Bonkers, brilliant and totally British- Farewell to the Olympics!
August 14, 2012
By: Victoria Finan
So, that’s it. It’s all over and many of us are feeling as bereft as if a loved one had left us promising only to return in four years, and as if to rub salt into the wound, all the way over in Rio. For the past two weeks many of us have ate, slept and breathed Olympics- turning even the biggest couch potato amongst us into avid sports fans and somehow getting us enthusiastic about the athletic events we spent so much time and skill learning to avoid in school Games lessons.
Last night’s Olympic Closing Ceremony was a celebration not only of the past two weeks and all the sporting achievements we have witnessed, but also of Great Britain and the contributions it has made to modern society and culture. As such it was characteristic of all the qualities the world finds endearing about Britain- comedic yet dignified at the appropriate moments and more than a little bit absolutely insane. In comparison to Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony- a tightly choreographed, poignant and very much political spectacle, Kim Gavin’s aim was to show us ‘The Greatest Party on Earth’- and whilst certain elements of the ceremony have divided critics, it would take a hard hearted person (and one who has evidently been in Antarctica for the past two weeks) to deny that when our time came, we did it right.
The ceremony aimed to showcase the very best of British music- and whilst some may argue that One Direction do not exactly fit this brief, the inclusion of Ray Davies, The Who and Queen more than made up for it (although it is the personal opinion of this writer that the addition of Jessie J to the latter gave a new meaning to ‘Killer Queen’…). For all of us girls for whom the mid-nineties were all about arguing in the playground about which one was Baby and who had to be Sporty, we were rewarded with an all too short medley of Wannabe/Spice Up Your Life from the Girls themselves. Never mind the fact that Victoria Beckham had a face like a slapped bottom for the entire performance (and no, she still can’t sing), the rest of the world rose to their feet for a good boogie, including, of course, the undisputed King of English Eccentricity and Buffoonery Boris Johnson. We were treated to more serious pieces of music too- I am completely unashamed to say I had tears streaming down my face as the London Welsh Male Voice Choir gave us a beautiful rendition of the Olympic Anthem. It wasn’t just the music that made us emotional- the Closing Ceremony gave us the opportunity to say thank you and well done to the awe-inspiring atheletes who have excelled in their various fields over the past two weeks.
Which brings me to one of my slight negative points about the Closing Ceremony. Much has been made over the past two weeks of the ethnic origin of many of the athletes who have brought Team GB such glory- in particular, former Somalian refuge Mo Farah. The far right have, for now, been silenced over their derisive comments about multiculturalism and the Games have given us a new definition of what it means to be truly British. Moreover, the Closing Ceremony is meant as a celebration for every single athlete from every single country entered in the Games. Whilst it is heartening that the Union Jack has been reclaimed from the far right, surely we could have found a better symbol of inclusion to use as the image of the Closing Ceremony? Similar to the Opening Ceremony in parts, I did wonder how the rest of the world would understand and interpret our offering.
This extends also to the sheer lunacy of parts of the Ceremony. We Brits are renowned for our sense of humour, and whilst some of last night’s comedic sections went down a treat (Eric Idle singing ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ was probably greeted by a huge cheer in every part of the country), others just made me feel like I was on a surreal drug trip- Russell Brand popping out like some nightmarish Willy Wonka, I’m talking about you. The fashion element of the ceremony fell flat, and I’m perplexed as to why we chose to celebrate this part of culture rather than by inviting some of Britian’s sporting heroes to take part in the Ceremony.
Aside from these few niggling points, the Ceremony seems to have drawn a fitting close to what has been an unprecedented couple of weeks. For me, the best part of these Olympics has been our people reclaiming our country back from the corrupt Press, the scandalous politicians and the drudgery and depression of a failing economy. It’s been hearing children excitedly talk about which sports they are going to begin classes in (and hearing one little boy proclaim to me ‘Usain Bolt is so fast because he has to run away from the lions in Jamaica!’). It’s being able to be proud at being part of a country that accepts and promotes tolerance, that champions the underdog, that stands at the finish line an hour after the gold medallist has crossed to cheer the final runner home (as happened in the Men’s Marathon yesterday).
Much has been made of the legacy of these Games- will more money be ploughed into funding sport, and will more PE lessons become compulsory? The answer to these questions will only come with time, but one thing is certain. These two weeks, bookended by astonishing Opening and Closing Ceremonies have made us proud, have bolstered us, have showcased inspiration, courage and determination. It may be that in challenging times to come, the memories of London 2012 will be bittersweet- but for now we can certainly say that for two weeks we displayed such heart, talent and boundless enthusiasm that we cannot have failed to inspire at least one generation.
(And, for all of us who are still blubbing about being BBC widows, don’t forget the Paralympics…the show is not over yet!)
Images courtesy of www.theinterrobang.com, www.theguardian.co.uk, www.bbc.co.uk.