Monday, January 18, 2010

2010 Olympic Torch comes to Saskatoon: A photo essay

Text and photos (c) Robert Barry Francos

The Olympic Torch made its way through Saskatoon on January 11, 2010. Olympic fever is running high in this town. Having never seen anything Olympics related in person, I took the opportunity to head on down to Kiwanis Memorial Park, at the foot of the Broadway Bridge, to check out the event. Luckily, the temperature was relatively reasonable at around the freezing mark.

It was hard not to notice the corporate presence at the event, with sponsor tents on the side of the stage. Actually, this didn't bother me as it seems reasonable that sponsors would want their names assocaited with the event. However, between acts, commercials blasted out over a large screen to the right of the stage, reminiscent of a ball game. Then two of the sponsors contributed to parts of the show that were obviously geared to the many children in the audience. I had more than a few words that I could not say out loud in front of the kids rumble through my mind. There was a protest kept in the back by police, who were protesting various causes, such as the amount of money the goverment was spending on the games rather than housing, or that the games are on what is contentiously First Nation land. One protester made it near the front of the stage, but she was escorted both forcefully and quietly back to the assigned protest area.

And yet, it was mostly a fun event, and I'm not sorry I went. There were more acts after the ones presented below, such as La Ribambelle (Francophone dance ensemble) and the Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble, but thanks to a dead camera battery, you'll have to take my word for it that they were enjoyable.

Just click on the photos to see larger versions.

[The audience was in the thousands, especially children who were bussed in from local schools, enjoying both the event and the time off.]
[Teens carried signs showing some events.]
[Adults carried signs representing the countries participating in the Olympics.]
[Dance troup Mixology posed in front of ice scuptures at the park's entrance.]
[Naturally, there was plenty of media presence, such as Julie Mintenko, reporter and weekend anchor of Global TV.]
[Reporter for the CBC]
[Reporter for First Nations Radio]
[The main MC for the event]
[The Heritage Chinese Language School Lion Dance Troupe combined the Olympics and New Year's]

[Mixology Dance Theatre joyously danced many of the Olympic sports. They actually seemed to be having fun, and were happy to be there.]

[This man was introduced as an incredible fiddler, but they didn't let him play.]
[Sponsors' tents]
[Lastiwka Ukrainian Choir & Orchestra]

[The Saskatoon Children's Choir]
[Getting the audience revved.]
[Coca-Cola is a sponsor, and they presented a very loud and annoying show by Dance Saskatchewan Inc. that included "local athletes, Olympians and Paralympians, and performers." Essentially it was a 20 minute Coke commercial at top volume, geared specifically to children. Coke flags, balloons, and small bottles of the beverage were given out with fake smiles from people in the audience paid to be there. Yes, I was not only cynical about this, but it depressed/oppressed me. It was just so shrill I had a headache when it was over. They seemed to be trying to get a "Stomp" vibe going, and most of the audience liked it, but not everyone is conscious of how media is used.]

[The second sponsor was RBC. Over more blaring rap and disco ("Everybody dance now!"), the MC, Graham, shouted at the audience to rev them, while artist Fritz Branshat used his hands to paint a picture as the canvas rotated. The audience could not tell what it was going to be until it was completed. The finished painting was donated to the city; as this is a traveling show, the same has been true in every town in which they perform. You can find videos of this on YouTube, and as it's completely planned out, step-by-step, so it won't matter what city you watch, it's the same.]

[An RBC spokesperson talks to promote a product, making the presentation even more disengenuous)]
[Buffalo Boy Productions dancers, who are members of Lakota.]

[The path for the torch is lined with the University of Saskatchewan sports teams, the Huskies.]
[Jacqueline Lavalle, athletic coach for Oskayak High School and the University of Saskatchewan, carries the torch into the park. She is a member of the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame for her varsity sports career, which earned her the honor.]
[The podium is lit]
[After the podium is lit, the torch is extinguished.]
[Jacqueline Lavalle, Saskatoon Olympic Relay Chair Jill Cope, Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison, Member of Parliament Miela Schlekewy, and another MP whose name I did not catch.]
[University of Saskatchewan Greystone Singers lead everyone in "O Canada."]

[Mayor Atchison is given a plaque by MP Schlekewy for hosting the ceremony. He certainly won't be getting one from the people of the city who are outraged that Mayor "Atch-hole" is closing a beloved free, long-time art gallery, the Mendel, and building another one in a crowded area where parking will be hard to find (as opposed to a free lot at the Mendel). This is in direct opposition to the will of the people. He must be taking lessons from ilegally three-term New York Mayor Bloomberg.]
[Jill Cope and Mayor Atchison grap a photo op]
[Reprentatives of Ukranian descent.]
[A teen in the audience with flag decals on her cheeks; this is one of my favorite photos of the day.]
[The Spidey family]
[Andrea Menard is an internationally-known Metis jazz singer. Here, she sang a single capella number, which was of a religious bent.]
[Metis singer Christal Pederson did a touching a capella version of "Red River Valley," which included the original "half breed" lyrics.]
[Christal Pederson joined Scott Duffee for some jigging]
[Police peacefully corral the protesters]
[Emo protesters]
[There were a couple of mascots walking around]
[Children sign the ice sculptures while a flag-carrier walks by]
[Nine port-a-potties for thousands of people; made me think of Woodstock. Fortunately, I didn't need to use them.]

For many more of my Olympics Torch photos:

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