Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bonkers - what an apt word for the London Olympics Opening Ceremony

Bloody hell Danny Boyle!  What dirt have you got on the Queen that she'd be prepared to spoof herself with James Bond for international humour?  What has she been doing with the corgis?!

We started the evening listening to Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra doing Beethoven's 9th symphony - whacking up the volume as we approach the final part and the glorious choral excesses of the European Union anthem.  It was heart-soaring stuff.  It wasn't even the last appearance that Barenboim put in yesterday.

When we tuned into the TV coverage, there was the already surreal sight of Frank Turner, Eton scholarship boy turned rebellious protest singer, belting out folk-heroic rock 'n' roll to the masses from a recreation of the Glastonbury Tor.  This wasn't even the start of the event proper.  It would get more weird.

With Mark Rylance doing Richard III, we had the sight of Kenneth Branagh donning a tall hat and playing Isambard Kingdom Brunel saying the lines of Shakespeare's Caliban.  Heralding the end of twee greenery, wandering farm animals, scarecrows, cricket matches, songs from around the UK, the route of the Thames across England, a solo child sang up Blake's Jerusalem and the dark satanic mills were cue-d up, rising with fiery fearsomeness from the ground, uprooting the trees, pouring out worker bee human from the unlit caverns of the soil.  Heat and fire, welding and orange glow: the Olympic rings were forged from human toil.

Pandemonium indeed.

A potted history lesson ran through this early section, encompassing the Suffragettes and the arrival of the Windrush: heck, I half expected there to be a re-creation of last year's riots.  Instead there was a pause in the proceedings at one point to recall the low after the high of being awarded the Olympics - the murders of so many in the 7/7 bombings commemorated and remembered through silence, and then colour and dance as choreographed by Akram Khan to accompany Emili Sande singing "Abide with Me".  It was oddly moving.

There was humour throughout: some intentional, not all of the same degree.  Mr Bean with Sir Simon Rattle conducting the theme from 'Chariots of Fire'; the Queen exchanging lines with Daniel Craig as James Bond (and then her 'parachuting down' into the stadium).

Mostly, it was pretty funny that whenever the cameras hit a shot of Queenie during the ceremony that she looked decidedly unamused, picking her fingernails rather than watching Sir Chris Hoy: I'm standing by Boyle having evidence of Fifty Shades of Corgi to get QE2 to play ball on letting the crews film her and the palace, let alone stay up til 12:45am.  Looks like they had the required music license agreed since it matters less about annoying this part of London than Mayfair.

But across the ceremony there was weird and wonderful in bucketloads: a coming together of children's fiction (with JK Rowling no less) and the NHS complete with spectral Voldemort, child-catcher and Mary Poppins. The internet and music were celebrated with a hyperactive run-through of popular music from the Beatles, through Mud's Tiger Feet, po-go-ing puppet punks, Underworld, and into Dizzee Rascal's Bonkers.

Well, quite. A full list of the Olympics medley music is at the NME site.

After that, finding the Arctic Monkeys, complete with Beatles in Hamburg quiff, doing a barn-storming version of "I bet that she looks good on the dancefloor" followed by cycling winged monkeys doves accompanying a version of "Come Together", seemed positively obvious.

What was less obvious was having ginger-mopped Alex Trimble of Two Door Cinema Club doing a lovely specially commissioned song by Underworld called "Caliban's Dream" (sound only link, with percussion from a witchy and brilliant Dame Evelyn Glennie, Only Men Aloud, Dockhead Choir, and soprano Elizabeth Roberts).

We had a selection of interesting luminaries carrying in the Olympic flag - including Barenboim (God knows how he got from South Ken to the stadium in time). And there was a touching, if painful, moment of human frailty as the once powerful Muhammad Ali was assisted to hold the Olympic flag before it was taken to the flagpole.

The torch was taken along the River Thames by David Beckham (though I felt more for the lass at the front of the speedboat, hair horizontal from the speed) and he passed the torch on to Sir Steven Redgrave.  But it wasn't he who would light the eventual cauldron.  Instead, the torch flame was passed to young Olympic hopefuls for the future selected by the greats of the past, and with other greats there too watching the past hand over to the future.  The copper petals that each nation had carried in with them in the competitors arrival to the stadium formed a beautiful flower which was then lit by the seven flames and rose to become the Olympic cauldron flame.  Stunning.

There was inevitably an appearance by Macca - although hearing "The End" was nice, I did wonder if he may launch into the quirky and equally quick "Her Majesty" - and then there was (an initially sound-fluffed) version of "Hey Jude" complete with crowd sing-along.

Fireworks all the way of course.  You know what, it was kinda pretty good.  Barking mad. But rather good.

The copper petals come together beautifully to create the Olympic cauldron, lit not by past glories but a forthcoming generation of sporting hopefuls


Persephone said...

We got home from picking up groceries for supper just in time for the "B" countries in the interminable March of the Mostly White and Wealthy Jocks. We saw most of the stuff after that, interrupted for long commercial breaks (being Canadian television -- also subjected to the inanities of veteran sports broadcaster Brian Williams who got most of his facts wrong).

We had guests for dinner and after their departure, caught the "internet house party" portion of the show on the American "primetime" broadcast at about 9 pm PDT. (I recognised Mudd because I remember never hearing them until my second visit to Britain -- my reaction at the time was "What the hell was that?" By the way, lest you take offense, I would like to take this opportunity and apologize, as a Canadian, for Nickleback.) Then the jocks marched again.

It wasn't until reading your blog that I realized that there was all that preceding stuff. Can only find the Mr Bean interlude online; can't view BBC of course, and CTV coverage is only available by downloading a viewer -- and this isn't our house. Sigh. It was good to see our friend though....

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

No need to apologise for Nickleback - Justin Bieber I may be more inclined to hold against Canada ;)

Re the rest of the pre-countries stuff... hmm. I think I read somewhere there was a way of seeing some more bits outside uk I'll see what I can find. It really was barking.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George said...

It was tremendous, I have never been prouder to be bonkers!

jams o donnell said...

It was glorious insanity. A total contrast to the Beijing Opening Ceremony.

The lighting of the Olympic Flame was utterly magnificent. I'm not one for over patriotism but that was the crowning glory.

JoeinVegas said...

I walked through once in a while as the TV played - it looked very dull and boring to me. That Mr. Bean on the piano part - oh. And the house party thing? All we could wonder is that if it was so boring to us how was it for all the people in the stadium? It might have looked good on TV to some people, but confusing as heck to some Americans.
At least the Chinese opening had great masses of people in costumes to make interesting patterns.