The Tyee — Fill Your Opening Ceremony with Arts, then Cut Them

From “The Tyee” article by Mark Lieren-Young. An excellent opinion piece about the current state-of-affairs.

As k.d. lang mesmerized the world with her magical rendition of “Hallelujah,” I couldn’t shake the image of Gordon Campbell as the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, hearing the joyous carols from Whoville, his heart growing ten sizes as Leonard Cohen’s lyrics soared to the roof of BC’s giant marshmallow tied to a kitchen chair.

By the time the Alberta Ballet left the stage, WO Mitchell had been quoted, Ashley MacIsaac stopped fiddling, the spirit bear puppet took its bow, the First Nations dancers finally dropped from exhaustion and Shane Koyczan slammed out his last syllable about zippers and zeds, I hoped our Premier would realize what he’d been waving his flag for all month long, what was prompting this epic outpouring of hoser pride from Sea to Sea to Sea and why all those hearts around the world were glowing.

All the singing, dancing, drumming, pretty costumes, exotic designs and fancy words being intoned on the loudspeaker by Donald Sutherland is what government funding bodies call “arts and culture.” And that would be the part of the provincial budget the Liberal Government recently decided to brutalize. Ninety per cent cuts? That’s not “belt-tightening” — that’s premeditated murder by strangulation.

Artists came through

The next time a Liberal MLA — or anyone — goes on a rant about the value of arts and culture, skip the stats about how the arts return $1.30 to the economy for every government dollar invested. Don’t mention the fact that culture creation is genuinely green. Don’t bother pointing out that pretty much every other industry in Canada has some sort or subsidy, incentive or tax break attached to it. And forget the reality that if our galleries, museums and theatres start to close, our tourism industry will be about as inviting as a Stephen Harper smile. Ask them what Canada decided to show off when millions of people tuned in from around the world to find out what our country was all about.

Unless I missed something, there were no spectacular shots of our highways, no visits to mills or mines — and, with all due respect to our Greatest Canadian, Tommy Douglas, there wasn’t any footage of someone on the Olympic stage receiving affordable health care.

The Canadian heroes chosen to share the world stage with our Olympic athletes weren’t our politicians, lawyers, or civil servants and our military presence consisted of General Romeo Dallaire, who was introduced as an author. Oh, right, they also threw in an astronaut to represent non-artsy Canadians.

For the next few weeks we’re not showing the world our banks, our office towers, or our tar sands — we’re pointing at inukshuks.

If you took all the arts and culture out of the opening ceremonies — that would include the choreographed torch fun run as the hydraulics performed their scene from Spinal Tap — all you’ve got left from the scheduled event are a couple of political speeches, a thanks from VANOC, the athletes entering — without music — wearing non-distinctive, undesigned uniforms, and Wayne Gretzky in the getaway truck. I’m sure NBC would have loved that.

The Tyee — Fill Your Opening Ceremony with Arts, then Cut Them

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