February 9, 2002

Historicity

Without being obsessive about it, I watched much of the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics from Salt Lake City last night. Although I am not an aficionado of such extravaganzas, this one provided the sort of good-natured entertainment that Mormons seem to be good at.

I was especially pleased by several things. First, the program was light (“lite,” if you like) on trendy musical performers and genres. Attempts to be too trendy sometimes make these things seem dated half an hour into them. Mahler and Stravinsky, on the other hand, will be around for the long haul, though I was disappointed by the lack of Prokofiev. (Correct me if I missed “Love for Three Oranges” while I was in front of my computer.) I was also pleased by the emphasis on native tribes (i.e., not Mormons), something which is always a surprise in Utah. Mostly, however, I appreciated the Winter Olympics version of the Golden Spike ceremony, the joining of the two segments of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. Whereas no one could mistake the fanciful representations of trains for the real thing—nothing quite substitutes for an actual steam locomotive, but even the Olympics has a budget—the people who put together this particular segment clearly had done their homework. The stand-ins for the “Jupiter” and No. 119 strongly suggested the actual locomotives involved, even if most viewers could not care less.

I hope the games will be as much fun.

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