Katie's Blog

August 13, 2012

Why I feel a bit let down by the closing ceremony.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — kjharding @ 1:24 pm

I should preface this by saying that I know the ceremony last night was not all bad, and I also acknowledge that the closing ceremony is not there to do the same job as the opening ceremony. But anyway, here goes.

As a newly minted commuter into London I will happily admit that, three weeks ago, I was looking forward to the Olympics with a sense of trepidation. Horror story predictions about the transport system abounded, security was a massive issue, and whenever it was discussed the conversations usually ended with a slight sigh and the phrase “I’m sure it won’t be that bad”.

And then it started. The opening ceremony was, in my opinion, fantastic: an imaginative, sweeping vista showing the world what Britain is all about. Or, maybe, should be all about.

The following two weeks of athletics was the only Olympics I remember being interested in. I found myself, helped along by the BBC’s excellent coverage, becoming interested in sports that I’d only vaguely been aware of previously – fencing, diving, gymnastics. I became an overnight expert in all fields, sagely informing my better half that, in fencing, if both lights go up at the same time, it means that they’ve hit each other at exactly the same moment and so the point will go to whoever started their “attack” first. Of course.

But it was with Super Saturday that I found myself fully under the spell of the Olympics. Watching this group of people, both British and those representing other countries, striving with everything they had to achieve their dream of winning an Olympic medal of whatever colour was both inspiring and humbling. I found myself teary eyed on numerous occasions, thinking about all the hard work that all of the athletes had put in to reach this point. The sheer effort of making it to the Olympics at all is an achievement in and of itself, but then World and Olympic records started falling with impunity. Athletes were achieving double triples, long distance doubles and cutting whole seconds off their personal bests, all cheered on by an excited public. And me. Shouting at my TV screen, hoping that the runners making up ground on Mo Farah in the final stretch of his epic 5000m final would trip each other up, or fall over themselves, or anything – just let him win.

I also found the participation and performance of so many of the female athletes cheering. For the first time there were female athletes from each nation competing, and there was female boxing. I am not a fan of boxing (male or female) but I found Nicola Adams to be a great ambassador for her sport. Engaging, eloquent and very obviously excited and pleased with what she’d achieved. Rightly so.

This was something that typified the vast majority of the competitors, whether winning a medal or not. The young athletes were gracious and humble and fantastic examples to everyone. They had tried to be the best at something and, in some cases, achieved it. In other cases, not quite. But they were happy with their lot nonetheless.

So I was looking forward to the closing ceremony, looking forward to seeing how the organisers could bring to an end such a fantastic fortnight of global celebration and togetherness.

I hate to say it, but I was disappointed. I did not go into it with the cynicism with which I approached the opening ceremony and yet I still found myself getting more and more disappointed with what I saw. I am finding it hard to put my finger on exactly why, but I think it’s because I had spent the previous two weeks watching people working their absolute hardest, after several years of working their absolute hardest, and achieving greatness, being the best that they could be, being sportsmanlike, recognising the achievements of their opponents and generally being nice. It was lovely to see.

And how did we celebrate this coming together of nations in achievement, effort and real hard work? We had One Direction being driven on the back of a flat bed truck around the running track miming one of their “hits”. We had Jessie J being driven in the back of a huge and ostentatious Rolls Royce singing about it not being about the money. Yeah, we know that, Jessie. We’ve just watched two weeks’ worth of people whose prime motivation is NOT to make huge wadges of cash – we don’t need you, prancing around in a strange be-spangled body suit to tell us that.

The nadir for me, the point at which even the snarky Twitterati could not help me to enjoy myself, was the “fashion” segment. I don’t know if it was partly because I was secretly hoping that Bowie would appear and was annoyed when he didn’t, but this part left me hollow. I appreciate that they were modelling Alexander McQueen dresses and so were celebrating a British designer who had achieved greatness in his own field, something which was missing from the opening ceremony. I don’t remember anything about British designers but it is undoubtedly right that they’re celebrated. But seeing some preening prima donnas best known for their love lives and temper tantrums stalking about the stage was to my mind a bit, well, misjudged. We had just seen a plethora of female athletes at the peak of physical health and fitness, moving away from women valued only for their ability to look good – valued and appreciated for their contribution to the sport and what they had to say. I felt sad to be moving back in the other direction. I am reliably informed that Russell Brand singing “I am the Walrus” was worse, but I seem to have blocked that from my memory.

It was not simply the female side of things which left me feeling deflated, it was the whole thing. The celebrity culture where people are deified for nothing more than simply being on TV had been cast aside for two weeks, and true talent shone through – these athletes were famous for actually doing something! Although not true of the entire closing ceremony, I felt that certain elements of it (giving prime airtime to allow George Michael to plug his new single, for example) slammed the door shut so that the chink of light cast by the athletes’ talent was no longer visible.

It boils down to this. I think my problem with the closing ceremony is that the Olympics had been a celebration of people’s real achievements – a departure from the celebrity culture that has pervaded much of our lives over the past few years. It celebrated humility, hard work and grafting (as a greater man than me said). The female role models on display during the Olympics were real women – they looked like real women and they acted like real women. All of the athletes were true sportspeople and it saddened me to realise that this display was over.

Basically I think I’m in mourning for the end of the Olympics. I don’t know what I would have done instead and I don’t have any constructive criticism, just an emotionally knee-jerk reaction. The athletes kettled into the Union Flag in the middle seemed to be enjoying themselves, which is the main thing. All I know is that I bloody loved the Olympics and this didn’t seem to be enough of a send off.

But, joy of joys, the Premier League starts again next week. Talk about preening prima donnas best known for their love lives and temper tantrums……

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71 Comments »

  1. I completely share your feeling. The closing ceremony was more about music than sport itself. I really loved the opening ceremony and was expecting maybe too much of the closing one…

    Comment by thebloodyfrog — August 15, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

  2. I was not too keen on the opening Ceremony and much preferred the closing one. That said I can understand the feeling that it was much more about saying “oh I remember that song” and “British” music than anything sporting. However, the same can be said for the opening ceremony in terms of its lack of sport. Its just that the opening ceremony made me feel as though it had been put together by a group of A level drama students.

    I agree whole heartedly at you comment regarding celebrity culture and our escape from. I suppose we can only hope that the Olympics gets a lot of kids away from reality tv and celebs and that it really managed inspire a generation.

    Comment by FrustratedSigh — August 15, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

  3. I think you have made some good points here, personally I think that the closing ceremonies was not really a ‘real’ British perfomance, for want of a better word. It just did n’t have a right feel to it, It may be that I am just hard to satisfy; but in many ways the Olympics were inspiring and not all the inspiration came from British Athletetes, feel it fair to say that.

    Comment by whisperingleavesblog — August 15, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

  4. I SO agree! I was so annoyed by the Closing Ceremony that I turned it off and read a book. Sadly read a book, though, because I really had this giant feel-good thing going on during the entire Olympics, a little faith in the real-ness of humanity and sportsmanship, and of getting along, and diversity etc… and I wanted a celebrate THAT. Instead, as you said, life returns to normal banality and the falseness of consumerism and pop culture. There was no diversity in the Closing Ceremony either, not even much coverage of the parade of athletes entering the stadium, which some have said is boring, but to me – watching the display of all the different nations & cultures is the best part of the Olympics. I was so disappointed after such a great games not to be able to celebrate it properly at the end. No closure for me. My Olympic relationship lingers longingly without any sense of proper finish.

    Thanks for this post!

    Comment by Denise — August 15, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

  5. Well said.

    Comment by Peggy Isaacs — August 15, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

  6. I think the closing ceremony was simply a final plug for British export – it wasn’t about the Olympics, and the Olympics wasn’t simply about sport. So all the business stuff that had been happening with the Olympics as a backdrop came to the fore. It was designed to send subliminal messages to the rest of the world saying, you thought we could only do gold medals? Remember all these tunes that you grew up to, we made them! See these images and these faces plastered all over your magazines and bill boards? They’re British.

    I wasn’t disappointed (except when in shock that Russell Brand even tried to sing). It was quite a feeling of being awestruck at the British audacity to shamelessly show off to the world – didn’t know we had that in us lol! And well, don’t need to worry about the athletes. Looked like they were happy enough to just enjoy the party. I only hope they don’t just look back on London 2012 as being one great party and forget to go home and inspire a generation 😛

    Comment by thisislemonade — August 15, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

  7. Reblogged this on Musings of an Anglophile.

    Comment by musingsofananglophile — August 15, 2012 @ 6:55 pm

  8. I completely agree with you. I felt bad for having these feelings because they fed into the snotty American stereotype. But it was an amazing Olympics. As you said, EVERY country allowing women to participate, world records broken, dedication, sportsmanship, kindness… It was uplifting to watch. And then the closing ceremonies almost reminded me of how shallow the celebrity of our world can be. I guess the important thing is the hopes that it helped the athletes celebrate their joy and achievements. But it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.

    Comment by bjones1031 — August 15, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

  9. I was in two minds about the closing ceremony, simultaneously thinking it both dire and ‘maybe okay’. That’s as strong praise as I’m giving! It just seemed to have little or nothing to do with the actual Olympics, more like a badly designed end of proceedings party. To be fair it was visually impressive, unsurprising after the opening ceremony but it takes more than visuals and the rest left me uninspired after a dazzlingly opening ceremony.

    Perhaps the defining moment for me was Jessie J singing “Its not about the money money money…” whilst arriving in a fleet of convertible Bentleys/Mercedes (or whatever they were) and covered in bling.

    If the whole thing was supposed to be a parody of itself then it worked brilliantly, I’m just not sure that was the intention.

    Great post, thanks for writing.

    ps. To be fair, I did like Take That 🙂

    Comment by SomewhereAmazing — August 15, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

  10. i could not agree more. Loved the opening ceremony (http://bluedeckshoe.com/2012/07/29/the-greatest-show-on-earth/).

    Loved the Olympics (http://bluedeckshoe.com/2012/08/12/the-uk-goes-supernova/).

    *HATED* the closing ceremony.

    Comment by bluedeckshoe — August 15, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

  11. I couldn’t agree more with you. My dad was grinning from ear to ear in total ecstasy throughout the closing ceremony, while I watched on, with an expression of dull contentment and my mum swiped vigorously on her iPhone, completely absorbed with a hunt for information on the performers… A tremendously clever man, my dad, but fully enjoying how we were “advertising ourselves to the world” and how “ingenious” it had been to tie all our products and fame into one bundle; Rolls Royce, fashion, singers, etc… Well, I regret to say, I found it vain. Like you said, the Olympics is about great, unparalleled sportsmanship and we performed to the greatest height of sportive achievement I have seen in my juvenile years.
    I thought the opening ceremony, and all its wonders and all its embodiments of our greatest cultural treasures positively inspiring. But the end waned to a pompous “my horse is bigger than your horse” snap at the world, boasting what we have done and will continue to do, and celebrating all things British.
    It wasn’t that bad, if I sit and omit the pathetic and eardrum-murdering performance from George Michael, and Jessie J’s aggravating vibrato and Gaga costume. I mean, the whole thing, apart from possibly being perceived as a boasting session, is clearly a political message, and a call to boosting British fabrications over Chinese. With the whole world watching, it was a perfect opportunity to remind people; “Hey, look here. We make Rolls Royces. Look at our pretty women and their stunning frocks. Don’t buy rip-offs from other countries. Come buy stuff here, we’ve hosted an amazing Games for you, so please do not omit us!”
    Well… I suppose it all depends on one’s perspective. It is at the same time a political message as it is a statement of bragging, and perhaps honest national pride. In short, it had more political motives than the Opening Ceremony, and lacked the artistry the first relied on, but it was a very British way to end a magnificent fortnight that has united the world on terms of skill, not looks, not money, not privileged background, but earnest dedication and thriving passion.

    Comment by Spanghews — August 15, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

  12. I love how you put it. You have hit the woman issue perfectly.

    Comment by lucindalines — August 15, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

  13. I agree. It was a rather disappointing end to an amazing two weeks. Watching artists mime to their records does nothing for me… But the lighting and fireworks were good! Great Olympics though.

    Comment by Paul Gillam — August 16, 2012 @ 9:54 am

  14. I had a similar feeling when I saw the models and was quite frankly flabbergasted to see GM promoting his new single. Watching it in a foreign country made me feel awkward about the priorities of the Brits. I felt it was more a celebratory gig than a closing ceremony.

    Comment by Every Hundredth Of A Second — August 16, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

  15. If they had good music instead of garbage like the Spice Girls, it could have been a good ceremony. People will never learn though.

    Comment by Bobby Slick — August 21, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

  16. Reblogged this on Shawn Driskell Diary.

    Comment by sqlmonpotibe1982 — October 8, 2012 @ 11:59 am


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