The purpose of any Olympic opening ceremony is to provide a snapshot of the host country to an international audience through a projection of culture and history. Undoubtedly, questions and judgment arise in the wakes of such displays to analyze how various topics – like multiculturalism – were presented. Nathan Kalman-Lamb, author of “‘A Portrait of This Country’: Whiteness, Indigeneity, Multiculturalism and the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies,” uses this article to analyze how Canada’s multicultural society and rich Indigenous ties were portrayed during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. In 2012, his article was featured in TOPIA: The Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies as an attempt to critique Canada’s presentation of multiculturalism and its foundation in the whiteness of Canadian society (Nathan Kalman-Lamb). Further, Kalman-Lamb argues how the projection of multiculturalism during these ceremonies was a sort of cover-up to truly portray and exude that evident whiteness.
Throughout the article, Kalman-Lamb directly refers to imagery and scenes during the ceremonies, linking his ideas as a progression through the display. He draws particular attention to Natives, Canadian society, and their proclaimed multicultural identity, while intertwining these notions with broader implications of the inherent whiteness that underscores the ceremonies. Kalman-Lamb makes an important observation of the ceremonies in that “Indigenous involvement is featured prominently at the beginning of the ceremonies but is almost entirely invisible at the end” when the white population appears (17). In citing this transition, he highlights the shift to current Canadian ‘multicultural’ society. Kalman-Lamb argues that “the use of Indigeneity as a symbol of a history of multiculturalism permits the nation to perform its present and future as white” (16). He suggests that the presentation of Natives strictly at the start insinuates that they are just that…a history…not part of present-day society. Kalman-Lamb’s recurring mention of the subtle, yet increasingly obvious, switch in representation demonstrates that whiteness will dominate, undermining efforts to appear culturally comprehensive (13). This assessment stresses the need to reevaluate the deeper implications of such an outward event.
This article, in its entirety, provides layers of new interpretation to these ceremonies. Kalman-Lamb frames multiculturalism as a major topic of conversation and introduces the debate surrounding Olympic ceremonies in general by mentioning how other countries portray themselves (9, 11). Additionally, when watching the opening ceremonies, I questioned why Indigenous peoples agreed to participate in this way. Kalman-Lamb’s answer, regarding money and land, clarifies some of the motivation behind this (20). However, I am still left with questions going forward. In future games, how can we more accurately portray multiculturalism in the context of a broadcasted event?
Kalman-Lamb, Nathan. “‘A Portrait of This Country’: Whiteness, Indigeneity, Multiculturalism and the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies.” TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Multicultural Studies, no. 27, 2012, pp. 5-27,
6 March 2018.
Nathan Kalman-Lamb. Nathan Kalman-Lamb, n.d., http://www.nathankalmanlamb.com/.
Accessed 6 March 2018.