Letters From London

London Olympics Finale

Grandad Finale

London waves goodbye after a wonderful Olympic fortnight and finds a load of stuff to moan about after all.

By Ellie Gibson • August 14, 2012

Many of us on the Gameological crew like the Olympics. Eurogamer’s Ellie Gibson, on the other hand, does not care for them (or so she claims). Naturally, then, we invited her to be the site’s sole correspondent for the London 2012 Olympics. She does live there, after all. During the two weeks of competition, Ellie provided periodic updates to her running diary of the Games, in a feature called Letters From London.

Sunday, August 13—Closing ceremony

Farewell then, The Olympics. It’s been marvelous having you. First there was the magnificent opening ceremony, which confounded everyone by not being rubbish. Then came the actual events, some of which Britain actually won. As the medals rolled in, London cheered up. A sense of jubilation and occasion filled the air. It was as though the whole city was humming a happy house remix of Chariots Of Fire under its collective breath.

And then we went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid like, “Sure, George, you can do your new single at the closing ceremony, why not?”

Perhaps you missed the ceremony. Perhaps because you’re the Queen, who didn’t even bother turning up, and sent Prince Harry instead. (Well, she did pretend to jump out of a plane with James Bond the other week; that’s got to be worth £32.3 million of anyone’s money.)

Don’t worry, you can imagine the event for yourself quite easily. Just think of everything that’s ever been associated with Britain: Winston Churchill, Big Ben, The Beatles, Monty Python, black cabs, Michael Caine, strippers dressed as policewomen, and so on. Now imagine all that being farted across a stage in random order, accompanied by music from the biggest stars in history, if history had stopped in 1995.

With wobbly old uncle Paul’s performance of “Hey Jude” widely recognized as one of the lowlights of the opening ceremony, you’d hope lessons had been learned for the closer. Instead, the organizers chose to wheel out every doddery old white bloke who has ever so much as looked at a microphone. Suggs, the Pet Shop Boys, Fat Boy Slim, Ray Davies, Brian May…I half-expected my dad to turn up, brandishing his harmonica and ready to wow the world with his rendition of “Auntie Mary Had A Canary.”

The show started at 9 p.m. By 11 p.m, only one non-white, non-male performer had managed to get on stage. Then the Spice Girls squeezed a quick medley in, but order was quickly restored by boring old Liam Gallagher turning up to rattle out another boring old song. George Michael performed his classic hit “Freedom,” which really got the crowd going, and his new single “White Light,” which really got the crowd going to the toilet before the next act came on. When the organizers ran out of living middle-aged white blokes, they dug up some dead ones, throwing in video performances by John Lennon and Freddie Mercury. It may be what they would have wanted, but I could have done without it.

Eventually there was a little bit of music for The Young People. This included a song from One Direction, a boy band best known for their hair. (Sample lyric: “You’re insecure / Don’t know what for.”) There were also performances by Jessie J and Taio Cruz, two acts so tediously insubstantial that even they will not have heard of themselves in five years’ time.

The ceremony climaxed with a performance by The Who. This summed up the problem with the whole show. It was everything the opening ceremony had worked so hard not to be: dated, obvious, and safe. The Olympics had begun with a captivating celebration of modern Britain and a bold acknowledgement of our diversity. It ended with a band whose two surviving members have a combined age of 135, singing a song called “My Generation.”

Having said all that, the closing ceremony did feature one masterstroke: the decision to let all the athletes flood in and fill the floor of the stadium. As the cameras swooped over the crowd you could see the Olympians hugging and smiling, taking photos, high-fiving and generally mucking about. In other words, enjoying the moment as if they were regular human beings.

This is really what the Olympics is about, and why it won me over in the end. I had thought it was just a pageant for sport and nationalism, two things I still don’t care for. But it’s more than a celebration of human achievement—it’s a celebration of humanity, a chance to put aside our differences and recognize what we have in common, before going back to arguing about trade tariffs and laughing at each others’ accents.

Sure, it’s great that Britain came third in the medals table, but who cares? All that proves is that we’re the best in the entire world at all sports apart from America and China. And yeah, okay, so in terms of population proportion we would have beaten them too if the U.K. were the same size, several times over, but that’s not what’s important right now. The point is, we’re going to miss you, the Olympics. Thanks for everything. And sorry about the last bit.

(Olympic closing ceremony photos: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

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1,490 Responses to “Grandad Finale”

  1. Captain Internet says:

    I get the feeling it worked better inside someone’s head, but it came across as someone thumbing through iTunes and firing off emails to musicians until the budget was used up.
    Personal highlights: Eric Idle saying ‘shit’ in front of the entire world,  Boris Johnson dancing to the Spice Girls, the Pet Shop Boys, Muse, Ray Davies, and all the tipsy athletes.The low point was obviously Russell Brand, because he’s the low point of everything, but it was compounded by getting him to sing a song about how brilliant drugs are while he’s promoting a new show on BBC3 about, er, his drug addiction. Oh, and that weird montage of people crying because they’d lost was a bit fucked up.Anyway, the Olympics were brilliant. And we’ve got the Paralympics in two weeks. Hopefully everyone will stay happy for all of that too. I’ll be really sad when ‘sport’ in the country goes back to meaning ‘football’, because John Terry droning on about a Chelsea score-draw is not a patch on Robert Harting winning the Discus

    • John Teti says:

      There was a montage of people crying because they’d lost? Holy moly. My reaction to this was twofold: “Jeez, that is fucked up,” and “I’ve got to see that.” Not in that order.

      • GaryX says:

        There’s something really odd and sad about seeing athletes cry at the Olympics. When the male Chinese diver looked absolutely devastated for only getting silver, I wanted to just tell him it was all gonna be okay.

        • Cornell_University says:

          I have a feeling that for the Chinese olympians that failed at the games it might NOT be okay.

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

          Indeed. I remember seeing the Daily News and New York Post calling Michael Phelps various names for coming in fourth in some race. I wanted to run down there and remind them merely making it to the Olympics is already a great honor. Getting second is still amazing by any definition.

          Of course, then Phelps went on to become the most decorated Olympian ever, so those papers already had a taste of crow.

    • apathymonger says:

      I would say the low point was the bizarre bit with the models set to David Bowie. Utterly pointless.

  2. SisterMaryFrancis says:

    Apparently those of us in the US missed a shitload of the closing ceremonies because of NBC wanting to do tape delays and shove their new show Animal Hospital down our throats. I missed out on all this, but people seemed a bit ticked off.

    • GaryX says:

      The NBC’s editing of stuff in its tape delay was the absolute worst. They would cut down final’s matches by over half, just so they could shove some stupid documentary or narrative down our throats.

  3. Cornell_University says:

    I found some of the choices weird and offputting in their tried and true “the babyboomers music is better than anything else will ever be”.  like, I know the Kaiser Chiefs aren’t a hugely successful act outside of England, but you DID invite them to perform.  why are you making them play a Who cover?  when the ACTUAL (doddering remnants) of the Who are playing the same show?

    or were they worried they would play “I predict a riot”?

  4. PaganPoet says:

    I’m a huge Kate Bush fan, but couldn’t help but thinking her 2012 rerecording of “Running Up That Hill” was a bit unnecessary (cut from the American broadcast, but you can find it online). It’s like she was just singing karaoke over the original instrumental. Why not update or remix the song a bit?

  5. Fluka says:

    The Who performance: lack of appearance by Keith Moon’s vodka-preserved head in a jar = inexcusable.

  6. doyourealize says:

    I didn’t watch any of the Olympics (probably because I’m a bad person) except the opening ceremonies. I did listen to the recaps if they were on NPR. Also, I got to read Ellie’s column every few days, and that was enjoyable.

    I like the voice you brought to this column, which at times had me laughing out loud. I also enjoyed witnessing (at least feeling like I was witnessing) your attitude towards the Olympics change from annoyed to interested to enraptured. And not just because you said that was happening. One article (can’t remember which) I read and thought to myself, “Wow, she’s actually changing her mind about all this.”

    So anyway, thanks for that, and I’ll miss this column.

  7. Girard says:

    And, even though they are typed, those One Direction lyrics have become reactivated within the deep rivulets they bore into my brain this summer. This is what happens when you teach a bunch of green screen video effects classes to predominately tweenage girls all summer: everyone wants to do a music video, and you end up hearing “What Makes You Beautiful” ad infinitum as the kids repeatedly edit and watch their projects.
    And then you have an aneurism.