"..a bardy view!"

The Olympic Closing Ceremony – how was it for you?

Closing ceremonyOlympic closing ceremonies are not designed to upstage the opening ones, and that’s why they are the least remembered.

Although the British contribution during the Beijing handover in 2008 was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Most notably the use of a London double-decker bus which opened out on the top looking remarkably similar to one destroyed during the city’s terrorist bombing in 2005.

The 2012 closing ceremony was meant to celebrate the nation’s arts and music, but even I, an adopted Londoner of over 35 years, was bemused if not confused by most of it.  

People and taxis wrapped in newspaper, hustling and bustling in circles, accompanied by acrobats bashing dustbins and swinging around a scaled down Millennium Wheel had me trying to focus on the meaning.

I think it was an impression of a vibrant busy capital, and what with all the dancers prancing with sweeping brushes, I thought the local municipal workers had arrived early to clean up. Then it occurred to me that perhaps this was an acknowledgement of the community spirit which galvanised London residents to clear up the mess after the riots last year. I could be wrong.

I was losing the will to live until Churchill appeared from the top of Big Ben’s St. Stephen’s Tower, and, expecting a resounding speech, we had instead to listen to Caliban’s “be not afeard” speech (see below) from Shakespeare’s Tempest. Didn’t Isambard Kingdom Brunel say the same thing in the opening ceremony? I’m sure Winston could have said something from one of his own speeches, after all there’s plenty to choose from.

Let’s not forget that Caliban was a grotesque deformed ogre, who fell out of favour with Prospero because of the attempted rape of his daughter Miranda. Still, we shouldn’t let minor details like that get in the way of a a good speech.

Then there was the yellow battered three-wheeled Robin Reliant which blew up. I knew it was going to blow, but I kept wishing “please don’t blow up, lets have at least two weeks without a reference to explosions”. Nor was it a surprise to see Batman and Robin jumping out of the vehicle. Non-Brits must have wondered what that was all about – indeed anyone not familiar with the exploits of Dell-Boy and Rodney from the sitcom “Only Fools and Horses”.

I can imagine the Yanks saying “What kind of Batmobile was that?” Don’t worry – it’s called British eccentricity.

And that was certainly the theme – eccentric and bizarre.  I can’t remember the order of play, but in and around the athletes entering the stadium George Michael turned up and tried to sing. Well, at least it wasn’t Paul McCartney, but his vocals were not much better. I thought he looked like a reject from the Village People. Indeed, I half expected him to start singing “YMCA”.

Kate Bush sang “Running Up that Hill” but she’d clearly done a runner. David Bowie was heard but not seen, and visitors from the grave turned up. John Lennon popped in with “Imagine” and Freddie Mercury spookily aroused the crowd. Brian May of Queen struggled to focus on his instrument whilst Jesse J-Cloth gyrated around him, probably because she’d forgotten most of her cloth, whilst fellow band member Roger Taylor banged away on his drums oblivious. And if he appeared oblivious then so was I because half the acts I’d never heard of.  

Things hit rock bottom for me when Russell Brand turned up on a magical mystery tour, and Fat Boy Slim just did what Fat Boy Slim does, which is play with his turntables, except on this occasion he was sitting aloft a giant inflated octopus.

If these two were meant to represent British culture then the plot was well and truly lost but fortunately Eric Idle of Monty Python fame brought much needed relief with "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from "Life of Brian", although I suspect that NBC viewers in America had the line "life's a piece of shit when you look at it" censored. 

Annie Lennox wafted in on some kind of gothic contraption, but why she chose to sing the theme song “Love Song for a Vampire” from Copolla’s Dracula movie is a mystery, and even Bram Stoker who wrote the book was Irish, although Dracula did land in Whitby, so maybe there was some kind of remote cultural reference in that?

A highlight was the Spice Girls (things must have been bad for me to say that), but they did a pretty good job all told, although yet again, their contribution to culture is debatable. Later we saw Darcy Bussell, former Principal Ballerina of the Royal Ballet, who flew in on a risen phoenix from the ashes of the extinguished Olympic flame. Nice touch – very dramatic and who could complain about that?

Speaking of the Who, (or should that be “the Two” as only Daltry and Townshend are left) did a fine turn, and proved that even dinosaur rockers can still string a tune. Take That made an appearance singing “Rule the World” which is definitely a favourite of mine.

The Brazilian bit was subtle if understated, although yet again they had a guy dressed up as a street cleaner with a large broom. I’ve yet to get the significance of that implement. And of course the eponymous Pelé made an appearance, and how come that bloke has never gone grey?

Prince Harry was up in the box with Kate, minus hubby and Grandmother-in-Law, and if you’re wondering why the Queen wasn’t there, it’s because she hasn’t recovered from parachuting out of a helicopter with James Bond at the Opening Ceremony. Prince Philip, ever in support, is still applying the ointment as I write.

So all told it was a grand spectacle, and considering that the stadium had very little time to prepare since the last event took place it was still a remarkable achievement.

The closing ceremony wouldn’t have been everyone’s cup of tea, and it certainly didn’t push all my buttons, but nevertheless, it was still grand. Weird, bizarre, idiosyncratic, bonkers and British.

As for the games themselves – they were the best without question!

Caliban: Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,

Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices,

That if I then had waked after long sleep

Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming

The clouds methought would open and show riches

Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked

I cried to dream again.

The Tempest Act 3, Scene 2

Picture credit to the Sun newpaper


August 13, 2012 - Posted by | Arts, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, History, London, Music, Olympic Games, Sport, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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