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Closing ceremonies should reflect multiculturalism: critics

The opening ceremonies happened a week ago, and the closing ceremonies are just over a week away -- but a contentious question connects the two.

In a city where "visible minorities" have become the majority, some are asking whether VANOC failed to showcase Canadian multiculturalism.

Alden Habacon is the founder of Schema Magazine, an online publication for "cultural navigators." He described the Feb. 12 kick-off as "the whitest-looking opening ceremonies."

"Vancouver won their bid on the argument that Vancouver is the most diverse place on earth," wrote Habacon. "The ceremony was hardly representative of Canada's (and especially Vancouver's) multicultural diversity."

The comments section below Habacon's editorial reflects the diversity of opinion on the matter. Although some comments were predictably incendiary, a few readers attempted to composedly express their views.

"There certainly was a lack of cultural representation and though I don't think the producers intentionally organized a predominantly "white" ceremony, they probably could have made it a LOT more interesting by putting together a more diverse and/or multi-ethnic production. And why not?" wrote a user named Claudia.

She referenced poet Shane Koyczan, who performed at the opening ceremony, "We are cultures strung together \ then woven into a tapestry \ and the design \ is what makes us more \ than the sum total of our history."

Another commenter named "Dom," said s/he is of Italian descent and was unable to tell at face value if this ethnicity was represented. "Guys, not everything is as clear as black and white and it shouldn't be mandatory that we have a token ethnicity. I think that is more insulting. To say that Donovan Bailey would have been chosen for his skin colour would be disrespectful."

But outside the digital debate, some community leaders -- like Peter Kwok and Sukhi Sandhu -- wanted a real meeting with John Furlong and VANOC to discuss changes to the closing games.

"We are proud Canadians," said Sandhu. "The ceremony should be an accurate picture of Canada, with segments showing respect for First Nations and a component for our founding fathers, English and French, and a third component that mentions the large contribution by immigrants from all over the world. That last chapter was omitted."

VANOC will not make changes to the program, but Furlong addressed the issue yesterday:

"In the opening ceremony we did a very good job of showing Canada...We had a goal to tell a story and at the closing ceremony we will have a very certain kind of celebration. I don't think (there will be) any doubt when the ceremonies are over who we are and who's here in terms of our country."

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