(slightly delayed due to boring technical stuff–sorry)
Writing this while watching the finish of the men’s cycling road race. They’ve just passed Hampton Court and are heading into the city through Richmond Park … The Belgians have awesome jerseys with “Belgium” in mixed upper and lower case– looks like my lettering.
But right now, it’s time to look back at the Opening Ceremony. I’m a bit of a connoisseur of such things (I love any kind of weird ceremony), and this one may have replaced the one from the Calgary Winter Games as my all time favorite. It was just so weird and charming: Glastonbury Tor, an all singing, all dancing history of the Industrial Revolution, with Kenneth Branagh as a sort of Shakespeare-reciting Isembard Kingdom Brunel, a tribute to the Internet in the form of a Britpop West Side story. And, of course, that list doesn’t include the salute to “Children’s Literature and The National Health Service”, which even I could not make up. A ballet of nightmares is a very odd choice as a component in an elaborate public entertainment, though I would agree that a hundred Mary Poppinses would be able to dispel it.
As strange and wonderful as all that was, my favorite parts were Danny Boyle’s short films. OK, Rowan Atkinson is an always-funny, one of those rare comedians I would call a genius. He makes everything he appears in better, and that includes an Olympic Opening Ceremony The segue between the musical jokes and the Chariots of Fire film was effortless, and I appreciated the use of the period car.
But it’s hard to imagine anything, anywhere, that would be more amusing in this context than the film featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond. I’m assuming by now that you’ve seen it, and his unexpected co stars. Who would have thought the Queen, the actual Queen, would be such a good sport? What did Boyle do, just send her an email and ask her if she would appear as herself in a comedy sketch? The mind boggles. Corgis, of course, royal or not, are gluttons for any kind of media attention and would probably open supermarkets if somebody offered them a cheese sample to do it. Trotting after James Bond in their own hallways is a piece of cake for them. (And they want their piece of cake.) The Queen and the corgis were distracting enough that I almost missed the bit where the statue of Winston Churchill comes to life, but that was charming too.
Normally, the pageant part of an Opening Ceremony gets old fast, but this one was so good that the parade of nations was almost a letdown. I will just say that Fiji and Cameroon were my contenders for best costume, Lesotho and Kyrgyzstan had great hats, and the Netherlands, with their big orange overcoats, and the Czech Republic, with their bright blue Wellington boots, share the prize for the best accessory. As always, if your nation does not have a picturesque native costume and you are not inclined to whimsy, an athletic type of uniform based on a track suit or something similar makes a better impression than a “serious” skirt/pants and blazer combo that makes your team look like a pack of real estate agents at best and a battalion of fascists at worst.
The third part of the ceremony, the Olympic business part, was mercifully short, with no boring speeches whatsoever! (This is a notable achievement that the great nation of Canada should observe and learn from.) Doves of peace came out riding bicycles, then the flag ceremony, official opening, torch, song by Paul McCartney, and we’re out of there in time for the late news. Technologically, the pixel screens at each seat provided an interesting take on the traditional card trick, and the modular cauldron for the Olympic flame, made of a copper petal for each nation, was just spectacular.
For an Olympic Opening Ceremony, last night’s production was first class, and it was good entertainment by any definition. It had a nifty, human scale and a lightness of touch that are easy to lose in a big spectacular like the one in Beijing last time around. At lot of people were saying at the time that they did not know how London could beat the “million man, two million light bulb” Chinese effort. Danny Boyle showed us that the answer to that question is don’t even try. Do something else instead. I think that works for small art, too.
Finally, I read on the internet this morning that there were 7 billion pieces of biodegradable confetti dropped during the ceremony, one for each of the people of the world. So somewhere out there was a piece of biodegradable confetti representing me. You too.