As I mentioned in my previous entry, I had the pleasure and honor of watching the opening ceremony of the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) live. I bought a ticket that seated me close enough to the center, and arrived at the venue early enough to be seated as close to the stage as possible.

The ticket said that the gates would open at 4pm, so I dashed to the Promenade entrance right after work, arriving at around 3pm. After relaxing for an hour at the nearby Millenia Walk, I joined the entrance queue at 4. We were allowed entry at 4:30pm (the excuse being that seats were wet following an early afternoon shower, and thus had to be dried).

entering The Float @ Marina Bay

Entering The Float @ Marina Bay took us on the scenic route around Marina Bay, giving us a view of the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands, and the Helix Bridge. The entrance had airport-like security, and upon passing it, we walked on the Helix Bridge towards the Youth Olympic Park and onwards to The Float.

at the Youth Olympic Park

Upon taking my seat, I noticed that there was a large German contingent seated close to where I was. They were snapping photos and generally had fun. I had brought a German flag with me (something I had picked up in Laos during one drunken World Cup night), and thought it would be a good idea to approach them and lend them my flag, should they want it. Eventually, somehow, I had been assimilated into the group, and watched the opening ceremony seated amongst them.

seated with the German contingent

Prior to the actual opening ceremony, we were given instructions on how (and when) to use the contents of the Audience Interaction Kit we had been given upon entry. We had a small Singapore flag that was to be waved during the entrance of the bigger Singapore flag, as well as a small flag bearing the YOG logo. We had a light-up dove (the wing on mine broke), as well as a heart that lit up either white or red (and each color had its specific usage). Two “clapper balloons” – also known as pong pongs – were provided as well.

waving the light-up hearts

After the opening act, the show began. It was a spectacular opening ceremony, with an emphasis on the spectacle. The show was divided into to several chapters, and each chapter was a bombastic display of color, costumes, and various visual effects, usually culminating in a fireworks display. It was definitely a visual treat, and there were many cool, jaw-dropping, “aww”-inspiring moments.

scene from the YOG opening ceremony

And now, a brief review of the program. Like I said, it was an awesome visual spectacle. However, it felt a little empty at times. The biggest problem I had was that it didn’t tell a story, or if it did, it wasn’t communicated effectively. There seemed to be more focus on the spectacle rather than the content, and in the end it made the whole show feel flat. My least favorite moment was the “Monster” chapter, which featured anime-style effects and a group of young multi-ethnic Lady Gagas (they were all wearing large, sparkly, geometric costumes, just like Lady Gaga). Still, I really enjoyed large parts of the show!

scene from the YOG opening ceremony

My favorite moments involved the more “standard” parts of the program, those present in every Olympic opening ceremony. The welcoming and entrance of the athletes drove home the point that you can’t say that these are “only” the Youth Olympics. These are real athletes with real talent and real dreams facing real competition and going for real glory. It’s definitely nothing to be scoffed at.

athletes' entrance at the Youth Olympic Games

The parade of flags was an awesome moment, especially as the athletes, representatives, companions, fans, and supporters of each nation cheered wildly when their home nation was announced. I cheered for the German team, waving my flag high when their flag bearer walked onstage as my new German friends cheered. In turn, when I cheered wildly for the Philippines, the German contingent cheered along with me. It was a real moment of camaraderie. It was great watching the Olympic flag enter. And of course, the final leg of the torch relay leading to the lighting of the Olympic flame was awe-inspiring and chills-inducing.

entrance of the Olympic flag

All in all, I definitely enjoyed my first ever Olympic opening ceremony. It’s a thrill and a joy to be part of such a global experience. The fact was driven home when the audience was slowly filling with supporters and representatives from various nations. I spotted jackets and jerseys labeled with country names as varied as Tajikistan, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Mexico, and Lithuania. I saw flags of countries (and National Olympic Committees) like North Korea, Norway, and Puerto Rico waved high at various points in the night. It truly was an international event, and I am proud to have been part of it.

Ouvrir la voie. Blazing the trail. The games have begun!