Wednesday, August 15, 2012

MTVP London 2012 Olympics Coverage: Closing Ceremonies

So the London 2012 Olympics are officially over, and we all must return to the “real world” after living two weeks in a wonderful British fantasy land. In the past two weeks, we’ve seen the very best and the very worst of sport. The best being humble, talented folk like swimmer Nathan Adrian and gymnast Gabby Douglas win the gold medal for the United States. The worst being judging scandals in boxing and accusations of gaming the tournament in badminton. Anyway the Closing Ceremonies are a chance to say goodbye and just plain throw a big party. Because it’s a last hurrah, the Closing Ceremonies (although they have their required elements too) are generally much more laid back than the Opening Ceremonies, and they tend to show off the kitschier side of the host country’s culture. In that sense, this year’s Closing Ceremonies did not disappoint. There was music galore from artists as serious as Pet Shop Boys and Kaiser Chiefs to as fluffy as One Direction and the Spice Girls. Yep, those Spice Girls reunion rumors were no joke! I would have rather had a (living members of) Monty Python reunion, personally, but hey, at least we got Eric Idle!

The show opened with a bunch of large sculptures of great London architecture strewn about the field. Stuff like the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, etc. I thought that was just strange and too abstract. I did like how eventually, the field took on the appearance of the Union Jack. I thought that was appropriately kitschy and classy all at the same time. Because to us unwashed colonials here in the United States, the Union Jack is always classy. Once we got past the strange architectural stuff, it was time for the party. First we got a kind of random set of music, from One Direction (kind of gross boy band) to the Pet Shop Boys to Stomp. This segment of the show was kind of disjointed from the rest of it. After this section, there would be segments that were sort of themed around different aspects of British culture and heritage, but this particular segment was just one great blast of music.

The first themed segment of the show featured the song “Pinball Wizard” from The Who’s “Tommy.” It was performed by Kaiser Chiefs and was meant to be a tribute to the Mod movement. We then continued on with the classier side of British music and fashion. It got to be a bit much when famous actual supermodels like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell actually strutted the catwalks that were forming the Union Jack. Mostly because they were both obnoxious when they were in their prime, and now that they’re aging, it’s just sad. I kind of adored the shot the camera crew got of Nathan Adrian’s face when the supermodels strutted out. The only way to describe it is “WTF…okay, I’ll go with it!” The one real highlight of the music and fashion segment was a bit of a film tribute to David Bowie. Because David Bowie is freaking awesome. My mom would have loved that if she had watched long enough to see it. She was a big time David Bowie fan back in the day. Tween space geek me loved “Space Oddity” and “Starman.”

Once we got past the music and fashion section, we got a whole bunch of random bits of British culture and music. First up was Annie Lennox all dressed up in Goth finery and sailing in on a pirate ship. Now that’s badass. On the other end of the spectrum was the next segment. I was all excited when I heard the opening notes of “Pure Imagination” from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” but then the camera unfortunately zoomed in and I saw who was in the role of Willy Wonka. None other than Russell Brand. I’m sorry, but he just plain creeps me out. I don’t know why I find him to be gross, but I do. That was followed up by a rather meh (especially considering the hype) Spice Girls reunion performance. I was never a big Spice Girls fan, even when I spent two weeks living with a British family in 1998, the height of their popularity, so the performance didn’t really trigger any nostalgia in me. I did, however, enjoy the performance of “Wonderwall” by the new band one of the Gallagher brothers started that followed the Spice Girls. It was an interesting dichotomy: some of the best and some of the worst of mid-late 1990’s music. We then had a little tribute to British comedy, which was pretty much the best bit of the whole production. At first, it wasn’t really working for me, because it was relying too much on physical gags (like a human cannonball) when the trademark of British humor is really dry wit. Then Eric Idle appeared and sang “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” and all was well with the world. I couldn’t help but laugh at the assortment of characters accompanying him. There were nuns and Bollywood dancers (with a Bollywood dance break in the middle) and bagpipers of course. It was rather glorious. This was followed up by an equally glorious performance of “We Will Rock You” by the surviving members of Queen

Then it was time for the bittersweet part of the show- the handoff to Rio. It’s tradition that the Olympic flag is handed off to the mayor of the next Olympic city and that city gives a short cultural presentation. Rio’s presentation was very colorful with elaborate costumes and blinking lights, which was pretty much to be expected. I’m sure the 2016 games will be amazing – Rio can certainly host a big party. The bitter part comes from the fact that I’m such an Anglophile. I wish this spotlight on the best of British culture could go on a bit longer. I’d love for this moment of triumph for London to last forever. But alas, with the official requirements complete and the ceremony over, it was time for IOC President Jacque Rogge to declare the Games closed. See you in Sochi in 2014!

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