I love the Olympics. I’ve been watching them since Tokyo ‘64 and this year’s, like all the modern games, went through the usual Olympic emotional hoops. Elation – at winning the bid. Doubt – the following year when the estimates for running the games are quadrupled. Panic – as everyone realises they’ll have to stage a huge opening ceremony and it’s certain to be crap. Anger – as special Olympic-only lanes are created so Olympic dignitaries can drive between sites without being inconvenienced by the lower orders. Cynicism – as predictions of doom and disaster fill the newspapers…
And then back to elation as the Olympics start and a whole nation become experts on sculling and double trap shooting.
My biggest fear was the opening ceremony. I’m someone who believes that all opening ceremonies would benefit from a 95% edit. I’ve never seen the point of them. Firework displays are fun, but pageantry? Thousands of regimented, smiling children? To me, that smacks of Stepford.
And when I heard that London 2012 was going to feature Mary Poppins fighting Voldemort, my heart sank. This was going to be worse. We were going for the lowest common denominator. An austerity opening ceremony of cringeworthy, cheesiness. Troupes of luvable cockneys singing and dancing to ‘Knees up, muvver Bran.’
But I had to watch. We stayed up to watch the first five minutes – with a nervous thumb resting on the remote’s off switch in case the embarrassment factor became too great. And ended up watching the complete 90 minutes. It was so much better than we’d expected – being theatre rather than pageant.
Okay, there was a strange moment when Isambard Kingdom Brunel appeared to be recast as Saruman orchestrating the ripping apart of the green fields around Isengard. Was I the only one who expected Uruk-Hai to come pouring out of Glastonbury Hill?
But it was different. And it had humour in it, something which opening ceremonies have never tried before. Which made it even more British. Humour, innovation and a celebration of the odd.
Another big plus this year is the way the organisers have used the architecture of London as a backdrop to the Games. Hampton Court Palace for the cycling time trial. Windsor Castle for the rowing. Greenwich for the Equestrian.
And here’s an interesting factoid. Eight of the world’s ten most popular sports were either invented or codified in Britain. If only we were as good at playing the sports as we are at inventing them:) Having said that, the British cycling and rowing teams are beyond awesome.
Now I’m off to watch Jessica (Ennis).
Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
An Unsafe Pair of Hands – a quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand?
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.
What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried – true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.
International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth.