Sunday, 29 July 2012

A new dawn..?

One of the ceremony highlights - Emeli Sandé

So, I was expecting to be full of smart alec things to say about Friday night's Olympic Opening Ceremony but in all honesty I really enjoyed almost all of it. Sure, there is a lot you could say about the money spent on it, about the carbon footprint business, about the real state of some of the NHS... but once a country/city has decided to stage the Olympics then something has to be done in terms of ceremony, I suppose, and if something's going to be done then what we saw on Friday night was, for me, as good as it could be (and in some places better). All 3 of us watched it from start to finish (I even watched some of the build-up and enjoyed little features like this one about 2000 medal-winner Denise Lewis).

Of the ceremony I enjoyed:

the enthusiasm of all the volunteers,
the dancing,
the kids in choirs,
the whole young people/social media/pop music section,
the subject of history being raised at all,
the dramatic rising factories,
the NHS/kids books section,
the athletes' parade,
the burning rings,
the fireworks,
Dizzee Rascal,
the Arctic Monkeys,
J.K.Rowling looking a bit terrified (millionaires can be nervous too...),
the Queen looking like she'd really rather be somewhere else (rather than that peach horror of a frock she should really have been wearing a t-shirt that said "too old to give a toss"),
the James Bond bit,
the ridiculous Beckham in the boat bit,
the Olympic flag-bearers (see here)
and possibly most of all Emeli Sandé singing beautifully (she's Scottish you know - at least one Scottish newspaper had her, cyclist Chris Hoy and JKR on the cover on Saturday...). Apparently US viewers didn't even get to see this part of the ceremony (NBC cut to a sports interview instead) which is a shame as she had such poise, such control - it was really spellbinding. It took a while to find the live performance online but here is a studio version of her doing the song she sang on the night "Abide with me" (words: Henry Francis Lyte, tune:William Henry Monk):

And then... it turned up eventually... here is the segment of the ceremony that features the song:

I was a bit bemused by:

Kenneth Branagh's role and why he had to stride around so much. He was being Brunel, apparently, and not some of the other suggestions, but I'm afraid Brunel has been ruined for me forever because Jeremy "spit on floor" Clarkson picked him as his Great Briton on that TV show back in 2002. In fact another reason I enjoyed the Opening Ceremony was knowing how much people like Clarkson would be hating it. "The NHS! The NHS! Something to be proud of! Agh!!" Maybe it even brought on a few early heart attacks in folks of the little-and-for-whites-only-England persuasion. We can dream. (Oh, I'm only joking... a bit... plus some of them are near relatives so I'm allowed... ).

I was surprised by:

The Mr Bean section (and the Bond sections... I didn't know humour, even gentle humour, was allowed in international ceremonies... what a relief!). I really was expecting the serious classical music to continue after Rattle's entrance and I was surprised and did laugh when it changed tack. I'm not a big fan of Bean or anything but the segment was quite Eric Morecambe in its way (the international language of raised eyebrows and all that) and that can't be bad. Kids will have enjoyed it too - ours managed to stay awake right till the end... so the show was doing something right in terms of reaching a wide age range (apart from her Maj, obviously).

I was not as impressed as everyone else by:

the cauldron thing... it looked like they were all carrying bedpans or something (another NHS reference?). I quite enjoyed watching the designer, Thomas Heatherwick (great name), talk about it on BBC news the next day though (some of that is here). I always love it when not-particularly-media-friendly people get on TV (slick media folk are just so last century...). He talks like a person who hasn't been trained to talk.

and I was totally disapppointed by:

the last item of the night being a ropey version of "Hey Jude" by (yawn) Paul McCartney (I don't use "sir"s - don't believe in 'em). I like McCartney (I love the Beatles... I loved Wings... I even have some of his solo albums... even the one from the HMMcM period) but he is past-his-best and that song has been wheeled out once too often (because people sing along in a feelgood manner...). It was a terrible letdown at the end of pretty great show which was a shame (though if we don't win a medal soon it won't be the only one...).

Reviews of the Opening Ceremony on the whole seem to have been very positive. Partly there was relief, I think, that it had not shamed us internationally (no firework malfunction, no collapsed cauldron...). There was griping online from both political extremes of course but that's to be expected (too many brown faces and loud bass lines for the far right, too much papering over problems for the lefties...). As a bit of leftie myself, I'd have to acknowledge that Country GB is a place where all is not exactly well in many ways... and yet... as a giant defence of the NHS on a world stage.. as a giant declaration of who we are... then and now... it really wasn't bad at all.



Titus said...

Hear Hear! I'd only demur on the cauldron opinion, because I saw it and thought it was just going to be a flat rose-type thing and was almost agape when the arms started to rise up. Loved the forging of the ring - I think that might be my most memorable moment, although the Queen picking her nails (I think) when the GB team walked in was pretty good - 'And there is her Majesty, looking on proudly...'

And it was idiosyncratic, and I genuinely laughed at parts, so that's all good then.

Rachel Fox said...

I know... most people did like the cauldron more than I did! I can't even explain why I don't like it... something to do with the waste I think ("they could be cooking tea for half of London on there...").

Yes, we laughed at the picking of nails because it's one of h's habits these days and it was funny to see HM doing what I spend half my days nagging h not to do!

Hope you enjoy your London trip!


Titus said...

I'm hoping the thing that will make the Olympics really British is that the only gold medal we win is in pistol shooting. And possibly Women's Football. I'm falling in love with the Women's Football team.

Rachel Fox said...

I'm sure we could get a "ridiculous commentary" medal or something. The guys on the cycling yesterday were bizarre... (a) sounding like they didn't like each other very much and (b) blaming the lack of GB gold on all the other cyclists!!

Rachel Fox said...

And I forgot to mention the gold and white tracksuits that Team GB were wearing... apparently the other Macca (Stella) has had to publicly disown them ( Next to blame, so she says...

hope said...

Okay, hit Titus first and my comments there pretty much fall in line with yours here. :)

The funny thing was missing the mid portion of the ceremony so that when we came back in, Hubby said, "What are they carrying? Spitoons or chamber pots?" as the parade of nations went on. Of course at the end it was understandable when the torch rose up.

Mixed feelings about that torch: I liked the lovely floral effect as it rose but I always think of the torch as HIGHER, BIGGER than the rest of the events, so that it can be seen for long distances. That "torch" didn't seem to fit the bill.

Look forward to a wide array of events: can give NBC credit for announcing each evening, "Yes, this is delayed tape of what occurred earlier today and we won't tell you who won."

Michael Phelps was a somewhat of a shock, as he seemed to "sleepwalk" through his swim. And I've heard discussion that the Gymnastic folks are complaining about equipment: never seen so many slips and falls before!

Thank you for not bowing down to Beckham: I thought his entrance was more comical than "James Bond"...and it wasn't suppose to be. :)

Hopefully the world can play nice for at least 2 weeks!

Rachel Fox said...

I think it was the we're-all-in-this-together, world-peace nature of the cauldron that just seemed a bit too clangingly symbolic for me somehow. Something like that...


The Solitary Walker said...

Entertaining indeed — your write-up, I mean. However, I agree with much of your take on it. Daring to mention history (and not a sanitized version), the NHS, Emili Sandé — yes, all good! (And if the US say they couldn't understand what the hell was going on, do we care?) Was a little worried at the over-earnestness of the Brunel stuff at the start, but any misgivings were soon allayed. Great how serious concerns kept giving way to bubble-pricking humour. Very British! All in all, a great success, not boring, and a refreshing change from the usual.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, we just have to win some medals now...

Dominic Rivron said...

I'm afraid stuff of this kind leaves me cold, though from what I saw it was a very good example of its kind! I caught the NHS bit and I thought it was an excellent message to send to the world. Providing free at the point of delivery healthcare for all a la NHS should be a benchmark of what it means to be civilised. I just hope we become more civilised here, not less.

The Solitary Walker said...

Medals? I think you want to have your cake and eat it, Rachel! Though we have got a couple now.

Rachel Fox said...

I think that was kind of his point, Dominic, to make such a big fuss about the NHS on such a big stage that it might be harder to wipe it out. I saw an interview with a London nurse on the news who was part of it - that was good too. And I agree about the cold... I don't normally watch ceremonies at all... I suppose I thought this one would be talked about so much (it already had been!) that I would give it a go at least.

Yes, SW, I did watch the end stages of the women's road race (cycling). Amazing strength... and in that rain too!

Rachel Fox said...

And I can't believe I forgot to mention the Olympic flagbearers! When they said Doreen Lawrence's name that was me almost snivelling (mentioned her recently - )

and one of the others writes about the experience here:

That was a great part too.

A Cuban In London said...

I loved your post because like you I loved almost everything. Why Paul McCartney, though? Again?

Emeli Sande... wow! I mean, WOW! What an artist, what a singer. And yes, Scottish through and through. :-)

My dad texted me from Cuba to say "Thank you London for the great show you put on." I texted him back to say " and Macnhester, and Glasgow, and Cardiff, and Birmingham, and Belfast and..." Well, you get the gist. :-)

Greetings from London.

Rachel Fox said...

Glad your Dad enjoyed it too, Cuban!


Marion McCready said...

I'm with you on the Kenneth Branagh bit, wasn't all that keen on the history of the industrial revolution either.. and yes, Hey Jude was the ultimate cliche. Bond and Mr Bean were definitely the best bits. Though The New York Times summed it up pretty well - "was like a Bollywood version of a sixth-grade play" :)

Rachel Fox said...

Bit cutting from the NYT...

The Bug said...

I really really regret that we watched baseball instead! I don't know what we were thinking. I'm hoping that I can find some parts online somewhere (maybe that link you provided will help).

Funny about "Hey Jude" - a blogger that I follow has a son named Jude - for the Saint, not the song - she got pregnant after having given up hope. Anyway, the song is sort of their theme song so of course she loved that part :)

Rachel Fox said...

I know... I have liked it in the past... we've just heard it too many times now. Still, I suppose it wasn't just for us - that's part of the point.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I moe or less agree with all you say Rachel. We watched from beginning to end and enjoyed it all. Like you I do wish the Queen had shown a bit of enthusiasm when the team GB went past but she did visit the village the next day and chat to them.
I also agree about McCartnet - isn't it time he retired? Gracefully?

Rachel Fox said...

Whenever I see the Queen out at these late events I imagine how my Mum (pretty much exactly her age) would have taken to being dressed up like a wedding cake and taken out to listen to loud pop music late at night. She would have looked a lot more miserable than EII... in fact she would have been wrapped in blankets, wearing earplugs, eating chocolates and asleep (yes, all at the same time). She certainly wouldn't have made it through the parade of athletes... and I'm no monarchist but, like Paul Mc, people can be past their best and ready to hand over to others. They should have got the younger royals to work the late night stuff (if we have to have royals... of course personally I'd lose the lot of them... couldn't they have an area at Disneyworld or something?).