If there was a word which defined “London 2012 TM”, in its over-use as much as its literal application, this is it. Everything, so it would seem, has been bonkers for seventeen days. Clearly not a new word, but I really don’t recall its use being as prevalent as of late. Perhaps the attraction of the word is that whilst mildly critical, ultimately it has a positive connotation. In that context, it is certainly a very apt descriptor of last night’s Closing Ceremony.
Before moving on to compose my ramble in response to what I watched last night, I have to declare outside influence. At Kay’s inspired suggestion, I watched the running commentary of the unfolding event on Twitter – #closingceremony (though it turned out that a small minority of cool cats such as Stephen Fry were using the more official #2012closingceremony – having scanned that this morning, I don’t feel that I missed out). The sheer volume of comments was overwhelming, to the point of having to skip many in order to keep up, but I take my hat off to the quick wittedness of many of the observers. Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@crepello012) will have seen I retweeted several of what I thought to be the most keenly observed. It is inevitable that having been subjected to so many opinions, that my own may be shaped somewhat, though I hope not.
It was billed as a Symphony of British Music, and I guess with that fairly low set bar (Olympic cliché!) it would be hard to disappoint. Yet it did, but at least not across the board. There were obviously formal set-peices which the show had to be woven around which led to one of the snarkier Tweets to the effect that the Ugandan National Anthem was a musical high point – the only surprise being that the ubiquitous Emeli Sandé wasn’t called upon to perform it.
The creatives behind the musical elements of the show obviously had a vision, a story to tell. Had we, the audience been let in on that secret, or had the BBC commentators seen fit to share, the whole thing would probably have been coherent. As it was; gridlocked traffic wrapped in newsprint…? I thought the use of lorries to bring (some) of the acts to the whole of the stadium audience rather than just a small corner was as inspired as the use of a pirate ship for Annie Lennox was cringeworthy. One Direction certainly aren’t to my taste but it was inevitable they played well to the NBC audience later (a subject to which I shall return!).
The low points were relentless; George Michael. Merv Hughes’ lost twin, as a Tweeter remarked in typically acerbic form, pleasured by an air line, as another remarked. For me, what an arrogant knob to use that platform to “perform” his latest single. Another fish-in-a-barrel target, of course, was Jesse J. singing “it’s not about the money or the bling-da-bling” from the back of a brand new top-of-the-range convertible Rolls Royce. Deliberately ironic? And what the bloody hell was the spontaneously combusting high-wire act all about? No wonder many Tweeters alluded to drug testing – and that was before the Supermodels turned up.
Of course those misses were balanced by hits – some of them unintended and beyond the planners’ wildest dreams…. the two second cut-away to Boris doing his Dad Dancing to the Spice Girls will surely add to his legend, perhaps as much as the zip wire incident. David Cameron will surely thank his lucky stars no-one noticed him alongside. Then, for me at least, the true highlight: Eric Idle and Spamalot. When he was allowed to sing the line “life’s a piece of shit…” Twitter exploded! Incidentally, and inevitably, NBC censored it for the US broadcast. In a blink-and-you-missed-it moment, Eric Idle entered as a mis-firing human cannonball. After his set, a real human cannonball flew what appeared to be the full length of the arena – surely worthy of one of the super-high-def-slow-mo-action-replays we saw so many of during the games themselves.
Oh, I forgot, I have another low-point to go back to, which the mention of replays has reminded me of: Here the blame probably lies with the BBC rather than the closing ceremony directors, but what is the obsession with athletes crying? Early on in the proceedings there was a drawn-out montage of tears. Yeah, they’re trying to underline the raw emotion of competition, and I get that. Many of the tears were of joy. Most, however, showed an athlete who had failed – in their perception – to live up to the extraordinarily high goal they had set themselves. In short they were shown at possibly their lowest point, and even in the case of those in tears of joy, that is really not how they would want to be remembered by the millions watching. All in the name of entertainment.
Jesse J standing in for Fredie Mercury. <shudder>.
Above all, I was left with a feeling of missed opportunities. The list of British musical artists who were overlooked would, no matter what, be legion – there will have been enough bleary eyes this morning with a 00:15 finish. Even accepting that, and accepting that some of the likely candidates may have turned them down, they could surely have done better. My bring-the-house-down suggestion would have been David Bowie performing Heroes live in place of the brief medley leading into the fashion segment few people understood.
As an aside, thank you to the Daily Telegraph for this helpful gem (my emphasis):
Olympics closing ceremony: playlist
Here is the playlist for tonight’s London 2012 Olympic closing ceremony:
One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful
Beatles – A Day in the Life (not live)
Ray Davies – Waterloo Sunset
So what of NBC’s coverage of the ceremony in the US? The Twitterverse almost universally hashtagged their comments with #NBCFail. After heavily editing the opening ceremony (substituting the 7/7 tribute segment with NBC’s poster boy Ryan Seacrest conducting a taped interview with Michael Phelps’ parents!), they did no better last night. Ray Davis and Muse hit the cutting room floor and American viewers had to wait an hour for The Who & the fireworks climax while NBC aired a sitcom pilot about a performing monkey. The mind boggles. More evidence that Jesse J is completely wrong – it is about the money.
London 2012, by any measure, will go down as a resounding success, although the debate about the cost-versus-value will rumble on for a good while yet. H.M.Gov and the Met will doubtless be relieved nothing went BANG and I am sure there will be some detail revealed in due course about exactly how close a deal that was. The people of London will be relieved to get their Games Lanes back and I will be relieved not to hear the Chariots of Fire theme again any time soon. Channel 4 will bang on about the Paralympics while the BBC will almost entirely ignore it – as, I suspect, will most of the nation, truth-be-told.