Saturday, June 12, 2010

Canadian Swagger: CTV Vancouver 2010 Olympics DVD

Back in February as Canadians went on to win more Gold Medals ever as host country in a Winter Olympics, we all walked around with our chests (somewhat) puffed out, strutting our stuff, the cock of the walk. And yet, even within that braggart moment, we managed to maintain the legendary (mythical?) Canadian niceness. Want proof? Take a saunter through CTV's five-disc DVD of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics that recently arrived in my mailbox (it was promised to arrive six weeks after the Games - in other words mid-April, but in fact came out last week of May/first week of June).

I've not managed to make my way through all five discs (one disc alone on the hockey takes up four hours of Disc 2), but what I have watched -- the intro documentary, the recap of the early rounds of the men's hockey, the final minutes of the Canada-US men's final, men's skeleton, women's and men's short-track speed skating and men's half pike snowboard finals -- is beautifully presented. Except for the recap docs, most of it is just commercial-free, pristine versions of what was broadcast, broken up by the occasional (but generally not intrusive) set-up commentary by principle host Brian Williams. And that's okay, because what this is all about is a memory piece that tries to allow us to recapture the feeling of pride and excitement we had during those ten days of competition.

Some of it works really well:

Who can not help but smile watching Jon Montgomery -- the irrepressible 'goofy kid' who not only likes to hurdle face first down an icy track at speeds upwards of 140 kilometres per hour in men's skeleton, but also has a full-time day job as a very fast-talking auctioneer -- celebrate his gold medal-win in Whistler? The moment when a spectator ran up and gave him a pitcher of beer as he walked through the celebratory Whistler crowds was an absolutely 'beauty, eh' all-Canadian moment. CTV knows a star when they see one, so he not only figures prominently in the footage of his competition, but he also appears in brief new material -- in his full "auctioneer mode" -- to set it up, and he is also featured in the intro documentary. He's so likable that even when he was being a complete showoff (such as his jumping onto the gold medal podium), he did it with such complete joyous enthusiasm we didn't get self-conscious.

The presentation of the men's hockey final - most of the game's here, but strangely not all (weird and unfortunate) -- is a pleasure to revisit, especially since Sid the Kid scored so fast that I was barely able to register it (not unlike Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup-winning goal the other night where I had no idea it was actually all over for about 5-6 seconds). What's also fascinating is, as media sources claimed, you really can hear Crosby screaming 'IGGY!" to Jarome Iginla as he charges wide open to the net before Iginla fed him the puck to win the Gold Medal.

It is also a pleasure to watch American (yes, an American) Shaun White masterfully win the men's half-pike snowboard competition. He was gravity defying and, from all reports, he's a gracious, kind-hearted guy who is humble about his outstanding abilities (heck, are we sure he's not Canadian?).

And I don't have time to go into the wonderful sheer insanity of short-track speed skating. For many years my favourite sport in the Winter Olympics.

Other moments were a little cringe inducing.

No, I didn't rewatch a second of the awful opening and closing ceremonies on Disc 1. Once, live, was enough. Nikki Yanofsky has a lovely voice, but the wretched "I Believe" song is the worst piece of music ever written for a major sporting event (and it's played RELENTLESSLY on all five discs). Even more egregious was the decision to have Yanofsky sing a completely unrecognizable, reorchestrated version of O Canada. What in all that is holy were they thinking? The musical acts in the opening had their sublime moments (kd lang, for one), but the closing was one horrific act after another. When Nickelback puts on the finest performance (and I'm not a Nickelback hater), you know they've chosen poorly.

The other weak moment is also on Disc 1: the recap documentary. It has some okay bits, but it sinks quickly into far too many (sammy?) maudlin moments for my blood. But overall, what comes through loud and clear throughout my watching bits and pieces of all the DVDs, was the humble quality of the medal-winning Canadians. Some are very enthusiastic (Montgomery and women's short-track skater Marianne St-Gelais come to mind) most are quiet and almost shy (Alexander Bilodeau, the winner of Canada's first-ever gold in a Canadian-hosted Olympics). It is an overall refreshing Olympics where even the Americans never became annoying. The DVDs are a treasure trove of memories. The only thing with something like this is how often will I actually rewatch it. Not much, if I'm being honest, but it's a really fine keepsake of a moment in time when Canada finally developed a swagger and none of us were embarrassed to witness, or participate, in it.

-- David Churchill is a film critic and author. He is putting the finishing touches on his first novel, The Empire of Death.


  1. This was a really helpful critique - thanks so much. :)

  2. As a Vancouver resident, I loved the fact that the Olympics were in my hometown, and also the fact that Canada did so well. So for that, this DVD is essential....It's just a shame that CTV and the consortium bungled it in God Awful horrific epicness. After the dismal London coverage (yeah we got 4 channels, and some of the most inane commentary and production ever put to broadcast) there should be a law passed that CTV should never ever be allowed to broadcast an Olympic Games ever.

    The DVD sees CTV mess it up even more. We have 5 Discs and whatever opinion you have on the opening and closing ceremonies (good or crap) the fact is we get heavily edited versions of them. We get about an hour of the opening, and a brief 25 minutes of the closing. There is no commentary (or even an option for it), no chapter breaks, and yet we get that I believe song played to death (for that alone the brass of CTV deserve to burn in hell). The rest of the 5 discs are spotty too. The events are limited to Canadians, and very little of the actual competition. Even some of the Canadians performances are extremely edited. We get to see all of the medal ceremonies and that horrid I Believe song through endless montage that got old around the time of Mulroney. Yet we get cheated on the actual events. There is also very little of the party by way of the quirky features that CTV did during the broadcast.

    A cool memento of the games sure. Completists looking to get any interesting coverage will have to time I recommend filesharing over actually supporting a product. Waste of money.