February 27, 2006
Ciao Torino, Grazie!
By BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver
When they turned off the gas that powered the Olympic flame at Torino's Stadio Olimpico last night, the 57-metre cauldron went dark except for a small flicker that remained for a minute or two.
The theme of the night was Carnevale Italiano and when the giant confetti bombs exploded at the climax, they rained paper circles printed with Torino's Passion Lives Here slogan everywhere. Someone's gotta clean this up sometime and it's not going to be an easy job. Just like the Games themselves.
That the flame didn't want to fully extinguish on cue was also a tad ironic for a Games that almost didn't want to start. They were marred by late construction and cost overruns and luckily rescued by the athletes themselves.
The show started with a mermaid, a clown and a circus. A carnival parade gave way to a procession of walking tarot cards. A marching band clad as clowns performed the Village People's YMCA for who knows what reason.
Athletes entered the stadium almost in random order, many wearing red clown noses. Long track speed skater Cindy Klassen carried Canada's flag after making five podium trips this month.
Fiat Cinquentos and Vespa scooters carried more clowns onto the stage, shaped like an Italian piazza. In the opening ceremony, a red Ferrari did a donut. This time, Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan did a donut on stage. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge took the Olympic flag from Torino's Mayor Sergio Chiamparino and inserted it in a custom-made holder attached to Sullivan's wheelchair.
Vancouver said hello to the world as Ben Heppner offered his operatic, bilingual O Canada and Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob extended the invitation to visit B.C. A voyageur on a snowmobile arrived. Performers formed Ilanaaq the Inukshuk out of fake ice blocks. The song wasn't "Sk8r Boi" but there were enough skaters, boarders and hockey players criss-crossing the stage at breakneck speed that it should've been. The eight-minutes didn't exactly rock the world of the Torinese, who already knew about Vancouver 2010 because of the log cabin above the Valdo Fusi parking lot.
Italians were there for Andrea Bocelli, as promised, and surprise closer Ricky Martin. The gee whiz moment? Acrobats snowboarding on air above a giant fan.
Rogge diplomatically called it a "magnificent" Olympics before tilting the spotlight on Vancouver where the youth of the world, plus dozens of world leaders and thousands of corporate schmoozers, will gather in 1,446 days at B.C. Place Stadium.