, so it goes, the excitement two days out is just ringing in the air.   The new subway from air port to downtown Vancouver operates like a dream.  I was a bit confused when I got off. No one took my ticket when I got and there is no place to put your ticket to exit.   I stopped someone to ask, where do I exit?  Oh, he said, you have.  It is the honor system here.  Yes, there are people who do spot checking but….

Traffic downtown is almost non existent – so many main streets seem to be closed.  Bus routes are changed.  Going to the Orpheum Theatre from Katherine’s apartment, I thought the Robson bus would get me there.  Nope, it turned down Burrard.  It will take continual surveillance to get it, but nobody seems to care.  In fact, you don’t hear much English around.  So many people, speaking so many different languages.  Thank heavens the bus drivers, proudly wearing Olympic vests, are good sorts.  They are getting a ton of questions. 

I have just come home from the Russian Gala:  I was a bit dubious about what this might be.  Well, they pulled it off with panache, style, talent and creativity.  The first half of the program featured the Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra.  The key word in those last four words is Soloists.  This is an ensemble of soloists who performed Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.  We all know this piece, we hear it, we hear it.  Never, I venture to guess like we heard it tonight.    The collective sound they created was magical.  Each note so clearly played, the pathos deep and sad, the beauty of the humor profound, the attention to detail amazing.  The conductor Yuri Bashmet – a tiny man who knows how to bring out the best as he gives the best.

The next and last piece in the first half was Bashmet as viola soloist playing Schubert’s Sonata for Viola and Strings.  I don’t think I have ever heard a violist as soloist with an orchestra. The sound is so different: deep, resonant.  The audience got into it.

 A moment about the audience.  Sold out house. The Russians were out in full force. Old, and young.  Next to me on one side were three Russian woman, the mother who doesn’t speak English and two gorgeous blonde daughters, on the right hand side of me was a Russian family, mother, father, probably in their mid thirties and their young son – maybe six.  The child was totally absorbed.  He got it, he even laughed when the music made him laugh.  It was wonderful.  As the lights came up at intermission the older Russian Mama on my left – with few teeth – said to me in her few words of English and with tears streaming down her face:  Russians good??.  
Oh yes, oh, yes I said.  And we gave each other a hug.

Second half. A rendition of Bizet’s CARMEN.  What was fun for me was that on Monday night in San Francisco I saw a wonderful performance of CARMEN from the MET at the movies.  I wondered what will this orchestra and a few stars from the Bolshoi do with this.  Well, they matched the excellence and creativity of the Monday performance – that chamber orchestra and five Bolshoi dancers.  It wasn’t the CARMEN score as we all know it, Yes, the themes were there but it was a percussive and strings Carmen that literally talked us through the opera/ballet.   They added two characters:  At first I couldn’t figure out what this marionette like figure who was dancing with CARMEN at the outset could represent (Burke Taylor later said Death). Then came the Don Jose – a sensuous man, strong and dramatic.  The Toreador was a real bull fighter:  elegant, full of himself and ideal.  All the while lurking about was fate in black.  Well, it was quite a night.

 I did see both Sue and Burke.  For those of you who don’t know them Sue Harvery was my wonderful assistant when we did Expo 67, since then has done several things, but more recently overseen “culture” for the City of Vancouver.  Now she’s responsible for the free entertainment at the Olympics.  That’s a responsibility.  And, Sue debut’s tomorrow night with her free entertainment – outdoors.  Yes, it will probably rain, it’s Vancouver!   But, we and thousands of others will be there. And, Burke Taylor is another Expo colleague – Canadian Pavilion and now responsible for the Cultural Olympiad which has been up and running for three weeks. It’s been quite a journey getting to this point. As the Chairman of the Vancouver Olympics said in his opening remarks last night before the concert: these last four years have gone so fast!   Now we are here!  At this point all they all can think of is one down and more to go.  And, all goes well.  Finally the press are being supportive.

 And, I must away to bed.   Full day tomorrow.

Leave a Comment