The evening was billed as a Symphony of British Music, bringing together the best musical stars of the last 50 years, characterizing the tenor of the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The Olympic stadium is on Marshgate Lane in Stratford, London, and madness was a theme early on in the varied performances. We could not resist the alliteration in the title.
Britain of Winston Churchill, complete with a speechifying PM, along with images of tabloid journalism, the Cardiff cliffs, street sweepers, the London Eye of the famed Millennium Park Ferris wheel, and cars, cars, cars, set the tone for the evening, beginning at mid-evening summertime in London. Simulcast in the web but delayed on CCTV by a couple of hours for the morning audience, we missed much with the anchor’s Zhongwen bantering and the sporadic English subtitles, especially of the performers.
The Empire that first employed oil to power its naval fleet, and became preeminent world power in the 19th century, was authentic in displaying what the world have wanted from its factory lines ever since. Who hasn’t drooled over the majesty of the Rolls Royce, the chic leopardine sleekness of the Austin Martin, and the durability of the workhorse Land Rover?
Yup, the oil guzzlers were up on stage without apology. Very elegantly and arrogantly British!
Impressive was the parade of the international colors, followed by the march of medalists, and joined by the assembly of athletes to the side of the mid-field ramps that served as routes to the stage, and later, the Olympic flames, seen from above to be shaped like the Union Jack. Fitting for the occasion was the medal award ceremony for the marathon, with first finisher from Uganda, the sole medalist from the land of the much-maligned Idi Amin.
Recognition of the without-which-there-would-not-be-a-smooth-Olympics, the Volunteers, was poignant to us as we remember our Olympic hosting adviser from Sydney of Pinoy descent and pediatric training, who made the trip to London earlier to share her wisdom, undertaking such challenges while living with the scourge of cancer.
Volunteers were much heralded in the running of the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai Expo that their tribe henceforth shall be a mainstay in every international sport gathering.
Employed on stage were former British Empire Commonwealths such as Indian drums and colorful Sikhs, along with memorable performances of the band Queen, joined by Jessie J in the vocals for We will, we will Rock You! A noticeable style of singing in the field started with monotone chanting, reaching a screeching height of screaming. I suppose, we are showing our age re electric metal rock!
Comedian Eric Idle of the Monty Python fame tore the stadium down when he emerged from the bowels of the earth after a feigned failed cannonball shot into the rafters, pranced, and sang on stage ("always look at the bright side of life") with the Spice Girls, nuns and the dancing Sheiks, et al.
The Who took a big chunk of the blood pudding, with hit songs like "Baba O’Riley," "My Generation", and their signature song from their musical Tommy, "See me, feel me/Listening to you." Earlier, Kaiser Chiefs rendered their classic "Pinball Wizard".
The night extravaganza went beyond its three hour schedule, but we stood when the Greek colors went up with the anthem to honor the Games’ country of origin, and to remember how the euro that affects as all is critical in the economy of that land.
The singing of the Olympic anthem is lofty and dignified if one is a church-going person, but perhaps, for the seculars of our likeness, it is time to jazz it up.
Passing of the Olympic interlocking Penta Rings from London back to IOC president and on to the mayor of Rio de Janeiro stood us up for the perky national anthem of Brazil. Aerial view of the stadium with the Union Jack in the middle surrounded by lit Brazilian colors in circles was phenomenal visual assault.
A street sweeper-attired performer (looks like one of the athletes but I could not decipher the Zhongwen commentary) left on stage with an English security officer trying to point out that the performances was over, was a foil to get the next site Rio in Brazil, its Carnival dancers, a float, lively EuroAfrican beats and samba steps, Amazon motiffs, native costumes, and Pele!, on stage.
London Olympics coordinator Stephen Coe said in his farewell address: "we lit up the flame, and we light up the world." He added, "we saw what tenacity, ambition, and imagination can do." Wondered what that would do were we to refocus efforts on such daily human issues as poverty and war. Haunting in this regard were the children’s voices that sang John Lennon song Imagine during the ceremony, followed by a projected image of the Beatle member himself singing his song in a somber moment.
Snuffing of the Olympic flame surrounded by a lit up stadium, and a last burst of fireworks, the fires were passed on to the emerging Brazilian bird in the background.
"In our time Britain got it right," said Coe. British version of madness is usually mayhem. This one went just fine. "You and me, we can light up the sky," went an ending song. And in a characteristic British fashion, "We can rule the world!" Nah.
Jacques Rogge, IOC president, bid his grateful adieu. The Who’s "See me, feel me, touch me" from Tommy anticipated Copacobana of Rio. S, all right, Rio, top this one. Here we come, Copa! Got your thongs ready?