Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lon-Done! -- 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony Critique

Writing about London's Olympic Closing Ceremony is not easy.

In the hours immediately after the August 12 event, I was too tired. Though the 2012 adventure never did quite push me to hit the Olympic wall as in Games gone by, going into the final day of the XXXth Olympiad I was still standing, but just barely.

In the days just after the Closing, there was also a lot to tend to ... consolidating Olympic swag to fit my luggage. Sightseeing across London to visit the many sites on hold during the Games. A day trip with friends to Stonehenge. Chasing down gifts and final pin trades for folks at home. My brain just was not ready to write.

Then there was the long flight home, the 24 hours layover in Atlanta before a fun weekend with my girlfriend in Milwaukee, and now 10 days since the big party, there seems to remain endless unpacking (I entered London with two bags and returned with four). Also prepped then attended a new client meeting in Washington, D.C., yesterday.

Timing and mental energy aside, writing about London's final Olympic bow is challenging because I wanted to like the Closing Ceremony. And there are plenty of spectacular moments that will always remain with me. But there could have, and I think should have, been even more.

First, the good stuff.

I love it that the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed John Barry's soundtrack themes from "Dances With Wolves" (a nod to the former British colony, as the film was an all-American epic?) -- they performed Barry works during the event's preamble and again as the Olympic flame flickered out just a few paces from my second row seat behind the Olympic and U.K. flags.

The music also wowed me with Annie Lennox (finally performing at the Games), Emeli Sande, Pet Shop Boys, Queen, Taio Cruz and George Michael, whose "Freedom" lit up the arena via 640,000 LED audience pixels. I appreciated The Who medley including "Pinball Wizard" (during which a giant pinball prop nearly broke my left arm in the stands).

The best musical surprise: "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush, a longtime favourite. Also enjoyed tunes by David Bowie, John Lennon and even the Spice Girls.

But this is where the questions and criticism kick in and my POV on the London Olympic closing ceremony gets negative.

Where was Kate Bush? Where was David Bowie? Nowhere to be seen, only heard (and larger than life Brazil icon Pele was never formally announced, so no one in the stadium knew of his arrival in the Rio 2012 handover as predicted).

If you're going to showcase deceased legends (Lennon, and Freddie Mercury of Queen), then why not also showcase LIVING legends of British rock such as Elton John, Sting, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and The Rolling Stones?

If you're going to have a reunion performance by the Spice Girls, whadayasay also inviting Genesis or The Police to the party?

Where was Adele? And Coldplay? And Sade? And what happened to Sarah Brightman? Not invited? Not available? We may only wonder. But thank goodness "Stomp!" was available (snicker).

It's kind of like the Atlanta Olympic closing ceremony which lacked obvious Georgia hit makers R.E.M. and the B-52's. But who remembers Olympic closing ceremonies anyway?

I did enjoy the athlete entry in London. The fireworks were amazing, albeit brief compared to Beijing. Loved the stadium-sized "canvas" by Damien Hirst, from one of his spin paintings. And "Read All About It" performed by Sande is now on my hit list. Cheers for Russell Brand cast as Willy Wonka (a nickname Brand earned months ago) singing "Pure Imagination." LOL for Eric Idle singing "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life."

But then, here we go again with moments to hate. A human cannonball. Really? A giant octopus as Fatboy Slim's stage? WTF!?! Supermodels = Approved! Supermodels on trucks and lost in a sea of thousands of athletes = Denied!

No other Monty Python performers? Boooooo!

End of a wonderful XXXth Olympiad ... boooooo. But it was a brilliant Olympics worthy of "best ever" status if such nomenclature still existed in the Olympic family. I think over time the London Olympic closing ceremony will settle better in my memory than in this critique. Until then I'll think of some of the music and also play some Genesis tunes while unpacking.

Photos and videos by Nicholas Wolaver

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