Back from a lovely week in Holland just in time for the Olympic opening ceremony. Would it be good? Would it rain? Would we feel proud at the end?
Well the answer was YES! To all three, though thankfully, the rain was brief. What follows is a bit of a stream of consciousness. But it captures my mood here and now. Real time parts in italics.
Just started writing this as the team procession has reached S. It’s a grind, even if we have seen Usain Bolt, Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic leading their teams.
The opening ceremony was wacky but excellent. As a Brit there were bits I found genuinely moving, not least the celebration of our music. How good was it to have the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant” in there (with the Queen listening!) – and the Prodigy and the Jam? And Dizzee Rascal there, performing “Bonkers”. Danny Boyle, producer, did the business, even sneaking in the ‘lager, lager’ bit from “Born Slippy”, Underworld’s epic contribution to Boyle’s film, “Trainspotting”. Emili Sande’s rendition of “Abide With Me” with the dancers in the orange light of the sun was a beautiful tribute to those who perished in the 7/7/95 bombs, the day after London was awarded the Olympics for 2012.
The bucolic country stuff got things off to a slowish start and the industrial revolution scene went on a bit. But when those rings came together and showered sparks from on high, things really got going.
Oh, and as I write, Team GB have just entered, in elegant white and gold led by the great Chris Hoy, to Bowie’s “Heroes”. Top choices! And, and now, Arctic Monkeys are doing “I bet you look good on the dance floor” ! Getting better all the time…. and talking of Beatles songs, now the Monkeys are playing “Come Together” accompanied by loads of cyclists with wings!
I liked the NHS celebration. mixed up with the children’s stories. A bit of a statement there to the government – celebrate it, don’t dismantle it. I loved seeing Bradley Wiggins come on in his Tour de France yellow jersey to ring the bell that kicked things off. And to hear “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” as a love song (and paean to the East End?) almost brought a tear to this West Ham fan’s eye.
And then, only the British could bring on Mr Bean to play a comedy one note accompaniment to “Chariots of Fire”. Or have James Bond meet the Queen and appear to parachute from a helicopter into the stadium.
Sincerity, humour, arsiness, eccentricity, creativity, nostalgia, youth, exuberance, brilliant music. Makes yer proud to be British!
And let us not forget seven years ago. I remember well the euphoria we felt when London was awarded the games in Singapore on 6 July 2005. I went with a few friends to watch a 20/20 cricket match at Lords that evening, and there was as much talk of the Olympics as the cricket. There were five or six of us having a curry, sitting outside, enjoying a balmy evening, after the game. Only one of our number was taking the “waste of money” line. Everyone else felt genuinely excited. It was a great moment for Great Britain.
And then the next day, the sudden delay to the tube, being turned away at Acton Town, going home and seeing the horror unfold on the TV. London assaulted on what should have been a day of celebration. Innocent people losing their lives on the way to work. Not unique to London, but a desperate tragedy, serving no purpose at all.
Londoners are a defiant lot, and the next day we were all finding ways of getting into work, determined that the atrocity would not defeat us. I cycled in – and got a puncture on the way back home. Luckily the District Line was back in operation and I took my bike back home on the tube. I spent the latter part of the evening raging against the atrocity, loving London, writing it all down, with a soundtrack of Coldplay’s “X&Y”. It will be in my book on music, but for now, see my Top Ten on Coldplay for a little more.
Anyway, now that the ceremony has been so good, we can all look forward to the main thing – the sport. I’m off to Richmond later today (now that it is Saturday morning) to try to glimpse a bit of the Olympic road race: Cavendish, Wiggins, Froome, Millar, Stannard – the dream team. Expectations so high after the Tour de France…
And back to the show. What a fantastic end. The flame transported on the Thames by David Beckham and co, handed to Steve Redgrave, one of Britain’s great Olympians, and then a number of torches passed from past medallists to young athletes who lit the hundreds of mini-cauldrons, which then rose together to form the one vast flame. And then, to cap it all, Paul McCartney singing “The End” and a rousing version of “Hey Jude”.
Really, what could be better?
Such a positive start. Let’s hope there are no external events now to mar what should be a wonderful two week celebration of sporting endeavour and genuine togetherness.
(PS. I’ve written a couple of posts before on the Olympic site during the London Prepares events. Numbers 13 and 22 of Sportsthoughts. Includes photos of the Olympic park and its buildings.)