In the days following the Vancouver 2010 Olympics opening ceremony, many Quebecers have been asking: Where was the French? Where were we in the representation of Canada?
From a promising opening with snowboarder Johnny Lyall soaring through one of the Olympic circles, the ceremony quickly went from daring to predictable.
And with Canada's first gold medal since won by Quebec's Alexandre Bilodeau, the Olympic slight seems even more hard to reconcile.
In her piece What We Saw at the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, Linda Solomon of the Vancouver Observer wrote, "Perhaps above all else, the ceremony attempted to make a statement about the place of First Nations people in Canada. It celebrated four First Nations bands that chose to participate in the event and the First Nations culture in general, putting it up front and central in the production as if to suggest a level of visibility in the mainstream culture that is what Canada hopes for, rather than what Canada is."
But is that really what Canada hopes for? If so, a celebration of First Nation bands became a celebration of "Canada's brand." And while it was appropriate to highlight the First Nations, why not present the full spectrum of Canadian culture, which includes Quebec? There are so many ways that could have been done, through integrating song, dance, imagery. Instead, the presentation just reinforced the divide between Quebec and ROC – rest of Canada.
Each Olympics offers an amazing opportunity to showcase the host country – its natural treasures and cultural diversity. Consider the opening ceremony one giant advertisement that broadcasts worldwide: "Look at what we are doing, why you should come visit, invest in our businesses, our future."
Instead, the key message was anchored in the past. An emotional tribute to heritage and pageantry. That is simply too easy.
Why not build a bridge from the past to the present, celebrating the amazing contributions Canada is making today in the arts, in technology? Showcase Cirque de Soleil, CAE, SNC-Lavalin and tap into all the local creative talent in animation (as done by Steven Spielberg and Ubisoft). Imagine what they could have come up with together. What richness they could have brought to the story being told. A multi-layered, multi-cultural ceremony. Yes, build on tradition, but don't dwell there and limit the true reach and application of Canada today. Apparently Guy LaLiberté was approached at one point to participate, but was so turned off by the concept presented that he abruptly cut the meeting short.
And if being true to origins is so important, keep in mind that as with Canada, the official languages of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are French and English. And that IOC founder and father of the modern Olympics was Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a Frenchman.
Given the geographics, the politics and likely the concern of alienating viewers, perhaps it is not too surprising that the focus was English language and on the First Nation communities. Unfortunately, the single French musical number, "Un Peu Plus Haut, Un Peu Plus Loin," was sung off-key by Garou. And the one depiction of French culture was La Chasse-galerie, a folklore tale of innocent travelers selling their soul to the devil.
And though Vancouver Olympics organizers claim they tried to get high-profile Quebecois singers like Céline Dion, the question is when did they try, given it appears there were scheduling conflicts?
And why the lack of a Quebecer to light the torch? Certainly there is no lack of candidates: Wasn't three-time gold Olympic medal winner Gaétan Boucher once lauded as the golden boy Bilodeau is today?
The most publicized reactions included:
"I expected something else. What I saw at the opening ceremonies was a concert, which had been conceived, developed and presented in English - with a French song." – Graham Fraser, Federal Commissioner of Official Languages
"It was really pitiful. It shows that official bilingualism in Canada is a farce. It's only stated in theory to calm linguistic tides in Quebec, but the reality is it doesn't work." – Mario Beaulieu, President Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society
"They were beautiful, they were spectacular on television, but there should have been more French. I was disappointed there wasn't as much French as we were expecting, as we were told that there was going to be." – James Moore, Heritage Minister
Note you can follow Moore on Twitter. His latest tweet as of publication: "Prime Minister Harper just spoke with Alexandre Bilodeau & told him this was "a historic victory and that all Canadians are proud of him"
More from Twitter
What were your expectations of the opening ceremony? Do you think Quebec was fully represented? Here are some reactions to the perceived lack of French Canada representation.
mnacampbell Watching the Olympic broadcast with Anne-Marie over Skype. Good show—but she's not pleased with the language balance. #francais
Funkycrapet On a oublié l'autre langue officielle...RT @lactualite: Cérémonies d’ouverture: où est le français? http://bit.ly/6X3Anb #jo2010
thibaultjf Que j'en vois pas un basher que le Québec a été négligé dans les cérémonies... #JO2010
stephan75 Avant les JO étaient bilingue, désormais ça se déroule dans un pays bilingue et ça ne parle qu'anglais :) #JO2010
Blogstory Je crois que le Québec ne fait plus parti du Canada!!! En tk pas à cette ceremonie des #JO2010
For more information:
Cérémonies d’ouverture: où est le français?
Le français aussi rare que la neige à Vancouver
French language an afterthought at Games, Quebec critics charge
Heritage minister 'disappointed' by lack of French at Olympic opening
Canada's French-English strife flares at Olympics
Vancouver 2010: Opening ceremony: Slideshow