Canadian identities at the 2010 Vancouver games
For the first time, the Canadian aboriginal people hosted an Olympic Games event. The 2010 winter Olympics was held in their land. To many of them, this was an opportunity of a life time to educate the world about their culture and expose their real nature to the world so that the stereotypes people have held about them would stop. To others it was an opportunity to increase the employment rate for the aboriginal people in Canada since for a long time now they have been neglected by the government. Despite all these concerns a group of the aboriginal people had a contrary opinion as to whether the games should be hosted by the native. The opening ceremony was held on the 12th of February 2010 from 6pm PST. The venue for the event was at the BC place stadium in the city of Vancouver.
To begin with, first there is need for an understanding of the relationship between the aboriginal people and the non aboriginal people of Canada. There exist a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions about the aboriginal people and these stereotypes are propagated mainly through the media especially in cartoons. To try and avoid these stereotypes, the event was the perfect opportunity for the aboriginals to show case who they really are and that they are no different from the other Canadian citizens.
In Vancouver, there is land dispute between the government and the Native Indians. It is mainly considered as a stolen land because the government is still yet to get into treaties with the aboriginals. In as much as the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver meant a lot for the aboriginals, the main worry was that this event would open doors for more foreign investment translating in the government failing to honor the wishes of the aboriginals.
Despite this feeling and excitement created by the event to the aboriginal people, the opening ceremony did not entirely turn in appreciation of the culture of the aboriginal people. In fact some critics say that this ceremony was the ‘whitest opening ceremony ever’ (Wallace). Of course there were a few show casing of the aboriginal culture (Kaufman). For instance there was a nice dance performance from the Indians and a few other appearances (CTV). The display was good according to me. The dancers who were dressed as Indians showed a great performance but still there were numerous aspect of this ceremony that leaned more towards the Canadian white citizens than the people who truly hosted the event, the aboriginals (CTV). The ceremony turned out to prove the racial hierarchies that exist in Canada and further prove that the aboriginals are still a marginalized group in their country. This marginalization for a long time has been reflected in issues such as employment, and access to facilities such as schools and hospitals.
The first instance that was just not right according the theme of the event and the ceremony is when the Olympic flag came out. It was surprising to see not a single aboriginal among the people carrying the flag (CTV). At least there should have been one person from the group to join the others in carrying the flag. To make matters even worse, there was not a single aboriginal when the torch was being unveiled (CTV). It was an all white Canadian heroes who casted both of these important activities in the opening ceremony. There is nothing wrong with having Canadian heroes carry the flag and be the final torch bearers, but this was supposed to reflect the underlying theme of the event (Parry). This event meant a lot to the aboriginals because to them it was an opportunity to come out of discrimination and let the whole world know that they are normal people.
During the bidding process, the idea that gave Vancouver the most points over its close rivals was the fact that the city boast of diversity in culture. It is known to have the highest rate of inter-racial marriages that any other city in the whole of North America. This is the main reason why such concerns of misrepresentation of the aboriginal really matter. Ten years ago during the bidding process, the city of Vancouver was considered by many as a gateway to Asia. This particular concept was completely disregarded during the opening ceremony of the event. There was absolutely no representation of the diversity in culture of the City (Thompson).
This therefore means that the ceremony did not symbolize a respectful relationship between the different and diverse cultural groups who live in Vancouver. Rather people may view it as another chance to reinforce the existing racial hierarchies in Canada. The significance of making the ceremony an all white thing is because the white population of Canada represents a picture of how the country should be. Demographic factors such as literacy level, life expectancy, employment rate, and the general status in the society are all high in white Canadians as compared to the natives Asians and the aboriginal. Having a less modernized picture of a developed nation in such an important global event would not go well with the government. It is obviously clear that since the white man landed in Canada, they created a situation where the aboriginals totally depended on them. This relationship has never stopped because until today, the aboriginals are discriminated upon. They constantly engage in a fight for justice in a land in which archeological evidence prove that they were the original occupants.
Somebody may argue that white Canadians constitute the true picture of Canada because they are the majority, but Canada and Vancouver in this case has rich multicultural diffusion. The languages are several, the people come from different parts of the world but the majority of immigrants are from Asia. This richness was lacking in the ceremony. The manner in which the Indian natives planned to benefit from this event could not be clearly seen because of being overshadowed by the common culture of white Canadians. This event was meant to be a breakthrough for the aboriginals in various aspects of their position in the Canadian society including being respected and treated with dignity by other non aboriginals. But in contrast, this aspect of the way they relate to other non aboriginals was not honored in the opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics Games did not display the cultural diversity that exists in the city. But rather it was another avenue to show the racial hierarchies existing in the country. For a long time now the relationship between the aboriginals and the white Canadians has not been a respectful one because of the difference in status. To any non Canadian who had interest of seeing the diversity in culture of Vancouver and to erase some of the stereotypes in their minds about the Indians, this ceremony would not serve that purpose. Because from the ceremony, it would still be clear that the aboriginals are an oppressed minority and the social injustices against them are still going on.
Friesen, Paul. “Opening Ceremony timeline. 13 2 2010. 22 6 2011
Kaufman, Michelle. “Winter Olympics opening ceremony dedicated to Georgian luger
killed.” Miami Herald (2010).
Parry, Chris. Vancouver Olympic opening ceremony: Wayne Gretzky lights cauldron. 14
2 2010. 22 6 2011 <http://www.vancouversun.com/Vancouver+Olympic+opening+ceremony+Wayne+Gretzky+lights+cauldron/2558137/story.html>.
Thompson, Adam. Death Casts Pall Over Olympics. 17 2 2010. 22 6 2011
Wallace, Kathie. Our Canadian Identity. 30 1 2010. 22 6 2011
XXI Olympic Winter Games 5-Disc DVD Box Set. Dir. CTV. 2010.