Why Kanye West Playing the Pan Am Games Closing Ceremonies is Not the Apocalypse
The Pan Am Games are in Toronto and surrounding municipalities from July 11-26, while the Parapan Am Games are being played August 7-15. What sort of response has this generated in the build up and in Week 1 of this international sporting event? Virtually every media outlet in and around Toronto, and those who save their intelligence for the comments section of the Internet, have bitched about the High Occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes that focused them to take their head out of the sand and change their travel behaviour. They complained about the location of the venues, the lack of marquee athletes, the mascot Pachi being an animal that you don’t see in Toronto, the new LED lights on the Prince Edward viaduct – they complained about anything and everything.
The latest log on the complaint fire? Kanye West has been named as a performer at the Pan Am Games Closing Ceremonies on July 26. KANYE WEST. The guy who just headlined one of the world’s biggest and most well-known festivals (Glastonbury). The rapper who has over 50 Grammy nominations and 20 Grammy wins. This is huge! Everyone must be super excited! Except…they are not. Queue my lack of surprise.
There is a petition (just like Glastonbury had) for Kanye West not to play. Numerous websites have posted ‘think pieces’ about why it is the end of the world.
Toronto radio legend Alan Cross thinks it is a terrible idea (hates the guy and doesn’t want our tax dollars going to him; not Canadian, etc.), but sees merit in it.
Select discussions from public interviews aired on CBC:
“He brings a lot of hype, it just doesn’t make sense.”
“He doesn’t represent Toronto. I’d rather have Drake”
“We’re in Toronto. We’re in Canada. Let’s use one of our own.”
I won’t even get into the comments on Twitter. Okay, so let’s stop and review some other facts from comparable, patriotic events.
The official theme song is from singer Serena Ryder, who was born in Toronto. No big deal – people seem to think it should be sung by someone from the host city, right? Except that didn’t happen in the Summer Olympics in London 2012 (Muse are from Teignmouth, Devon). The FIFA World Cup in 2010 was in South Africa. The song Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) namedrops Africa, but is sung by Colombian singer Shakira. There was also an official anthem for the 2010 World Cup, and it was sung by R Kelly, who is WAY more controversial than Kanye West (if you’re out of the loop, let me say “marrying a minor” or even “urinating on, and having sex with, a minor”).
The 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta had Gloria Estefan sing the song and play the ceremonies. Some people with this non-local artist mindset might want to know that she’s from Cuba, and raised in Florida. Until recently, the USA had Cuba listed on their U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which only includes Iran, Sudan, and Syria as other members. This is not what the Atlanta park bomber was protesting, trust me. The 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece had the official song Oceania sung by Björk, which is the furthest thing from a Greek name (she’s Icelandic).
The 2014 FIFA World Cup was in Brazil. Lots of great acts from there. Instead, Brazil got a song by Jennifer Lopez, featuring Pitbull and Claudia Leitte, the latter at least being Brazilian. The Opening Ceremonies also featured these acts. Is this any different than Pitbull somehow once again getting his ugly bald head at a sports ceremony, featuring a big, non-local act (Jennifer Lopez in 2014, Kanye West in 2015) with some homegrown talent (Claudia Leitte in 2014, Serena Ryder in 2015)? I’m pretty sure all those riots in Brazil weren’t about this.
I’m a proud Canadian who has cheered on our Olympians in person at both Vancouver 2010 and London 2012. It is great that we feel we need to have a Canadian at our closing ceremonies. And we do – Serena Ryder. Just because another artist is a bit of a jackass (President Obama’s words, not mine), why do we feel the need to complain? The past few years has seen the rise of the ‘protest culture’ or the ‘outrage culture’. We complain because we have some kind of voice with the Internet and the gang mentality that jumps on board with all kinds of ill-conceived ideas and protests. We can be better than this (and deserves a much broader article written by someone much more intelligent than I am).
So Toronto – we did it. We got the world’s biggest rock star (Kanye’s words, not mine) to play at what people are calling a third rate sporting event. If we got Drake, you’d be saying “Oh Drake AGAIN?!” Besides, Drake is no angel, either. If we got the Tragically Hip or Rush, you’d be saying “Too old!” You cannot be pleased, I get it, but in comparison to how other sports songs and ceremonies go, we’re right on point. Love him or hate him, Kanye West is good for the Games and good for our city. You’re allowed to be happy.
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