The opening ceremonies took off from there, in their goofy way. The warmup act for a stadium crowd of 55,000 frozen souls was affable NBC weatherman Al Roker, so you could recognize the unholy provenance of the show to come. Made-for-TV extravaganza or not, it was a lot of fun. The floor of the stadium was covered with ice, which lent itself to repeated forays by spark-shooting skaters.
It seems necessary in these events to make a show of civic instruction. So, at yet another Olympics, a pioneer movement was reenacted, although young children should not think that locomotives and covered wagons actually traveled over frozen ponds to settle the West or that American Indians danced on ice. It's at times like these the Olympics seem like a World's Fair, although choreographed really nicely (and punctuated, as they say in the opening ceremonies trade, by lots of "pyro").
As always the best moments were unscripted and independent of cultural themes, fog-making machines and costumery (which was admittedly inventive). For the duration of the show, while those 55,000 souls waited for the West to be tamed and the torch to be lit by the 1980 miracle U.S. hockey squad, President Bush sat with his home-team athletes, nestled among snowboarders and curlers and all manner of other snow players. It was a rather generous gesture, returning this whole bloated affair (budget: $1.9 billion) to the kids, the ones who, for another couple of weeks, can't imagine anything more important in life than getting downhill faster than the next kid. It was more uplifting than any flag or march to see the President engulfed in this innocence, to see the skater next to him, Sasha Cohen, hand him her cell phone to prove their proximity back home—I AM SO standing next to President Bush!—and to see him chat happily into the phone, as if this were the most important thing he could be doing.
The next day, with the sun shining and cowbells ringing and shoppers and diners clogging the retro retail drag in Park City, it was possible to think these Games might work out after all. The theme of victimization that has been haunting this country seemed to have departed with the clouds. There were determined security forces, there were determined organizers, and there were determined politicians who were finally taking their cue from the fiercely determined athletes—those with the only Olympic ideal that matters. They would all make their own luck, from here on in.