Eight things I learned from the Opening Ceremony
#1 Abraham Lincoln discovered England
As Opening Ceremonies often do, we were treated to the cliff notes for the history of the hosting country.
We began, of course, with a bucolic village on a verdant green. It was a lovely scene, made even lovelier by Qantas lending their little white-clothed children singers to belt out some ye olde English tunes. We had the Dickensian development of London, proceeding as you would expect. Indeed the historical unfurling continued without many surprises until something quite strange happened: a dude in a beard, black suit and a stovepipe hat came out and I thought: bloody hell, I never knew Abraham Lincoln discovered England.
Or built it, in any case: Abraham Lincoln, pointing to spots on the ground for big smoke stacks to majestically rise from. Abraham Lincoln commanding miners to build the Olympic rings with iron and bronze. Abraham Lincoln quoting Shakespeare. A score of Abraham Lincolns running around the track.
Honest Abe was one versatile son-of-a-bitch.
Oh, an interesting contrast: the opening ceremony showed suffragettes in the UK a hundred years ago; today, Saudi Arabia has just decided to allow its first woman to compete in the games. Better late than never I suppose. They’re still not allowed to vote or drive a car though.
#2 It really is Her Majesty’s secret service
Good god that was awesome. James Bond was talking to the freaking Queen! Then they jumped out of a freaking helicopter! Then the James Bond music started!
For a moment I thought I wanted to be a monarchist. I thought if the Brits can have James Bond in their secret service, personally commanded by her majesty, then maybe, just maybe, having her as a head of state isn’t so bad.
This sentiment lasted right up until more kids starting singing ‘God save the queen’. And I thought: oh well fuck that. I’ll take the turgid melody of ‘girt by sea’ over that foreign ditty for a foreign head of state.
This was reinforced then the British team walked out onto the track and the camera cut away to the Queen. She just sat there, picking her nails, completely uninterested in the common folk. If she feels that way about her British subjects, I can’t imagine how little thought she gives to Australia.
#3 The Brits really love their healthcare system
Wow. The Brits love their healthcare: a whole segment on the National Healthcare System. Mitt Romney and the Republicans must have been livid. You can hear them spitting out their Bud Light and yelling at the TV screen, “why are the Brits singing and dancing about SOCIALIST MEDICINE. Is this England or North Korea?”
Don’t get me wrong, I love Medicare. But I’m not sure if we’d ever have nurses doing high kicks and singing a show tune about bulk billing at the start of our games.
#4 England has great musicians
Except for the tubular bells guy (who the fuck was he?) every post was a winner. Goddam some great music has come from the poms: the Stones, the Beatles, the kinks, Bowie, Queen, the goddam Sex Pistols. Joy division. Frankie goes to Hollywood. Eurythmics. Artic monkeys.
Kudos UK, kudos.
#5 The drugs those Brits were on in the 60s haven't worn off
Music aside, the post-Lincoln part of the ceremony really sucked hard.
As twitter said: ‘It's like less talented Glee on acid.’
Seriously, there was a whole section there where I don’t know what the hell was going on. Somebody was smoking something pretty pungent when they thought the middle bit up. An iridescent, pulsating house; Ewoks with glowing green eyes; ubiquitous fluoro jump-ropes; twenty Sid Vicious’ on pogo sticks; a hundred-foot tall Voldemort – whoa brother, pass that duchy on the left hand side, because you’ve had your fill.
It had the quality of a big budget Eurovision that the best music in history could only barely salvage.
Oh, as an aside: why was the inventor of the “world wide web” sitting in front of a computer with a blank screen? I don’t know, maybe he was trying to work on Windows Vista.
#6 French has no place at the Olympics
Why the hell are they speaking French? Stop speaking it, just stop. This is England, not bloody Provence. Every significant moment at the opening ceremony would be followed by some gentleman soiling the spectacle by offering an explanation in French. I just don’t understand how some dude – speaking with what sounded like a mouth full of peanut butter - adds any value.
Exhibit A: the culmination of the ceremony, the great Paul McCartney singing ‘hey Jude’. The crowd was going nuts. Perfect. Well almost: suddenly, in the midst of this great dénouement, some French guy drowns out the music with, “huu huu huu, voulez vous, fromage du bon bon bon?”
#7 Planet earth has too many countries
The athletes had started to walk in so I figured I’d leave the room for a spell. I left when the Czech Republic were arriving; had a shower and shave, took the washing off the line, drank a cup of coffee and read some articles on Making the Nut. When I returned I saw they were up to… Ghana. Oh for fuck’s sake.
As a tweeter stated: ‘I've never heard of half these countries. Quit making stuff up’.
They really need to amalgamate a lot of these to save us some time. Let’s just have a country called ‘the Caribbean’ and shove all those guys all together (I mean really, Saint Kitts and Nevis?). Put Canada in the US march and all the countries bailed out by Germany (approximately half of Europe) should walk out under the German flag.
And some countries I just know aren’t real. Come on:
Netherlands Antilles, WTF?
British Virgin Islands, WTF?
None of these places actually exists. The Olympic are just desperately trying to make themselves sound important by making up additional countries. It’s just sad. The Olympic is grand enough without such fabrication – Luxembourg is not a country and no amount of fake marches can convince me otherwise.
And if – if – you have to make this stuff up, at least make in interesting. As one tweeter said: ‘Um, why is Narnia not represented?’
Oh, and Greenland melted recently so don’t try to put that one in there.
#8 I love Australia
When the Aussies walked into the stadium my heart leap with pride. Here was Lauren Jackson, one of the best basketball players in the world, holding aloft the Australian flag. I jumped from the couch with a primal roar as our girls and boys walked in. So happy was I that if a Frenchman were standing nearby I would have hugged him and said nothing about their performance in the war.
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