I’m staring at a blank computer screen, wondering where the last two days went. It’s a blur. We did 13 welcoming ceremonies for more than 20 countries, with Canada as the last country on Wednesday, and USA wrapping things up last night.
The ceremonies took place in the village plaza, which is in the international zone, an open area just inside security with a few shops and a cafe. If the athletes village were a 19th century victorian home, security would be the front door/hallway, and the international zone would be the drawing room.
The ceremonies were neatly scripted but pretty casual at the same time. A group of aboriginal drummers/singers from the four host First Nations kicked things off. Then Laura Vandervoort was introduced as host/emcee. Next came a video welcoming the delegations to BC, followed by the flag crew marching in, led by John the Mountie. Then it was my turn to deliver a short welcome speech and exchange gifts with the Chefs de Mission. Flags were raised, national anthems played, and then it was time to dance.
DJ + more drummers + egg shakers = dancing, some of it rather vigorous. The Mexicans were easily the most footloose, no contest. The U.S. cut it up pretty good. But every country got into the act at least a little, thanks in part to the energy of the performers and volunteers and especially that of Dawn the producer. She could coax dance moves from a snowman. She’s the person at a wedding who will to find you and drag you onto the dance floor no matter how hard you protest. You’re terrified of her, yet thankful she’s there to help you have a good time.
I enjoyed some of the smaller, less boisterous ceremonies as well. Romania had a single athlete on hand, a young female skier, who was with her coach, parents, and chef de Mission. Laura invited them all onstage, and we made it a more intimate affair. I also particularly enjoyed greeting the Chef de Mission from Kazakhstan. A really gracious guy. And he gave me a dombra. The man knows how to make a good first impression.
So it was a bit of a whirlwind, but the volunteers, staff, and performers made it so easy to step in and fill my role. I’m sure Marni would say the same thing. It just reminds me again that there’s no place quite like the Paralympics. I wish everyone could experience it.