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Standard Deviations: Olympic Opening Ceremony like a bad acid trip

By Mark Saal - | Aug 7, 2016

I’ve never taken hallucinogens.

Never tried mushrooms, or LSD, or peyote, or PCP. But every other year, I get to experience what it’s like.

In other words: If this is an acid flashback, it must be time for the Olympic Opening Ceremony again.

Every two years, reluctant residents in some lucky city throw out a welcome mat to the world for the summer or winter Olympics. And to kick off these competitions, a traditionally trippy opening ceremony mashes together some of the weirdest imagery this side of the Beatles’ animated “Yellow Submarine” movie come-to-life.

RELATED: Opening Ceremony delivers a simple but spirited welcome

Friday night, the mostly bizarre Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A few random thoughts about this festive biennial march down the proverbial rabbit hole:


Face it. The Opening Ceremony is waaaaaay too long. For all the complaining and joking about the length and pacing of the Academy Awards, an Olympic Opening Ceremony makes the Oscars look like a six-second Vine video.

Frankly, until this year, I’d never even seen the U.S. athletes enter an Olympic stadium because I always lost interest and tuned out hours before they got to the latter part of the alphabetical parade of countries. But thanks to the Portuguese language, this time around “Estados Unidos da America” made a refreshingly early appearance.


There was a downside to the U.S. entering the stadium so early: NBC worried that American viewers might lose interest once their team went by. To combat that, the remainder of the evening cameras would routinely cut to fresh-faced U.S. team members gathered in small groups and chanting “USA! USA!” like they were at a Donald Trump political rally.


The real monkey wrench thrown into an otherwise fast-paced ceremony is this Parade of Nations procession. Could there possibly be a longer, more drawn-out way to get 12,000 international athletes into a stadium? For a bunch of jocks who supposedly embody the Olympics’ Latin motto of “Citius, Altius, Fortius” — “Faster, Higher, Stronger anti-blood-doping measures” — they sure are poky entering a room.

If I were brought in to direct the Olympic Opening Ceremony (odds of that actually happening: roughly 900-trillion-to-1), I’d literally race those athletes into the stadium. All at once. In one big mob. It would look so incredibly cool, plus it would get the “Parade of Nations” over faster than you could say, “Let’s see what else is on TV tonig– Hey! ‘Family Feud!'”

Of course, short of this “Stampede of Nations” idea, at the very least I’d enact a 10-second rule. Any nation that couldn’t get all its athletes into the stadium in under 10 seconds would be pre-emptively stripped of all medals won at that Olympiad.

Granted, this is going to give smaller Olympic teams like Somolia (two athletes competing) and Tuvalu (one athlete) an advantage over larger contingents like the United States (552 athletes) and Brazil (469 athletes). But perhaps this would level the playing field in the medal count.


Is it just me, or did the aerial shots of the Parade of Nations look vaguely like the female reproductive system? I could swear the way the athletes came in and separated in those two curving paths at the other end of the stadium that it looked just like a colorful march up the fallopian tubes. (And by the way, any of you perverts who were complaining about the sexual nature of the original Trump-Pence logo better have my back on this one.)


While most of the athletes using their smartphones were taking video and selfies, I’m pretty sure I saw more than a few of the nerdier competitors playing Pokemon Go during the ceremony. Most likely the equestrian “athletes.” Or possibly the folks in badminton, rhythmic gymnastics or synchronized swimming.


The one thing I do love about the Parade of Nations is I always learn something new about our geopolitical world. This year’s take-home lesson? The world is dangerously close to running out of names for countries.

What else are we to think when you have four separate states named Guinea participating in this year’s Summer Olympics — Papua New Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and just regular old Guinea?


And while we’re on the topic of country names, this year there are no fewer than seven “Stans” in the Olympics: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. If I were to start my own country, I’d be tempted to call it Stanistan.


Hey, how ’bout that flag-bearer for Tonga? Shirtless and bemuscled, he looked like he’d been oiled up more than a marine animal at an Exxon Valdez spill. And the way NBC commentators Meredith Vieira and Hoda Kotb were carrying on about the guy, I thought Matt Lauer was going to have to turn the garden hose on them.

Hmmm, Matt Lauer using a large neon garden hose to soak Meredith Vieira and Hoda Kotb as they fight over a shirtless, slippery Tongan.

Somebody might want to jot down that idea for the next Opening Ceremony.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SEMarkSaal.


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