I was fortunate to be at the London Paralympics closing ceremony on Sunday 9 September, with my friends Tony and Jon.
This post is mainly about the sights and sounds of the Paralympics and indeed the Olympics. But also the feelgood factor, the togetherness, the appreciation of the athletes, the inspiration, the pride in GB. Wow! I think we may just have rediscovered ourselves as a nation. And GB, UK, not just England. I wonder whether it will have any effect on the debate about Scottish independence. Maybe a few people, both sides of the border not so keen now? Maybe…
Anyway, I said it’s mainly about the sights and sounds. A few photos and an appreciation – again – of Coldplay, whose live performance was the centrepiece of the evening. Regular readers may recall my Coldplay Top Ten, written with my son, Kieran. Have a look, it was great fun writing.
We were in the top tier of the stadium, but in a great position, so we had all the main events, including Coldplay, facing us. The first thing that struck me as things got going was the sheer colourfulness of it all. That remained throughout the evening, helped by the pixel panels fixed to 70,799 seats. These together produced 640,000 computer-controlled LED pixels that lit up the stadium in all sorts of amazing ways. So I read in the programme!
So let’s start with a simple shot of inside the stadium.
The athletes paraded before the televised ceremony at 8.30pm, so they were in their seats when it started, and TV viewers didn’t have to watch the rather dull scenes as people enter the stadium very slowly for a couple of hours. But I did wonder later whether the athletes felt that the ceremony wasn’t enough about them as a result. But I doubt it, given what a great spectacle it was.
GB coming in.
We had these flags in front of us. No-one knew which countries they were Checking since, I think it was Kyrgistan, with Kuwait and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (ie, Laos) either side.
Paralympics symbols floating.
The entrance of the flags.
Shot through with love…
The main themes of the show were about the flames and the seasons. We had a helpful piece of paper telling us this. Otherwise, to be honest, no-one would have had a clue what all the processions and general weirdness was all about. Not that it mattered. It was all spectacular and fun!
Before Coldplay came on there was an interlude. Amongst other things, it served to acknowledge the contribution of the volunteers the Games Makers. I couldn’t agree more, it has been a brilliant aspect of the Olympics and Paralympics. All the people in their purple shirts, ready with a smile, ready to help, the epitome of the positivity that has characterised these games. The antidote to cynicism. Can we build on this, defeat the naysayers long term? The media moaners, the trolls? Oh, I doubt it, but at least these games gave us hope.
Then it was time for Coldplay and their friends. their set split into the four seasons, but I’m not sure anyone really noticed. It was just a good concert. Coldplay were perfect for the occasion: those big, heartfelt anthems. Nothing too complex, just sentiments that everyone can easily share. That is what we needed, to articulate the feelings of these games. A simple love, fellow feeling, admiration of the individual and team heroics before us.
They played their best tunes, old and new. From “Yellow” to “Clocks”, “The Scientist”, “Viva la Vida”, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”, “Charlie Brown” and best of all, Para-Para-Paradise!
They had a couple of top guests too. Rihanna and Jay Z. Shows the pulling power of these Coldplay boys, modest though they may be.
I didn’t catch Jay Z on camera, as I was trying to take a video, but here are a couple of Rihanna.
Coldplay and the multitude of dancers,
Couldn’t see the fireworks in full from where we were sitting, but they certainly lit up the place. And I liked this shot of lights that looked like a Star Trek laser beam zapping some aliens.
So that’s it. A brilliant, moving, inspiring summer of sport in which we celebrated huge success amongst the British athletes, saw an exhibition of great skill and effort and dignity, felt an affinity with our fellow citizens that was unique in my experience, and fell in love with ourselves amid the strife of economic recession and political inertia. We shed some tears of joy in both games, gulped as we witnessed athletes overcoming disabilities to perform at astonishing levels. We marvelled at world records and the sheer brilliance of the elite performers. It’s been a trip, and the main man, Seb Coe summed it all up perfectly last night, as he described the Paralympics:
In this country we will never think of sport the same way and we will never think of disability the same way. So yes, the Paralympians have lifted the cloud of limitation.
I like that, lifting the cloud of limitation. One for us all.
London 2012. Made in Britain.
Best of luck to Brazil in 2016!
“In this country we will never think of sport the same way and we will never think of disability the same way. So yes, the Paralympians have lifted the cloud of limitation.”
I really hope so. Particularly about disability. But I fear in a few weeks we’ll be back to normal and the media will start referring to people on disability allowances as ‘scroungers’.
Then again, I was a bit cynical about how much of a success the Olympics and Paralympics would (or rather wouldn’t) be, and boy was I wrong there!
In Seb we trust!