London Olympics Wrap in Style

Thank you, Kim Gavin, for an awesome Closing Ceremony. And thank you, London, for an awesome 2012 Summer Olympics! (Reuters: Dylan Martinez)

During his tenure as International Olympic Committee President, Juan Antonio Samaranch used to “grade” the Olympics in his Closing Ceremony speech. It was a somewhat meaningless grade, considering he called every Olympics except for Atlanta’s “the best Olympics ever,” and Jacques Rogge (who, while maybe an a-hole, at least isn’t an actual fascist) abandoned the practice when he took over as president.

Were he to appraise these Olympics, Rogge would have to call the Games of the XXX Olympiad the “best Olympics ever.” From an Opening Ceremony that managed both elegance and humor to a Closing Ceremony that rocked like none other (not even Sydney, despite Men at Work and Slim Dusty), these Olympics thrilled, satisfied and entertained like none before.

Watching Sunday’s Closing Ceremony, I kept observing over and over how much fun the athletes and spectators at Olympic Stadium seemed to be having. Screaming and clapping, dancing and singing, every athlete wore a smile that could rival Gabby Douglas or Missy Franklin.

And why shouldn’t they? Kim Gavin’s masterful musical line-up matched Danny Boyle’s, and the crowd seemed to go wilder for every new rock star that appeared on stage. I especially liked the appearance of One Direction – not because I like boy bands (though “What Makes You Beautiful” is pretty catchy), but because it shows a concerted effort to appeal to a younger crowd.

Many past Olympics drew exclusively from an older, classic-rock heavy cast of musicians. That may draw the dads (or grandads), but it turns off the tweens, teens and 20-somethings who just grew up with different music. Alienate too many young people, and they may lose interest in the Olympics as they have with other gala events (the Oscars, for example).

By bringing in One Direction and Artic Monkeys, by doing a section of his Opening Ceremony on young romance in a technological, smart-phone-saturated world, Gavin and Boyle helped include the younger generation – who make up the grand majority of Olympic athletes, remember – in the Olympic spirit. Another generation will grow up loving the Olympics, and Gavin and Boyle are two reasons why.

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Five Thoughts from the Opening Ceremonies

The beautiful copper-leaves Olympic cauldron capped an awesome Opening Ceremony to the 2012 Summer Olympics. (Reuters: Dylan Martinez)

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.

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