Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Donovan Bailey Headlines Starry Pan Am Opening Ceremony with CN Tower Stunt

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Donovan Bailey Headlines Starry Pan Am Opening Ceremony with CN Tower Stunt

Article excerpt

Bailey, Wiggins, Orr headline Pan Am opening


TORONTO - The Pan Am Games kicked off with an audacious flourish Friday, featuring a dazzling Cirque du Soleil production, a constellation of the country's most accomplished sports stars and the indelible visual of Canada's fastest man Donovan Bailey appearing to base-jump from Canada's tallest structure, the CN Tower.

It was not the only sky-reaching moment in a spare-no-spectacle opening ceremony that rivalled -- or topped -- the scale and sizzle of the memorable launch of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with an inclusive, youthfully skewed presentation that adorned its Cirque wizardry with a cavalcade of famous faces.

Organizers followed through on a promise to cater the presentation to a younger generation of viewers who might have anticipated a stodgier production.

The opening sequence found A Tribe Called Red's DJ Shub twisting vinyl on elevated turntables as 183 vibrantly clad dancers nodded to the city's diversity with a "Powwow Carnival" that sought to incorporate choreography from countless cultures.

Cirque's production featured at various points a fleet of BMX cyclists hurtling up and over ramps, a cheeky sequence of jukebox-based choreography set to a mashup of semi-recent pop tunes and abstractly edgy multimedia accompaniments beamed imagery that was by turns soothing or ripped from a dystopian-future sci-fi flick.

Even the mandatory elements of the ceremony were buffed to a slick finish.

The raising of the flag was accompanied by a performance from Grammy-winning Canadian pianist Chilly Gonzales (a collaborator of Daft Punk, Feist and Drake), while the parade of nations -- during which flag-bearer Mark Oldershaw led the biggest Canadian team ever assembled -- was marked by an insistently pounding EDM score paying tribute to the unique sound of each of the 41 competing countries, the names of which were beamed through gaudy LED screens.

And the entrance of the flags for the International Olympic Committee and Pan American Sports Organization was enlivened by the presence of a procession of Canuck public figures, including: political activist Loly Rico; former hockey stars Mark Messier and Bobby Orr; author Yann Martel; Hall of Fame right-hander Fergie Jenkins; astronaut Chris Hadfield; and decorated athletes Marnie McBean, Catriona Le May Doan, Rick Hansen and Chantal Petitclerc.

The vibrant core of the presentation, however, was provided by a frequently awe-inspiring presentation from Cirque du Soleil with an oblique plot intended to pay tribute to the region's First Nations population and its rich history.

Even without pondering the ornately costumed performance's thematic messaging, it was a sensory feast that encompassed 625 performers, 47 makeup artists, 530 costumes crafted from 600 metres of fabric and 1,000 laborious hours of rehearsal spread over 22 weeks. …

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