Sunday, July 29, 2012

Be Not Afear'd; the Isle is Full of Noises

About four years ago I wrote, "the London Games would do well not to ape [the Beijing] show, but instead try for something simpler, more focused on individuals, rather than masses. China's got masses, that's for sure. Western Civilization is about something else."

We watched most of the opening ceremony on Friday, and liked it in spite of NBC's dumbed down, annoying presentation (and its ludicrous decision not to show the implicit 7/7 tribute). I don't know that I'd call the '12 ceremony simpler than '08, since there were a lot of moving parts. Sure was more festive, though.

And something of an answer to Beijing's message: Look here, we're strong and modern! To which the London replied, we invented modern. While having a spot of fun. Do the Chinese have an equivalent to Mr. Bean? Probably they do, but the party mandarins wouldn't dream of putting him front and center before a worldwide audience of a billion.

Ann was full of questions for me: What's that? What are they doing? What's that supposed to be? I told her as much as I could, but the references were flying by. The onrush of British content was something to behold, and must be bewildering if you're nine. Still, she'll pick most of it eventually. Such are the connections between the UK and the rest of the English-speaking world. I was reminded just how fortunate I am, being able to understand (most) of what the British have to offer the world, in the original language.

How is it I never made it to Glastonbury Tor? I don't think it was that obscure before the opening ceremony featured a model of it. But when I visited Bath in '83, which isn't very far away, I probably hadn't heard of it yet. During later visits to the country, it never occurred to me. Ah, well. Just another place to visit if I live long enough (and there are many such places in the British Isles).

We sat through the Parade of Nations, though as usual it was butchered by NBC. Why, for instance, since it's on tape delay, does the network pretend that a number of teams paraded by when the commercials were on? Sometimes the patter of the announcers told me some interesting tidbit about the teams, especially about one or another of the competitors, but a lot of the time their assumption was that the audience didn't know anything about anywhere, and didn't really need to.

Also as usual, I got to wonder how it is that some subnational places get Olympic committees, while others do not. American Samoa, Aruba, Bermuda, the BVI, the Caymans, Guam, Hong Kong, Palestine, Puerto Rico and the USVI all count as non-nation participants, though in the case of Palestine, it's pretty much a de facto nation (or two) and Hong Kong makes sense because it was a distinct entity for so long. But if Puerto Rico can get its own team, why not French Guiana? American Samoa but not French Polynesia? The British Virgin Islands but not Martinique? Maybe Martinique isn't big enough to field a team, but I'm sensing a pattern. French territories compete for the glory of France, or not at all. C'est la vie.

The Olympic cauldron lighting was pretty cool, with 204 copper petals, one for each team, rising up to be conduits for one of the many fingers of the giant flame. Not bad, but it couldn't top Paralympian Antonio Rebollo shooting a flaming arrow into the cauldron in Barcelona (or near it, since I've read the flame wasn't actually lit by his arrow, but who cares). Still, the London lighting was effective, and I didn't learn until today that the unexplained girls in floaty dresses carrying cup-like items along with each team were in fact carrying the copper petals that would be part of the cauldron. Nice touch.

One more question: What about Ringo? Couldn't he have played drums with Sir Paul? I haven't heard that he's ill, and surely he could have played that short set list. Maybe there were other considerations. Still, it would have been fitting.

I suspect the '16 ceremony will be a whole lotta festive. After after, it's Rio. But we'll have to wait and see.

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