With the Beijing Winter Olympics winning hearts and minds across the world, TCWDF’s correspondent sends us this dispatch.
NOT since Sarajevo 1984 with Torvill and Dean winning gold has there been such huge interest in the figure skating event. There are, as always, some favoured competitors, but this year there are several wild cards who could upset the status quo.
The French team surprised many by eschewing younger talent in their team in favour of veteran Manny Macron, or ‘Le Despote’ as he is affectionately known. While his first-round performance fell somewhat short, he amply justified team selection with his second-round free routine. Throwing caution to the wind, in what will be his last outing for France, he gave a spirited performance to the accompaniment of Edith Piaf’s magnificent recording Non, je ne regrette rien.
Ignoring costume protocol, which requires modest and dignified clothing, Manny’s skin-tight gold lamé jumpsuit was for many observers as revealing as it was distracting. His traditional bicorne hat was jauntily set ‘en bataille’.
His routine divided both judges and critics. Consisting primarily of skating backwards whilst brandishing a baguette in an aggressive manner, it lacked some of the more technical elements normally associated with this type of dance.
Gliding off the rink into the arms of his adoring wife, with the appreciative boos from his supporters ringing in his ears and a cascade of ‘pass sanitaires’ tossed lovingly by French fans on to the ice, it was a fittingly emotional ‘adieu’ to this adored and admired showman.
In a similar vein, Russia preferred the legendary ice maestro, Vladimir Putin, over younger talent. His execution was both flawless and fantastic. Bare-chested and wearing a ushanka fur hat twinned with Cossack-style trousers, ‘Vlad the Bad’ showed a mastery of composition, musical interpretation and complex technical elements that led to a standing ovation. While we expected triple salchows and toe-loops, it was his faultless rendition of the hitherto impossible ‘running rings round the West’ and his ‘turning the tap off’ routines that clinched a place in the semi-finals.
In the ice dance pairs, the weight of expectation has been thrust on to the shoulders of recent USA squad recruits, the Duke of Sussex and his partner Meghan. Their choice of a medley of whale song and dolphin mating calls mesmerised the audience who were universally silent as the pair glided on to the ice.
Harry, as he likes to be called, wore a distinctive embroidered hair shirt from the acclaimed fashion house Woke Inc, whilst Meghan, who prefers to be called the Duchess of Sussex, settled for a ‘silk adriana mini-dress’ with oprah shell buttons topped off with a diamond and taffeta lace shawl – typically unpretentious yet chic.
Their performance was certainly unlike anything else seen at the Olympics. Having skated effortlessly to the centre of the rink, they sat down, Harry focusing his unwavering gaze on his navel, while the Duchess unfurled a small flag emblazoned with the words ‘Leave us alone’ and smiled coyly for the cameras. It was both minimalist and inspiring, and for many it encapsulated the hopes and fears of an entire generation.
Judges were willing to score highly for interpretation but felt that the skating polar bear that came on to highlight climate change was a theatrical extravaganza too far.
Canada’s highly fancied artist, Justin Trudeau, comes with a long history of elaborate face painting, but this year he settled for a pair of clown-like stick-on eyebrows – something of a disappointment to his legion of fans.
Decked out in an eye-catching Bollywood-style Sherwani in luxurious brocade with gold embroidery, he set the fashion bar very high.
His music choice of C W McCall’s Convoy set the auditorium alight. With the audience clapping wildly to the beat, Justin’s prancing and frolicking delighted spectators until the verse rang out:
Cause we got a great big convoy
Rockin’ through the night
Yeah, we got a great big convoy
Ain’t she a beautiful sight
At this point he became distracted; after putting in a tricky pirouette he lost control and crashed into the advertising hoardings. Better luck next time, Justin!
There remains much secrecy as to New Zealand’s entry. Virtuoso ice-maiden Jacinda Ardern has promised fans a medley of restrictive spins, draconian twirls, and an endless death spiral – we can’t wait!