The Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics are officially open! We break down the Opening Ceremony, including our takes on the performances, the country uniforms and Andrew Parsons’ impassioned speech. Get ready for Paralympic fun!
This show does cost money to produce, and while our listeners have been extremely generous in supporting us through the Kickstarter campaign that got us to Beijing and also through Patreon patronage, we’re coming up on 2 ½ years until another Olympics, so to celebrate the Lunar New Year, we’re asking for donations of at least $8 — in China the number 8 is a lucky number symbolizing good fortune — to help us get through to Paris 2024. Go to flamealivepod.com/support to donate.
Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
Note: While we make efforts to ensure the accuracy of this transcript, please know that it is machine-generated and likely contains errors. Please use the audio file as the record of note.
Beijing 2022: Paralympics – Day 1
[00:00:00] Jill: Ni hao fans of TKFLASTAN and welcome to day one coverage of the Beijing 2022 Paralympics on Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. I am your host, Jill Jaracz, and through the plexiglass, I see my lovely co-host Alison Brown. Alison, ni hao, how are you?
[00:00:23] Alison: Ni hao, I can’t feel my toes.You told me it was cold and it’s actually warmer than what you experienced. And I can’t feel my toes.
[00:00:37] Jill: Yeah. And I will say it wasn’t so bad out there tonight.
[00:00:41] Alison: I’m seriously concerned that when I take my socks off, back at the hotel, my toes are not going to be the correct color.
[00:00:49] Jill: They might not, it might warm up while you’re in here.
So we were at the Opening Ceremonies tonight in the Bird’s Nest, and we are back in the Main Media Center. This is very disconcerting to me because it should be the magical hour of vacuuming. And there is no vacuuming. I have seen the cleaning ladies and I saw one with the broom and dustpan, and I don’t like it when they broom and dustpan the floor and the media center was kind of full this afternoon. So I would think they would be vacuuming, but maybe they were, maybe really cleared out and they got all their vacuuming done while we were at ceremonies.
[00:01:21] Alison: It is a little earlier than the magical hour.
[00:01:24] Jill: True.
[00:01:24] Alison: We are a hair early and yes, I think they took advantage of the empty room and took care of such things because there are a few people who trickled back in like us after the ceremonies. So we’ll, we’ll see.
[00:01:38] Jill: Our segment that we always have for games times show. What officiating a volunteer job would you like to do? No officiating today, so what volunteer job?
[00:01:47] Alison: Right, and being here, I’m seeing so many, so many more volunteers.
[00:01:51] Jill: Yes.
[00:01:52] Alison: You know, and first of all, I want to say they are amazing. They are just the sweetest kids, most of them. I just want to take them home. I would, rather than which I want to do, I want to tell a story of, I was FaceTiming my daughter yesterday from the media center and walking around and showing her where we’re working and wherever I stopped, if there were volunteers, they stopped what they were doing and they waved at the computer camera to her. She waved back. And I said to you later on, all 19 year old girls, everywhere in the world are the same. So rather than be the actual volunteer, I think I’m all of these volunteers’ moms.
Jill: They could very well be. You were very already, the maternal side is out.
Alison: I can’t help
[00:02:48] Jill: And I’m not going to say it, but you know, you’re calling 19 year olds kids. I think that’s our age.
[00:02:50] Alison: I know that’s fair enough. And then today we were here in the media center and a man who was probably roughly our age, I said something to him. He was concerned about getting dinner and I said, oh, go eat an orange off the table. You’ll be okay. And he said, are you my mother? I was like, well, I have been known to mother our guests and mother our listeners, mother the volunteers. So why not mother the rest of the media when I show up in Beijing?
[00:03:22] Jill: There you go.
[00:03:23] Alison: So did you see a volunteer job today that, that interested you?
[00:03:28] Jill: Oh, I want to be one of those inline skating Shuey Rhon Rhons. Just sign me up for that. I loved the fact that they were out there and the ceremony, we will get to it, but Shuey Rhon Rhon? I am in, just head over heels about this mascot.
[00:03:44] Alison: I was very concerned that there were going head over heels. That was some serious inline skating they were showing out there.
[00:03:51] Jill: And Shuey is a little top heavy too. He’s got a huge lantern head.
[00:03:57] Alison: But it does have more limb action than Bing Dwen Dwen.
[00:04:00] Jill: That is also very true. He’s a little bit more mobile.
[00:04:08] Alison: Well, one of our listeners posted in the Facebook group that I believe she preferred the lantern kid to the frozen panda. So I have to say, I do prefer the mobility of the little lantern kid.
[00:04:21] Jill: And I am hoping that Shuey does make an appearance in the media center at some point, so that we can meet it in person and take pictures.
During Tokyo 2020, we did have a segment called feed beefs. I know it’s universally loved among our listeners. Right, right. So I understand we have some feed beefs already.
[00:04:41] Alison: Really?
[00:04:41] Jill: Yes.
[00:04:42] Alison: Oh my goodness.
[00:04:43] Jill: Yes. Listener Dan was on Twitter with me. And he said they cut to commercial when Greece walked in. Because we were talking about how they did the blue right in the uniform. So yeah, they did a few cut to commercials at inopportune moments. So they’d cut part of the Parade of Nations out and they also cut when the Paralympic flag came in. And they would never do that for the Olympic flag. You got to see the whole procession. But for that one, Dan said they actually returned from commercial exactly where they left off. So that’s kind of interesting that they did that. And then behind a little bit and Dan thought that they would get the flag flick. I thought we were going to get a second flag.We will get to the flag flicks, but then they focus the camera on the band, which the band playing was really, really cool.
[00:05:37] Alison: Yes.
[00:05:37] Jill: So we will get to all that, but I wanted to say feed beefs, they might be back. We’ll see if you have feed beef.
[00:05:45] Alison: Yeah, because we’re not seeing feeds really.
[00:05:48] Jill: So we would love to know what the coverage of the Winter Games is like compared to the Summer Games. For sure. And I know it’s going to be better than Pyeongchang.
[00:05:59] Alison: Yes.
[00:05:59] Jill: Because they will have improved their coverage, but still we want us, we want to know how the Paralympics compared to the Olympics.
All right. We want to take a quick break to talk about our red envelope campaign. This show does cost money to produce, and although you have been extremely generous in supporting us through our Kickstarter campaign that got us both here to Beijing and through Patreon patronage, and thank you to the patrons who have signed up during the Olympics and Paralympics.We’ve had several and that just warms our little hearts but we are coming up on two and a half years until another games. So to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which has been going on here in Beijing, we are asking for donations of at least $8, which eight is a lucky number here, symbolizing good fortune. And that will, your donations will help us get us through to Paris 2024. Go to flamealivepod.com/support to donate.
All right. Opening Ceremony, your first Opening Ceremony. What did you think?
[00:07:00] Alison: I can’t feel my toes.
[00:07:02] Jill: Okay. Beyond the toes. Oh, how are your emotions?
[00:07:06] Alison: Strangely enough I felt less being there in person and I think it was because I was dealing with the physicality of it. Where am I supposed to look? I can’t feel my toes. The fireworks are really loud, you know, all that sensory stuff that you don’t get at home and on television. So I was almost less in touch with my emotions about it because I was dealing with processing what was happening.
[00:07:43] Jill: Interesting. Well, we had a short show again, it was about 90 minutes long to, to deal with the cold. And I got to say, I do like the short shows.
[00:07:54] Alison: I didn’t feel like this was very cohesive though. I didn’t feel like there was a, there was no snowflake theme, for example.
[00:08:03] Jill: Yeah, that was the interesting thing. Because the snowflake theme was really heavy in the Olympic games and they had, what would I call the snow flame. Which is the country placards from the parade of nations come together. They form a snowflake and the torch gets put in the middle. And that is supposed to be your cauldron people, supposed to be your cauldron, not a cauldron. It’s a torch. It’s not a good look, but that was a good theme for the Olympics. And you knew that they would repeat the snow flame for the Paralympics, but it really, like you say, it just kind of showed up.
[00:08:43] Alison: The snowflakes that they use for the countries are much shinier in person. They’re much, much more vibrant. Actually, everything is much more vibrant in person, reds, especially. Though these lit up, but you couldn’t see it on camera. When we were looking at the monitors, I thought it was really hard to tell that the dresses lit up and just the snowflake didn’t seem to have any purpose. It’s just sort of, like you said, came out of nowhere and oh yeah. Don’t you remember? We did this two weeks ago or now almost four weeks ago. We put our little birthday candle in the middle of our snowflake and we’re going to do it again.
[00:09:25] Jill: They did a whole dance number with the snow, with the emblems, and then that all tied together and here it was a lot of, hey, we’re going to do this number with a whole bunch of impaired people and non-impaired people to show how disability does not disable you. You can do a whole lot of stuff. And so they had all these numbers and that was kind of the connecting theme, but it didn’t connect with the flame.
[00:09:54] Alison: You know, I think about how Tokyo did that beautiful, beautiful story of the one winged airplane, and did the same idea, but actually had a point to it, actually had a theme, we actually had…
And maybe that’s why my emotions fell flat because there wasn’t anything to connect with in this. There wasn’t a character. Yes. We had some cute kids running around, but there was nothing to hook me.
[00:10:23] Jill: Right, right. And there was supposed to be a theme to this. The theme was improve, go beyond, together.
Three concepts: improve comma, go beyond comma together.
[00:10:36] Alison: You shouldn’t have to explain the theme that hard.
[00:10:40] Jill: I shouldn’t, but I have to
[00:10:42] Alison: You know, now Olympics, it was a snowflake. In Tokyo, it was the one winged airplane. Your theme shouldn’t have to get explained.
[00:10:50] Jill: I’m with ya. I’m with ya, but all right. You got to see the pre-show.
[00:10:55] Alison: Which was, I think the pre-show was better than the show.
[00:11:00] Jill: Interesting.
[00:11:01] Alison: Yeah, the pre-show was this lovely concert for lack of a better word with a visually impaired choir and orchestra. And they had these, they started with these four women who were sort of dressed like Disney princesses did this beautiful song, and then they had the children’s choir come out and they had tambourines. So you knew we were in for it. And they sang and that was probably the most emotional part of the evening for me.
[00:11:30] Jill: Interesting. That’s really interesting. And then, yeah, they played a lot of traditional songs after that and it was really cool. It was really cool. And there was a trio, there was a man talking in Chinese and a woman talking in English and a sign language interpreter to get you excited. They were kind of the crowd warmer uppers. And so they would warm you up and just tell you to give us your warmest smiles and your most generous applause and that kind of thing. And it’s funny because there was more of a crowd. You noticed how many spectators there were, and there really were in like half of the stadium. They must have been told instructions that you will be waving the flags that are in your bag because there was not very much cheering, especially for the president and at the Olympic ceremonies, he got a roar from the crowd.
[00:12:24] Alison: There was no roaring for anybody. I mean, even when the Chinese team came in, it was subdued.
[00:12:29] Jill: Yeah. There was a bit of one and people… There was more enthusiasm, but that quickly went away. It was really, really interesting. I was very surprised because I thought, well, with more spectators, we’ll have more noise. And we just, we did not.
[00:12:43] Alison: It was quiet. And even before we started, you know, I think about being in an American stadium in a similar situation, people weren’t even talking amongst themselves.
For the number of people, it was like being in a cathedral in a way. It was very, very quiet, not in an uninterested way, but just like we were told to be quiet. Which maybe they were prior, we don’t know what the crowd is told, the spectators rather, when they’re brought in because we have no contact with them.
[00:13:17] Jill: Right. It’s almost like we were hearing impaired except for, we could hear the music and speeches. But that’s what I kind of felt like part way through. It was just like, there’s no other noise, but you see everything.
[00:13:29] Alison: It’s true. It was very, very quiet. And even when the Chinese national anthem was performed, I didn’t hear a lot of singing along.
[00:13:41] Jill: No
[00:13:42] Alison: Which I thought was striking because it seemed like in the Olympics, everyone who was there. At least it sounded that way on television. Was that true?
[00:13:53] Jill: Yes.
[00:13:54] Alison: So it’s very, very quiet.
[00:13:57] Jill: Yeah. So it was very curious. I will say this ceremonies was, it looked like it had a smaller budget because everything was projection mapping. There was not much that was extra stuff. And starting with the countdown, that was the “let’s show you the games that happened previously and what cities they were in.” In the Olympics, it was a block of ice or something that looked like a big block of ice, and they projected the games onto that. This was all on the floor and projection mapping. It looked cool.
[00:14:36] Alison: Right? Because it, they spun the globe and actually sort of traveled around to the different cities, and I thought that was a nice visual.
[00:14:43] Jill: Yeah. So it looks good. But if you wanted to compare the two or you knew what happened before, you’re like, oh, this missed out.
And then they had they had all the sports kind of represented by different athletes. The athletes this time did not come down the center ramp. They didn’t use the center ramp like they did before. And but they did put ski hills and things like that and ski obstructions, so that you can see athletes, quote, unquote athletes or performers, pretending to be athletes and maneuvering around.
And so it looks like you saw all the sports. Then they had the wheelchair curlers deliver a stone, and that triggered the countdown to the games. That was very cool. They got me, they got me a little bit, I will say that. So that was a lot of fun I thought and really good use of showing the different sports and a nice way to do the countdown. I like a good countdown.
[00:15:41] Alison: I wonder if not using the ramp was because of the athletes’ disabilities, you know, maneuvering down that, I mean, because it wasn’t like a handicap ramp. It was a steep.
[00:15:53] Jill: Good, good angle.
Then we had the opportunity for you to finally see a flag flick in person.
[00:15:59] Alison: Yes. The problem with this flag flack was that he flicked it and then he got tangled in it. So, I don’t know if it was just an ineffective flag flick. If this flag is larger than is normally used. So when he flicked, he could not manage his paso doble skirt as well as had been done. But it was very disappointing in person so far.
[00:16:26] Jill: This was not a good flag flick. I will say that. What did you think of the flag fan?
[00:16:31] Alison: I was surprised that it was so directed. You know, it is very narrowly focused. Though probably if you are in the stands behind the flag, you are getting a breeze.
[00:16:43] Jill: Oh, I’m sure.
[00:16:44] Alison: And that is highly uncomfortable, but then when the Paralympic flag went up, there seemed to be an issue with the fan because then the Chinese flag sorta went limp and the Paralympic flag is the only one that’s waving. Like it was not an effective use of the fan flag.
[00:17:04] Jill: No, but you know what they also did not do? They did not flick the Paralympic flag. Did you notice that?
[00:17:10] Alison: I did notice that
[00:17:11] Jill: And I thought, here we go again. Somebody needs to give a talking to the fact that we don’t flick just the Chinese flag. Maybe you think we do, but we don’t in this Games. Everybody gets a flag flick. Okay. And then when I saw the fan not doing so well while the Paralympic flag went up, I said, there you go. That’s what you get for not flicking. Hmm. And so both flags got turned off for a while and then somebody must have fixed something. Because then they were turned back on.
[00:17:39] Alison: Someone had mentioned during the Olympic opening ceremonies that they could hear the fan.
[00:17:45] Jill: That was me. Could you hear the fan in the stadium?
[00:17:50] Alison: Barely. I mean, it had to be completely quiet. It was, there were moments of complete silence, but it really had to be quiet to hear it and I had to be listening for it.
[00:18:00] Jill: Oh, okay. It got to be like white noise, but every once in a while I would just like, oh, there it is still not a fan
[00:18:06] Alison: I thought somebody could hear that on the TV broadcast.
[00:18:10] Jill: Maybe, I can’t remember.
[00:18:12] Alison: Maybe it was you complaining about it. We have a lot of issues with it. The handling of flags. Apparently.
[00:18:19] Jill: We do because there is a cool way to do it and they have shown us a very cool way, but it’s not democratic. Hmm. Going to get myself in trouble.
[00:18:35] Alison: I know. Well, glad that’s you saying that because usually it’s me.
[00:18:39] Jill: We had a lot of different choirs.
[00:18:41] Alison: We did. I was confused.
[00:18:44] Jill: When they brought out the Chinese flag and sang the Chinese Anthem, we had a choir of visually impaired singers and then a choir that signed the anthem as well. That was very cool.
[00:18:54] Alison: Yes.
[00:18:55] Jill: I thought. When the Paralympic flag was out, we had a visually impaired wind ensemble play the anthem. That was pretty cool. Oh, you know what we forgot? Speaking of playing, when they were playing those folk songs in the pre-show. Well, it was the Russian type one?
[00:19:22] Alison: And we couldn’t get it. We all know this. We couldn’t remember when we were like Chinese folks are all
It’s the Hungarian dance.
[00:19:32] Jill: Oh, okay.
[00:19:34] Alison: Why they were playing and it was definitely a hooked on classics version. It got a little funky with itself there. I thought the signing was beautiful. And it seemed to be Chinese sign language.
[00:19:48] Jill: We, of course it would be.
[00:19:49] Alison: I realized that, but I mean, I have never seen other than ASL before. So that was, that was really lovely. It’s very broad. It’s much broader than ASL.
[00:20:01] Jill: Well, maybe it was also being performed. All right. Parade of athletes also featured,Shuey Rhon Rhon.
[00:20:10] Alison: Very heavily featured Shuey Rhon Rhon. Rollerskating Shuey Rhon Rhon, which this time was not Jill, but maybe another time. There was four of them and one of them would escort each team down that center aisle. I got concerned that Shuey Rhon Rhon was going to take a header because one of the Shuey Rhon Rhon, was getting funky with itself, started getting very elaborate in its skating. And I wanted to say to it, Shuey your head is big. Please don’t crush the athletes if you lose your balance,. But none of them did.
[00:20:59] Jill: No, they were fantastic. Amazing and so cute. Oh my gosh. And they were so cute and they were fun and they had the volunteers all around the aisle that the Paralympians walked down, just so excited.
They again had the blockers. The aisle blockers that I loved from the Olympics, but they didn’t do the same motion. I told you this before, because in the Olympics they would completely get off the track and around the field of play or around the performance field is a big black section of track. So in the Olympics, they would completely come off, be on the black section and be in a line. And in this they slid in line with the edge of the performers and just kind of doubled up with the performers and kept dancing.
[00:21:52] Alison: There was definite choreography to particular songs for the volunteers, but a few of the volunteers would go rogue and just do their own thing, but it was, and then they would fall back in line.
You know, it’s boring after a while to keep doing the same choreography. And a few of them were giving high fives to the athletes and trying to encourage them. So that was lovely because the crowd was very subdued. There was not a lot of cheering as the athletes came in. And what made it work worse we were in the press tribune and apparently no one in the press tribune claps for anything.
[00:22:31] Jill: No, because they’re there, they tend to be journalists. And so journalists are supposed to show neutrality. Except for Ukraine came in number four. And there was some actual cheering from the spectators. There was also clapping from the press tribune, not a ton, but there was, we heard definite clapping.
[00:22:51] Alison: Yes. And I assume that was our Ukranian.
[00:22:55] Jill: I assume. But there were, there were a few, yeah, there were, there was a handful clapping for Ukraine. That was interesting. And then of course the Chinese delegation also got a nice, warm welcome.
[00:23:09] Alison: The Chinese delegation, I think they just collected people on the street. It was twice the size of anybody else’s delegation. Now I realize there are three competitions sites. Most of the athletes from the other competition sites do not come down for Opening Ceremonies. Clearly everybody on the Chinese team was brought for this event, but they were so much larger that it was imbalanced.
[00:23:39] Jill: Oh, okay.
[00:23:40] Alison: It felt odd to me that it would be so different than everybody else.
[00:23:44] Jill: Interesting.
[00:23:45] Alison: Maybe some of the volunteers changed outfits and just came out. It was disconcertingly larger than everybody else’s.
[00:23:54] Jill: Speaking of uniforms. Well, you mentioned, you know, okay. So,
[00:23:59] Alison: oh, this is the best part. This is the best part of our opening ceremony shows where we talk, Joan Rivers,
[00:24:07] Jill: Rest in peace.
[00:24:08] Alison: Who are you wearing?
[00:24:11] Jill: So what do you got?
[00:24:13] Alison: Okay, so I have good interpretations of a flag and bad interpretations of a flag. And then we have a controversial interpretation of the flag because you and I disagree. So very good interpretation of colors and flags — Estonia with that difficult sort of dark blue, medium blue, white, lovely. Norway also. And then Romania again with difficult red, yellow, and the odds bluish gray, very nicely done.
[00:24:50] Jill: You know what was nice about that one is they use the yellow as the accent color. So the zipper was yellow and some —
[00:24:57] Alison: The hat.
[00:24:57] Jill: The hat, and some lines on the jacket. And it was very effective without being garish.
[00:25:05] Alison: Speaking of garish, we had France.
[00:25:08] Jill: You got to see that in person.
[00:25:10] Alison: Yeah. So it was the same uniform from the Olympics to the Paralympics, with the oddest shape of their tricolor. Were they trying to evenly cut a pizza into three sections.
Jill: Perhaps? Because it did look like a section of pizza or a very, a-line look coat.
Alison: It was awful. It was worse in person than it was on TV.
[00:25:32] Jill: But what you did not mind in person…
[00:25:36] Alison: Italy! They brought back the poncho. Which you do not like the poncho, do not like the ponchos and yet, if they did not have the red, white, and green ponchos, their uniforms would be blue, which they are underneath, which makes you mad when Italy wears blue.
[00:25:51] Jill: That does make me mad.
[00:25:52] Alison: So you are impossible to please for the Italians.
[00:25:56] Jill: I like the pizza box coat.
[00:25:59] Alison: Well, we’ll see if the pizza box coat comes back, the poncho is better in person because it has a sheen that reflects light.
[00:26:09] Jill: Looks like a shower curtain.
[00:26:11] Alison: You are insulting my people and our shower curtains.
[00:26:16] Jill: You should not mind an insult.
[00:26:19] Alison: Fair enough. But you know who I’m not insulting. Mexico.
[00:26:24] Jill: Oh, yes.
[00:26:25] Alison: They brought out the sombreros. They just went for it. I mean, they should’ve just had a mariachi costume on, they were just saying, you know what, we’re from Mexico. And we are not fooling around. We are wearing sombreros and they each had a different one.
[00:26:39] Jill: Yeah, it was cool. It was great.
[00:26:40] Alison: Really nicely done.
[00:26:41] Jill: And, you know, also props because they had to pack those.
[00:26:46] Alison: Maybe they fold nicely.
[00:26:48] Jill: They roll them up.
[00:26:51] Alison: Maybe they had a very special hatbox, a team hatbox
[00:26:55] Jill: I’m disappointed in Team GB.
[00:26:58] Alison: Team GB was my uniform of the Olympics, the opening ceremonies. That was my favorite with that very snazzy peacoat and Union Jack sweater and those very sharp shoes. And then these poor people got the blurg puffer coat, just beige on beige on beige.
[00:27:16] Jill: Yeah. It was really weird and kind of a blue and beige scarf.
[00:27:20] Alison: I wasn’t even in a nice blue, it was again like a beigey blue.
[00:27:24] Jill: Right, right. But who did do a good country sweater was Mongolia. That was nice. Mongolia across the chest. Nice decoration.
[00:27:36] Alison: Which was interesting because usually Mongolia goes with a very traditional, the traditional dress or traditional costume. And this was very modern and sharp looking.
[00:27:48] Jill: Yeah. Yeah. They looked really good. What else you got on country notes?
[00:27:52] Alison: Red looks so much better in person.
[00:27:55] Jill: Oh, interesting.
[00:27:57] Alison: For example, Austria, you didn’t like, because you didn’t like that they had the black with the red and the white
[00:28:03] Jill: But they did have a good pocket on the pants.
[00:28:05] Alison: They did have a good pocket and that red in person, because we had the monitor in front of us so we could see the difference, was so much sharper and cleaner and did not photograph well. And I noticed that with a lot of majority red uniforms.
[00:28:22] Jill: Interesting. I wonder if it’s something in the way the camera picks it up.
[00:28:27] Alison: Yeah. I never noticed how different red looks on camera than it does in person. All the red was better in person than how it looked on the screen.
[00:28:38] Jill: All right. So Parade of Nations segued into, we got a video for the We the 15 campaign. So I know in the US they have played this commercial a lot, but this was the extended version. And you know that when there is a video on the screen, that means something is happening on the stage that they got to move sets in. And this was moving in the set for the speeches. So they moved in a very nice, like ice looking podium with curves.
[00:29:07] Alison: It was supposed to have the shape of the Agitos. But look like it was ice. I thought that was a nice touch.
[00:29:15] Jill: Yeah, it did look very cool. So, the president of the Beijing Organizing Committee came out and spoke some words and then Andrew Parsons came out.
[00:29:25] Alison: And we were worried about what he was going to say. Because you knew he had to address what was happening with RPC and Belarus and obviously the invasion of Ukraine. And how was he going to address that and yet be appropriate for the opening ceremonies.
[00:29:45] Jill: Right. And the first chunk of his speech was obviously a rewrite.
[00:29:51] Alison: Yes.
[00:29:52] Jill: And it was very passionate. He came in hard and I wondered because I don’t really know what the news is here in China about the situation in Ukraine and what people know or don’t know or how they would react to what Andrew Parsons was saying, because he was very much, you know, we can not violate the Olympic Truce. This war is horrible and just very, very passionate
[00:30:21] Alison: And very frank.
[00:30:22] Jill: Yes, for what you would get from an opening speech from a, the head of the organization.
[00:30:28] Alison: And then he started talking about China.
[00:30:30] Jill: Well, it slipped into the pat speech, the written stuff, because you could tell that his passion kind of left and he did, he fell into the patter that you do when you give one of these speeches.
[00:30:40] Alison: Right. The volunteers are wonderful, the country has the beautiful facilities. Thank you so much for having us, and this is going to be great. It felt like two different speeches. Didn’t it?
[00:30:51] Jill: It really did.
[00:30:52] Alison: They clearly were written at two different times
[00:30:55] Jill: But it was interesting. I mean, he came in hard as Listener Dan said like he came in hard. It was great.
[00:31:02] Alison: As he’s done in the press conferences here, I mean, this was not a different Andrew Parsons than we’ve been seeing for the past 24 hours.
[00:31:10] Jill: No, which is it’s nice that he maintains character, but it’s also, I feel like that meant, that speech meant something versus ones that you usually hear that all. I mean, you could have inserted half of that speech to be what Thomas Bach said.
[00:31:29] Alison: Right
[00:31:29] Jill: So that, that livened up the evening, at least for me. Then the games were declared open by the President. So that then we saw a little bit of firework action, which was cool. Did you see the snowflake?
[00:31:43] Alison: I missed the snowflake. I saw the Agitos.
[00:31:46] Jill: That was at the end
[00:31:47] Alison: At the end, but I missed the snowflake, and the smiley face was at the end as well.
[00:31:51] Jill: Yes. So we had a quick little burst of fireworks. There was a purple snowflake and yes, we had, it was really windy in Beijing today. Really windy, stuff was blowing over. Flags were off. They’re just flying around off, half of all ripped off the little hooks.
So we, we wondered what the ceremony would be like, but it really calmed down. And it was clear but air wasn’t moving. So the smoke kind of really hung in the air. And the, I saw the tail end of the snowflake and was like, oh, because there were other fireworks all around it. So I think that snowflake lost its impact by being surrounded with other stuff.
[00:32:31] Alison: And did it get blown around a little bit?
[00:32:33] Jill: Yeah. maybe, but then partway through the next little bit, like, do we have like the world’s biggest fog machine in here?
[00:32:41] Alison: Which is so funny because it’s been so windy all day and then when they needed the wind to blow the flags and to move the smoke, it didn’t happen.
And speaking of flags. So right after they declared the games open, all the volunteers who had been standing beside, behind the speeches with all the country flags started waving the flags. I thought they, and they were standing so close together. I was very concerned that, you know, Azerbaijan was going to take out Norway with a flagpole. Sometimes I don’t, and I know they rehearse, they were rehearsals of everything. And yet I think in the moment, some of the volunteers get very enthusiastic when they’re waving that flag.
[00:33:32] Jill: I don’t know. Then we had our little performance bit or a segment. It wasn’t very long.
[00:33:38] Alison: And I didn’t understand what was happening, even though I read what it was supposed to be. I just, it didn’t connect in the moment.
[00:33:48] Jill: Well, okay. So this was like precious moments of life. And we had, again performers who had disabilities, some without disabilities. And we were an acting a lot of lighting the red lantern of life, happy family, moms waiting for the kids to come home, waiting for dad to come home.
The guy who came home well, I likened it to the war veteran who came home and surprised the kid. Because then I started crying. I don’t know why that just got me, that you’ll always get me on the dad coming home from service and surprising the kids, although that wasn’t quite what happened, but you know, it was the whole thing.
[00:34:30] Alison: I have to say of all the performers, the man that you’re speaking of, who walked on two prosthetic legs and he had, I’m not sure if they were sort of like walking sticks or, because they weren’t quite canes or crutches, but he had supports, had the most genuine emotion.
[00:34:48] Jill: Yeah. Maybe that’s what got me. So we had that. We had the Paralympic flag and anthem came in, but then they had this little segment, they called the smallest Agitos and it was basically, so they had put marker Agitos on their hands and kind of pressed it, did high fives a little bit and pressed the Agitos and passed it on to each other.
[00:35:10] Alison: Maybe that transferred better on television. In person, it didn’t look like anything.
[00:35:16] Jill: Because you really had to look at the monitor to see what they were passing and what they were doing. And it just wasn’t big enough and you have all the projection mapping going around them. And so you’re kind of wondering, oh, you look at the monitor going well, what’s going on with the projection mapping and it’s just kind of a mass of people.
[00:35:35] Alison: And then a little part of my brain went, you’re sharing germs. It’s COVID, don’t touch each other. Don’t share your a Agitos germs. Though it could work as a PSA for how easy it is to spread by touching one another.
[00:35:59] Jill: The segment was quickly over and they did all the Paralympic flag and oath, and that came in and then we had another segment called the Winter Paralympics Waltz.
And again, we had a video segment to introduce this and children created a smiley face, and then they kind of showed up on the projection mapping and we had another round of impaired and unimpaired performers together. So we had some around in a circle, around the outside edge of the stage, and then in the middle, there were a bunch of performers on some kind of wheelie chairs or wheelie layout benches.
[00:36:42] Alison: Yes. And then you had a whole series of ballroom dancers come in waltzing. And at one point the ballroom dancers were going counterclockwise. The wheelie kids were going clockwise and the projection mapping was coming from the outside in. And in person, as I was looking at it, I started to get nauseous.
[00:37:09] Jill: Oh really? Okay.
[00:37:09] Alison: I had a little motion sickness from the triple action there and I tried to look at it at the monitor and it was not nearly as disruptive on the monitor as it was in person. And I think it was just scope, that could be, that’d be projection mapping was my entire field of vision. And then the two countering circles of people moving. I didn’t know why they were there.
Jill: Yeah, I know. It was, it just felt like, again, here’s another, well, we’ll just do a number. Hey, look impaired it. Unimpaired people can dance together and be happy.
Alison: But they really weren’t dancing together. Because you had the, yes. Within the wheelie children group, there were hearing impaired and hearing children. So that on the edges, you had people who were signing to the hearing impaired children to get the signals. Whereas the hearing children were hearing the music and getting the counts and the signals from that. Love that idea, did not understand what the waltzing people were doing there.
[00:38:19] Jill: Just because that went with the music,
[00:38:22] Alison: I guess.
And again, they were wearing like black and red costumes. Why weren’t they wearing snowflake cloth costumes? I don’t know, just something as simple as that, to keep that snowflake theme within it, the costuming and color schemes and the colors on the projection map. It was so not cohesive. And I think that it’s kind of insulting to simply have the theme being able bodies and disabled bodies can perform together. I think we’re past that point.
[00:38:54] Jill: Yeah. You know, I would agree with you on that. There’s gotta be something just, you can’t just throw these two groups together and let us go. Ooh. Ah, look at that and then repeat it three or four times within a show because we get it.We already got it coming in that there’s togetherness. But it just, it did not work like you say, not cohesive.
[00:39:17] Alison: And I think about the craziness that they did in Tokyo with the magic bus and the story of the plane. And some of it was just so out there, but it was a story. It was a show. It wasn’t just let’s throw some people on the stage and say, oh, look like you were saying, you know, able-bodied, hearing and hearing impaired and visually impaired, they can do stuff. We’re at the Paralympics. We know they can do stuff.
[00:39:50] Jill: It’s almost as if they didn’t understand. I mean, it really made it feel like the Paralympics show was an afterthought.
[00:39:59] Alison: Oh yeah.
[00:40:01] Jill: Because the Olympic show was so cohesive and that lack of cohesiveness or almost lack of caring.
And I don’t want to say they didn’t care about putting on a good show. They did, but it’s not. It’s like they had a brainstorming meeting and they took the top four suggestions for segments and put them together in almost like channel three variety way, but not, it just didn’t work.
[00:40:31] Alison: And then you had the cauldronette 2.0l.
[00:40:34] Jill: Yes
[00:40:37] Alison: Which had no connection. I know if they had done the smiley face as the cauldronette, that would have made sense, because that was part of the show. There was never a snowflake.
[00:40:50] Jill: No, and they didn’t sing that snowflake song until they were playing it, getting us out of the stadium and that, again, just, it was lost. So then we, you know, the Paralympic oath and flag it up and it’s basically time for the flame. And the most exciting part of the flame was the fact that the backup flame was in our field of vision.
[00:41:14] Alison: And I did not know. I knew that they traveled with a backup flame. I did not know that the backup flame, which is two small flames in a box, in a glass box, actually comes into the stadium.
[00:41:26] Jill: I did not know that either.
[00:41:28] Alison: And there were two minders there and he was ready. He was ready to go if one of those flames went down.
[00:41:36] Jill: And that was so exciting to see. I was so, so excited about that. Tried to get pictures. I got some on Twitter, get some in the Facebook group.
And that made up for the, again, another very boring end of torch relay. I mean, the whole, granted the torch relay really got truncated because of COVID, but it really was “We’re going to have this relay run through just a little corner of the stadium and, we had to pass it off like four times” and I know that’s what happens. But it feels like it’s more exciting because either athletes are right there in the center and they’re looking at it or the crowd’s all excited or they do something, but this, the way it was done here for both ceremonies just was like, oh, we need to fit in like five more torchbearers. Do you mind running like five feet?
[00:42:33] Alison: I think the most exciting thing was at the very end. The visually impaired final torchbearer struggled to get the torch into the holder, which is not funny at all. And very upsetting and totally unnecessary. There was no reason to structure it in such a way that he had to insert the torch into a very small opening in a very precise angle when he’s visually impaired.
[00:43:15] Jill: Yeah. And you know that he had practiced, you could see it on his face, in the monitor. The final Paralympian was Duan Li, who is a pretty famous Paralympian here in China. He competed in athletics in 2008. And he lit the cauldron. They quieted the music for him to be able to do this. And he just kept fumbling and fumbling. And even the, the angle, like you say, the angle looked just not, it was like whoever decided to put this together, put something together so that the torch would not move because it’s going to stay there for a couple of hours. This one staying there for 10 days.
But it was also hard to get in and secure. And he had a guide with him who stayed out of the way and crouched down. And eventually the guide just was like, oh, do we need help here? What do we do? And it’s just that, that made it so anti-climatic for such a, what should be a wonderful, I mean, and you’re already making it anti-climatic because there’s no cauldron.
[00:44:17] Alison: And the crowd reacted to him. They clearly knew who he was. They responded. That was probably the most we heard them.
[00:44:24] Jill: Yeah. And it was really exciting because it’s like, Ooh, here’s somebody. And you know, they had several Paralympians, especially the ones that they had some from Tokyo that were also there because I recognize some names, but the, yeah, just this, it was tough. It was really, really tough and unnecessary. So then, and then the fireworks, once the cauldron was lit, this was not the fireworks of the Olympics. I will say the best part was the Agitos. The Agitos in fireworks is really beautiful, much better than the Olympics rings.
[00:45:03] Alison: Well, it has that beautiful shape that you can really do.
[00:45:06] Jill: Yeah. That was really beautiful. And then they flashed up some stuff. They put the smile. I’m not a smiley face firework kind of girl. They had some fountains going again. Did you, I thought the fireworks in person were just more brilliant than fireworks I’ve ever seen in person before.
[00:45:28] Alison: I’ve never seen fireworks in a stadium before, so that’s a very different experience because you’re physically much closer to them and your field division is much smaller.
[00:45:40] Jill: Okay. That makes sense.
[00:45:42] Alison: So they definitely felt more intense, but I think that’s just because I didn’t have the vastness of sky. But I’d never seen that color pink in a firework before. That was pretty cool.
[00:45:55] Jill: But they were over in no time at all.
Alison: A minute or two?
Jill: Oh, no, not even that, because it didn’t, it just felt like they did one round and that was it. Oh, they do not have listed how long finale fireworks were supposed to be, cause they do have a time rundown on the program, but I know they were like 90 seconds for the Olympics and the Olympics felt much longer compared to this. This was like 30 seconds. Maybe? It was fast.
[00:46:25] Alison: It was fast.
Jill: So that was a little disappointing as well.
Alison: Unbelievably, the snowflake flame, is even more disappointing in person.
[00:46:39] Jill: Oh, it is. But the, and this is, it looked like they jacked up the flame to make it look bigger. I’m not kidding you. I’m like, wow. That looks a lot bigger than what it did. I mean, you might be able to see it in around here when you go pass the medals plaza on the bus, because they might have it.
They’ll have it there because there’s the display. And when we go out to Zhangjiakou, you can see it at the Medals Plaza there when we leave the train station, because that’s the first thing you see, it’s going to be in the distance, but you’re not going to see that flame.
[00:47:11] Alison: It reminded me of those plastic snowflake Christmas ornaments. Have you seen these? They’re just flat plastic snowflake. And they’re supposed to be sparkly and they just look cheap.
[00:47:30] Jill: Yeah, it does have flame, does look kind of cheap it.
[00:47:33] Alison: I can’t think it could look worse in person, but it did.
[00:47:37] Jill: And we are, on the bus we take to our hotel goes past the Bird’s Nest. And then also you can see into the Olympic Park here, you see the 2008 cauldron, which is just mounted on the ground now. And you’re like, you know, we’re a recycling games, we’re a green sustainable game.
[00:47:57] Alison: How cool would that have been to use the same cauldron? Right. Put snowflakes on it. It’s not hard. Kids in third grade do it all the time.
Hey, I grew up with Carvel ice cream. I know that this is a really northeast thing. This is going to be a really regional, specific thing, but I’m going to do it anyway. And you’ve got Fudgie the Whale, the ice cream cake. You turn Fudgie the Whale upside down, you have a Santa Claus cake.You know, you turn, Fudgie the Whale slightly sideways and you’ve got your leprechaun. We can recycle a cauldron.
Jill: I think I want to make a cauldron cake when I go home
Alison: It will be bigger than that snowflake and probably more impressive.
[00:48:59] Jill: All right. Anything else on the opening ceremony?
[00:49:03] Alison: I just want to talk for a minute about the Bird’s Nest. Because the Bird’s Nest is a very strange place and we didn’t talk about it because obviously I hadn’t seen it yet. On the one hand, it is an amazing structure. There is so many beams and bars, and yet it’s small. On TV it looks like this enormous South American football stadium. That’s going to hold 200,000 people and you get inside it and it feels kind of intimate. And I don’t know if it’s because it’s smaller, shorter than an American football stadium. There’s like a whole tier less. But it’s a strange stadium. It looks like it should hold more people.
[00:49:52] Jill: And it holds a lot of people, holds like 80 some thousand people, I think.
Alison: And yet it seems small.
Jill: Yeah. It does feel very intimate on the inside.
[00:50:02] Alison: It’s an interesting stadium. It’s not like anything I’ve I’ve seen before. Certainly not like American baseball, certainly not like American football. I’d be interested to see what other European football stadiums are like, like, do they not have that height?
[00:50:21] Jill: Right, right.
[00:50:21] Alison: Is that more typical? But it’s an interesting stadium.
[00:50:27] Jill: It is very cool. And it’s also interesting because all of the, like signage on the bathrooms or the signage on the stairs to tell you what row you’re in. It’s still all the 2008 fonts and yes, the pictograms and things here are, resemble that, they touch back to that 2008 legacy, but you still see the old stuff there and it is kind of cool to be, you get that feeling,
[00:50:59] Alison: You know, it is not cool about the Bird’s nest.
[00:51:02] Jill: Outdoors?
[00:51:05] Alison: There’s no toilet paper in the stalls. There’s just one giant toilet paper roll dispenser before you go into the stall.
[00:51:16] Jill: That may also be a 2008 legacy.
[00:51:20] Alison: Thankfully, I had tissues in my pocket. Let me just put it that way. Otherwise I might’ve missed the Opening Ceremonies.
[00:51:34] Jill: All right. On that note, TKFLASTAN watch. We do have a TKFLASTANI here.
[00:51:45] Alison: Yes. Steve Emt is just playing nearly every day. So it’ll be Steve Emt’s TKFLASTAN watch. So tomorrow he and Team USA begin round robin play in wheelchair curling. They’ve got two matches tomorrow, one against Slovakia and one against Great Britain.
[00:52:03] Jill: That will be exciting. We would like to thank today’s Kickstarter Collectors, Daniel A. Meyer and John.
[00:52:09] Alison: And we have mascots again. So we’ve got two mascots for the Paralympics. First up is Riza. Riza Hawkeye is a green eyed feline beauty, who is served by her lady-in-waiting Book Club Claire. And you’ll be hearing more about Riza all this week.
Jill: So that will do it for this episode tune in tomorrow for the first full day of competition.
Alison: I’m a little nervous about that.
[00:52:36] Jill: Are you?
[00:52:36] Alison: I am.
[00:52:38] Jill: How so?
[00:52:39] Alison: I got to go places.
[00:52:42] Jill: And see things.
[00:52:43] Alison: And see things. I don’t remember where we’re going tomorrow. I feel my toes though, so I can walk there.
[00:52:50] Jill: There you go. Okay, good.
[00:52:52] Alison: And continue to celebrate the Games with us on our Keep the Flame Alive Podcast Facebook group and that’s the place to hang out with us and our other listeners. Jill is on Twitter and I am on Instagram. Both are @flamealivepod. You can email us at email@example.com or call or text us at (208) 352-6348. That’s (208) FLAME-IT.
[00:53:19] Jill: Please use those heavily, because we are relying on you to let us know what coverage is like back home or in your country. So we want to hear all the different ways you’re watching the Paralympics and/or not being able to watch the Paralympics. Hopefully it’s not the latter. Hopefully it’s the former. So we will catch you back here tomorrow. Thank you so much for listening and until then, keep the flame alive.