I remember the day so clearly. Aug. 15, 2004. I was visiting my grandparents in Wisconsin, setting the table at my maternal grandparents’ house for breakfast. The 2004 Summer Olympics played in the background, but morning broadcasts rarely mattered, so I didn’t pay much attention.
I glanced up at the TV at one point, and some Americans I’d never heard of were playing beach volleyball. Misty May and Kerry Walsh. Who were they?
I’d always liked volleyball, my college “career” having ended just a year prior when its demands conflicted too much with my Ultimate off-season training. So I started to watch.
I love the Olympics – always have, always will. I will cover them as a journalist some day, and until then I’ll happily watch on TV.
The Olympics bring the entire planet together. No other sporting event accomplishes that, not even the World Cup (does Lesotho or Tuvalu really give a shit about the World Cup?), and maybe nothing outside of sports does that, either.
The Games of the XXX Olympiad (a.k.a the 2012 Summer Olympics) began Friday night with the Opening Ceremony. Here are my five thoughts on the event.
5) London’s Opening Ceremony: more art, less intimidation than Beijing’s. The 2008 Opening Ceremony was all about intimidation. Electronically unrolling video scrolls, 2008 drummers all in perfect unison, sideways-running aerial torch-lighters – all of that was China’s way of saying, “Look at how much better we are than all of you? Who else could do this?”
Artistic director Danny Boyle couldn’t match the technological achievements of 2008 (though I loved the aerial rings), but he also rejected its mentality. Instead, his 2012 Opening Ceremony depicted England as a driving force of the Industrial Revolution, a breeding ground for so many rock stars, a producer of some of the most iconic characters in children’s literature (from Peter Pan to Harry Potter). Really, only a TARDIS was missing, and I guess Boyle lumped all of Britain’s pop culture together into James Bond.
Everything about the 2008 Opening Ceremony seemed scary, off-putting, maybe even garish. The 2012 Opening Ceremony seemed welcoming, charming. At-times pastoral (or old-fashioned), but always inclusive. Boyle showed England’s place in the world, whereas Zhang Yimou showed China’s place above it.
And Boyle’s copper leaves forming the Olympic cauldron looked absolutely stunning.