I’m not normally a person that gets super excited about the Olympics. One one hand, I like the multinational aspect of it, but on the other hand, it’s about sport. For the most part, I give it a pass. Obviously, this time is different. Every single event could feature scenes from my favorite city in the world. I watched over of bicycle road racing at the gym yesterday. I could not care less about cycling, but when they’re traveling through the English countryside and the race ends in front of Buckingham Palace, I’m happy to watch the whole thing just to watch the background go by.
So, let’s start with the Opening Ceremony. Even in the past when I have watched Olympic events, I have never cared enough to watch the Opening Ceremony. That parade of nations thing is sooo boring, it negates any excitement you could get out of the rest of the ceremony. This one was obviously a little different, though I still was bored to tears by the 2 hours of people walking by.
So my first pet peeve is the intro to the ceremony. Here in the US, we got some rubbish with Ewan MacGregor and some unknown (to me) woman) doing voice-overs of footage of US athletes. In the UK, however, they got this opening with Benedict Cumberbatch:
Which I thought was much better.
But lets ignore that for the moment. The video was created by the BBC, so the US networks didn’t have a legal option for airing it. I will forgive them for now. I cannot, however, forgive NBC for involving Meredith Viera in the thing. She is dumb as a post and seems to think her ignorance is something to be proud of.
Every time she talked, I just wanted her to shut up.
Okay, done with my complaining. What did I think of the ceremony itself? Well…I think the idea behind it is really smart–instead of the biggest ceremony, you do a ceremony that focuses on something that is thrilling for the people in the stands, but is also choreographed specifically to be good for the cameras. I think you need that expertise in filmmaking, and I think Danny Boyle did a good job. On the other hand, it definitely had its flaws. I liked the Agrarian start and the quick journey through the history of England, which according to Meredith Viera would teach people who didn’t know what the Industrial Revolution was. So…people who haven’t yet reached 6th grade maybe?
But after the Agrarian start, it got a little too overly-conceptual. The NHS tribute and the giant baby were especially weird and disturbing, and in many ways not relevant to an international audience. I haven’t had health insurance for two years, so I would love an NHS here in the states, but that doesn’t mean it was the best venue for that statement. I also think that the section with the boy and girl traveling through the last thirty years of British culture was a bit weird. I love British music, obviously, and enjoyed the cultural references within. At the same time, the digital world idea and the thanking of Tim Berners-Lee was a bit odd. Or maybe it was just due to the awkward and moronic commentary provided on NBC. Well…Bob Costas wasn’t bad, and Matt Lauer mocking Kim Jong-Il was pretty hilarious.
I think it’s very smart and very relevant to make a big part of the ceremony in reference to the cultural influences of Britain, because though they have very much declined as an imperial power, they have continued to be a cultural leviathan. From the Beatles to Mr. Bean to reality TV, a lot of what has defined the last 40 years of life in America has come from Britain. Literature, in particular, is a huge part of that tradition of cultural exports. Of course, I was thrilled beyond measure (though not entirely surprised) to see JK Rowling out in the thick of it. There are so many things about British culture that are beloved and respected, and between Paul McCartney, JKR, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Rowan Atkinson, and James Bond, they covered most of them. Also, who else wants a trampoline bed?!
And the torch ceremony itself I really liked. It seems very American to have the biggest name celeb you can lighting the torch, but I liked this more egalitarian approach to the idea. Plus, the actual mechanism whereby it is lit seems very cool to me and was really beautiful. And the fireworks!
The parade of nations…what can you say about watching thousands of athletes walk around a circle? It went quicker than normal? All I can say is that the US outfits are the most heinous things in the world. Are we headed to private school in 1994? What’s with the Berets? Ralph Lauren should be deported.
All in all, I enjoyed it, but it definitely had its flaws.
Also, can I just point out that now that the Olympics are underway, no one seems to be saying that the UK is unprepared. Everything seems to be going pretty smoothly, from my albeit incredibly limited knowledge. I can imagine the traffic and disruption to the lives of residents is pretty massive, but that is what happens when you try to host a 2-week long incredibly huge event of any kind. I think people underestimated two things in the run-up to these games: the organizational power of a society that loves to queue, and the cynicism of the same society. All you have to do is watch Bridge over the River Kwai and you will see how much they excel at getting the job done. Also, Brits love to complain about their own inadequacies, but that doesn’t mean those complaints are based on truth, relatively speaking. And god help the non-Brit who tries to complain with them (looking at you, Romney).
On a final note, there has been a lot of Boris Johnson on TV lately, and can I just say I’m for it? I love him! He has definitely earned his place on my list of Conservatives that I Like. It’s a hard list to get on. There’s only one other person on there, and he is a fictional character from Family Ties.