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Olympic Closing Ceremony

The Opening Ceremony was a bizarre mixture of British history, from jiving Abe Lincoln (wait, wasn't he...?) raging Shakespearean at the Dark Satanic Hills...
Dark Satanic Hills

Then came the industrial revolution and the Dark Satanic Mills...

Dark Satanic Mills

A reminder to the Americans that we Brits kick-started mechanisation, invented the World Wide Web (to give it its full name), sorted out rights for women (sort of), and other exciting stuff that is barely touched on in school history lessons (mine was full of Romans and Nazis, as if nothing even remotely interesting happened in the two thousand years in between...).

 

There was a point, a subtext, a pretext, and possibly the craziest way to show Britain's Greatness ever devised. And I'm not just talking about 'er Maj parachuting into the stadium.

 

Then came the games. The sweat, tears, tragedy and triumph. Being about as athletic as a snail, I watched exactly none of it. Except for Boris getting stuck on a zip wire. For most political types, that sort of stunt would be a career-ender or worse. For him, it was a highlight. After all, can you think of any other Mayor-Of-A-Big-Important-Place that would even attempt to do such a thing?

 

Then came the Closing Ceremony. Knowing what the British sensibilities are, and what the opening was like, I was expecting something that half the world would call awesome, and half the world will ask "the hell did I just watch?!?".

  • The images are from a live digital video running at 1200kbit (equal to around 600kbit XviD (because the compression is less effective than it could be due to the constraints of having to run in realtime; my 1.6GHz PC encodes around 8fps; this recorder had to do 25fps without missing anything)). Either way, it gets a bit blocky with fast motion. This looks 'okay' for motion video, but still frames tend to look rather less impressive. If you have crappy frames and you fling 'em to the screen 25 a second, you can get away with a lot. Having them static on a webpage shows up every flaw. The black border is to do with the broadcast not having overscan.
    At any rate, sorry if the image quality sucks.

A weird paper-covered representation of London lit in cold blue opened the show, along with a painful-to-hear singer called Emeli.

Thankfully she stopped singing and we were treated to a troupe called Stomp banging on metallic things while swinging from replicas of Tower Bridge and The London Eye. The other Lloyd-Webber played a moving solo to Timothy Spall's brilliantly hammy Churchill quoting of Shakespeare's The Tempest, a call-back to the Opening and those satanic hills.

Then it all got a bit chaotic with cars and trucks and a cast of hundreds. A representation of a working day in London, despite being nothing like any working day anybody has ever seen. It certainly showed up the British eccentricity, not to mention our liking of organised chaos.

Then Churchill shouted "STOP!" to bring the rabble under control for the entry of Price 'arry (captioned under his official name "Prince Henry of Wales"), the other one's wife (Kate), and the IOC President. 'arry looked more than a little nervous to be representing The Queen as everybody burst into song for "God Save The Queen" which must be only of the more boring anthems around. Hardly Ode to Joy, is it?

Out came a yellow Reliant Robin that blew up, to Michael Caine's "you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" ["bloody" is not considered a swear word in England, look how often characters say "bluh-deee hell!"]
Out climbed Batman and Robin - a well disguised Del Boy and Rodney.

Back to the organised chaos. Hundreds turned up on trucks to set up impromptu street parties as Madness went around on the back of a truck performing a rather flat rendition of "Our House" (in the middle of our street).

Kilted sax player flying through the air, an army Brass Band finishing up the song to segue into Blur's "Parklife".

This then led to The Pet Shop Boys performing their classic "West End Girls" while dressed in a way that... is normal for them.

Then came a generic boy group that I've never heard of called One Direction who were, annoyingly, the best performers so far.

I was kinda hoping the boy-band quota would have been filled by Busted to belt out what they go to school for. ☺ But, alas, no...

Stomp came back to bash on bin-lids, sticks, and such. Lots of people sweeping up stuff, including a girl dressed a little inappropriately for hard labour (she's the one in front in the picture below). Taking the "Keep Britain Tidy" literally).

Strange acrobatics, then a black cab drove up to drop off Ray Davies to sing "Waterloo Sunset". Some two hundred and fifty local schoolchildren came on to wave blue flags to be the River Thames, while Owen Wilson waved a big flag from the top of the model Big Ben.
Okay, it wasn't really Owen Wilson, but - you know - I'd have died laughing if they had Austin Powers drop in a subtle cameo role here.

Then Emeli was back on to sing... I swear it was the same song once again. What is this, bookending the first act? There was a montage of people crying to remind us that this was in fact a sporting event, and not Eurovision of drugs.

 

Indeed it was, the best celebrities walked out the flags. Something like 200 of them. All the participant countries.

Then athletes appeared. A lot through a main gateway, but a fair number walking down through the audience. A nice personalisation.

What's with eating the medals? I was under the impression that the medals were gold, but maybe it is really a giant gold-wrapped chocolate coin?

What's with the Americans and the frumpy outfits? It is like something from early in the last century.

A popular item were the many crowd control wardens, dressed in blue with a lightbulb atop their heads. A subtle Dr. Who reference (harking back to the Police Box).

More random photos...

Bouncy girl (foreground) leading the athletes around.

The French showing off.

Everybody enjoying themselves.

微笑み! [hohoemi!]

Bouncing Beauties from the Ukraine (<cough> the country that gave us Ruslana's Wild Dances!)

 

Some odd thing with boxes and slow-motion over-acting set to Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill"...

...which led into the award ceremony for the Men's Marathon. It was odd to see how the Trevor McDonald lookee-likee grabbed the bunch of flowers and gave them to the winners, body language seeming to indicate "here, take these and shut up".

The final awards were six volunteers given flowers by medal winners, a sort of thank you to the many volunteers. Well, six were thanked, there's only 69,994 to go!

A brief blast of "Bohemian Rhapsody" fades uneasily into Lennon's "Imagine", along with deaf kids signing as other children sing the song.

This then led into a specially restored video of Lennon himself. Meanwhile a lot of bits were carried on to the stage to put together a model of Lennon's face. As the face broke apart, white balloons were released. Symbolism much?

This was followed by the culture clash of George Michael's "Freedom", plus a rendition of a less interesting new song. Thanks George, why didn't you sing something you are known for instead of plugging a new track? Still, at least it allowed us a comparison of the his style in 1990 and his style now. In my opinion, the 22 years have not been kind. But, then, I like '80s music and this one just makes it as being "hot" shortly after I left school...

What's the box in his hand? Mobile phone? Camera? A button to make him disappear off-stage in a puff of smoke?

The Kaiser Chiefs perform "Tommy" on headlamp-heavy mopeds. The whole Mod thing was a little before my time.

We are teased by Bowie footage, he doesn't make an appearance, instead it is a nod to British fashion that feels somewhat out of place. I think the best looking of all the gold outfits was the short girl pictured below. I could recognise Kate Moss, no idea who the others are.

Then we're back to the music for a slice of creepy WTF!? courtesy of Annie Lennox. Dancers dressed like something out of an '80s Mylène Farmer video (sort of 16-18 century France), and her atop a big skeleton of a wooden boat and a guy with huge black feather wings, it was so laden with symbolism I'm surprised the boat didn't capsize over the weight of it all.

I would have loved to tug on the arm of one of the North Koreans and ask "do you have any idea what this is about?". In fact, anybody who didn't know Annie Lennox might have put this alongside the opening ceremony's vision of industrialisation and wondered if the Brits aren't heading for an apocalyptic vision of some kind.

Then a bloke I've never heard of with strange grey eyes sung a song accompanied by some slightly more famous people.

Meanwhile a guy tightroped across, then shook the hands of a dummy that promptly burst into flames. What is this, social commentary on British hospitality? Some of the stuff in this show is just so random.

That was followed by the utter torture of Russell Brand (atop a psychadelic bus) mutilating the song "I Am The Walrus".

Then stuff is pulled out of the bus and people dance and Fatboy Slim shows us that to get famous you just need to say "right here, right now" over and over with an electronic cacaphony of noise building in the foreground.
It is... a giant... glowing... OCTOPUS.

I'm not kidding. Picture or it didn't happen:

I'm sorry, the only thing that comes to mind is naughty tentacles [warning: wikilink not suitable for sweet innocent minds]. I guess electro-trance music and a neon octopus was a little too close to something out of "Urotsukidōji"...

Then on white cars came Jessie J, and later two rappers I'm never heard of. Mom said Jessie had nice legs, I said she was barely dressed, and we both agreed that she had a decent voice. The rappers were not in the least bit memorable. Together, after their own little vignettes, they assembled to... perform "Dancing" (yeah!) by the Bee-Gees. Like I said, this is so random.

Then The Spice Girls arrived on glitter-laden taxis to remind people that even older and crustier (except Emma Bunton who doesn't look that different), "girl power" is done atop a moving taxi and with gusto. Victoria Beckman almost managed an expression.
Obviously they sung "Wannabe", and it was a little surreal to see athletes from places whose flags I don't recognise singing along. It looks as if Girl Power has reached everywhere except places like Afghanistan...and Moscow.

Their second song was the horrid "Spice Up Your Life". I understand why they chose that, but it hardly shows off any talents, that song.

The mood was dropped a bit for Oasis Beady Eye to perform "Wonderwall". Sorry, "Wonderwall" to me is a now-defunct German girl band who sung delightfully quirky English; not some Beatles-style pretenders. Come on, where was Robbie Williams or Tony Hadley or any of the many internationally-known British performers with a different style? Or did the guy staging this have a thing for The Beatles? Good grief, we could have had Erasure playing "The Circus" to drop in something a little more real; or my personal favourite, the melancholy mix of "When I Needed You".
I'm not much of a fan of the Gallaghers, as you might be able to tell, however it seemed to please the Americans.

Then Eric Idle failing to get launched out of a cannon, instead showed that the British are great at slapstick visual humour, what with Indian dancers, roller-blading nuns, angels, Brittania, Romans doing the can-can, Morris dancers...

And just as an extra additional crowd pleaser, they really did fire a guy out of a cannon. It was all utterly mad.

Speaking of which: Life's a piece of shit, when ya look at it! I'm rather surprised, given this was a global performance, that said line wasn't tweaked to a kiddy-friendly version. Maybe by then everybody know what a piece of shit job organisations such as NBC would do (editing the hell out of the ceremony, and actually shoving in a full-length episode of "Animal Practice" - thank God I get to watch the Beeb and not that sorry excuse that Americans have to put up with).

All said, this might have been a good way to bring the evening to a close, but instead we shifted gears violently with Muse who brought a sort of epic overstated gothic rock opera with a long guitar solo all overacted with tons and tons of ham. Forget chewing the scenery, this was chewing the whole damn stadium. Unless you were watching on NBloodyC in which case this was one of a number of things they just hacked out.

Then another violent shift in gears for the only performer of the night who could sing decently live and rock hard at the same time. None other than the ghost of Freddie Mercury who would no doubt have been tickled at his sing-response routine being used here.

This led on to Brian May (who did not get an on-screen caption because you know dick about rock if you don't know who he is) belting out a two and a half minute guitar solo, as if to show that Muse bloke how it is supposed to be done.

Before Jessie J, she of the powerful voice, returning to belt out "We Will Rock You" and prat around ever so slightly mocking with her ridiculous air guitar routine. It isn't often a nearly-naked chick gets to air guitar with a real life guitar hero. Another of the night's highlights, I'm sure.

 

That over, it was time for the Greek anthem and flag (as in Olympia, the home of The Games), the lowering of the Olympic flag.

Hey Japan, the woman foreground-left (a "Wren") and the man on the right are both British Royal Navy wearing the 1A "sailor suit" uniform. This is the origin of your girl's school uniforms. ☺ [though quite how a male uniform became more commonly associated with girls is one of the many quirks of history that would probably take a long time to unravel]

Boris Johnson handed the flag to the IOC President who handed it to the Mayor of Rio. A symbolic gesture.
Another flag up the pole, another anthem (this time Brazil).

 

Then followed a, frankly, boring (and sometimes just plain creepy) montage of samba and carnival as the Rio presentation. Those guys with the green would convince you that voodoo (actually, Quimbanda) was real and people coming to Rio might want to think twice. Don't believe me? Picture...

[don't pee in your bed, now, they've all gone home to throw bones at honey-soaked crossroads and curse grockles...]

A nervous looking Seb Coe made a speech that was about as long and boring as the Rio presentation. It was worth noting that London got a moderate cheer, the security personnel got a larger cheer, and the "volunteers" got a damn huge standing ovation. And rightly so. Against all the tales of gloom, the expectation of a spectacular terrorist event, travel chaos not seen since biblical times, and a cock-up of uniquely British tradition...
...it actually all went bloody well. We talk of some empty seats, we talk of BoJo on his wire, we talk of some twit not realising that mixing up North and South Korea is about the biggest dishonouring possible. We talk about... hang on, wait. It didn't all go horribly wrong. It actually mostly went right, and a huge part of this was the astonishing dedication of the volunteers - and pretty much everybody was acutely aware of this.

Anyway, Lord Coe. Blah blah blah. My MP3 player randomly played The Fray's "How To Save A Life" during his speech, as I wasn't interested in self-congratulational rubbish being spoken to me by somebody wearing a pink tie (that wasn't on straight). I counted off the video recording, he yacked for six minutes.
Jacques-of-the-IOC, even speaking slowly for English is not his native language, got all he needed to say done in under four minutes.

Dunno who the Asian girl behind the (sunburned?) Prince Harry is, but she's pretty. It's a nice dress.

The big flame thingy opened up, after having been burning its way through London's gas supply for the past 16 days. As it did so, a big burning Phoenix appeared. Just as we're getting ready for the symbolism here, Gary Barlow leads Take That in a song that seems to have been oddly shoehorned into the proceedings.

Then affixed to a smaller flaming Phoenix was Darcey Bussell, some bendy chick that dances on her toes. You might have heard of her...

This is where my video recording ceased. The program was scheduled to run for two and a half hours, I gave it three, and it overran that.

I missed: Some epic fireworks (that'd look crap at 1200kbit), The Who performing, and, well, whatever happened at the very end. Like the Irish players bringing out the beer, the Americans realising their fashion is a century out of date and them all dressing like Jessie J, the Palestinian and Israeli teams having a friendly game of football with one of the blue light-bulb hats, and the Swedes and Ukrainian flower-girls belting out a cappella Abba numbers, while the Belorussians threw Hello Kittys at the Swedes. You know, the sort of stuff never to be repeated that you would kick yourself for not videoing.

 

Phew. Took hours to write this and prepare the pictures. I'm going to chill now with A-kariiiiiin!

 

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