So, I sent an Olympics Opening Ceremony snark!report to my boyfriend who is currently in a submarine and who doesn't get to see this shit, and thought I'd share my report with the class.

On the whole I can’t say the Olympics really catch my fancy, but I usually like to watch the Opening Ceremony. I like seeing how countries and cities try to represent themselves to a global audience, how they try to gloss over national issues and international offenses in a great big display of ‘GO US’! At the Disney Hollywood Studios there’s the Muppet 3-D show, and at one point Sam the Eagle organizes a show he entitles “A Salute to All Nations but Mostly America”—a fitting title, I feel, for ALL the Olympic openings. “A Salute to All Nations but Mostly Us, (the Hosting Country)”.

ANYWAY, The creative head of the ceremony was film director Danny Boyle (of Slum Dog Millionaire cred), and he decided that since no one could top the Beijing games in terms of sheer physical numbers and fireworks, the London games would be a mix of multimedia, short film and some floor spectacle.

We open with a short film at the headwater of the Thames River. With the aid of a nauseating Moulin Rouge style wild ride we follow the Thames through the rolling idyllic British countryside into the very heart of London, and to the stadium, the center of which looks like Hobbiton.

Oh, I know it was supposed to be representing that bygone age of TRUE Britannica, of Albion, where ALL British things came from villages and shires and had a church and a pub and a village green and a duck pond and not much else; when life was simple and quaint and all that. The British are as wistful of this national past-that-wasn’t-really the same way we Americans dream of the Promises of a New Frontier and all that.

But still, it looked like Hobbiton.

Anyway, among the cricket fields and the sheep pens and the like comes Sir Kenneth Branagh, dressed dapperly in Victorian era clothing. And he stands on top a mock up of Glastonbury Tor (which, in case you aren’t OBSESSED with Arthurian legend like me, has long be associated with Avalon and the Myth of the Once and Future King), and reads lines from The Tempest.

"Be not afraid, the isle is full of noises,” he intones as only Kenneth Branagh can, “Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twanging instruments will hum about mine ears and sometimes voices.”

And then—

The Industrial Revolution happens.

Hundreds of volunteers run forward and the grass and sheep and pens are picked up and taken away like some sort of Enclosure Act on crack and from the floor rises the factories and mills and technology that changed the world. And then, it is revealed that Sir Branagh was not only dressed as a Victorian, but as ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL.

At this point I MAY have started yelling in glee at my TV screen. Look, I have my issues with idealizing the Industrial Revolution—because nothing is more glorious than the suffering of millions in the slums and factories of the day, as much as it changed the world?—but the minute you break out Brunel all is forgiving. How can you not adore one of the fathers of modern Britain, lover of steam power and one of the most bad ass civil engineers this world as ever seen? Have you ever SEEN a picture of this man? He’s always standing around in his frock coat, top hand at a cocky angle on his head, hands defiantly in his mud-stained pants pockets and cigar clenched in his teeth, as if to dare the world and society to tell him It Can’t Be Done.

AND he was being portrayed by Sir Kenneth Branagh.





Look, I know this is a lot of capslocking so far, but I’m a bit of an anglophile and since I’m American I don’t have to hide my emotions out of a sense of social propriety.

Anyway, the workers of the revolution proceed to forge the One Ring—I MEAN—a giant series of 5 rings that rise up into the sky, “burning” bright orange as they reign down sparks and water, and then—

We cut to a short film with Daniel Craig as James Bond.

This was about the time I started to suspect that this wasn’t so much an Opening Ceremony as a GINORMOUS FANFICTION about everything British ever.

ANYWAY James Bond!Daniel Craig arrives at Buckingham Palace, and is escorted into an audience with the Queen.

That’s right, the fucking Queen.

So, he escorts the Queen, followed by her corgis (which, IMHO totes stole the show); they climb into a helicopter, journey over to the Ceremony (and are waved at by a CGI statue of Winston Churchill, the HELL?) where they then PARACHUTE OUT OF THE HELICOPTER TO ARRIVE.

(Yes, yes, it was a body double but STILL. THINK about that for a moment. Someone had to go to the Queen and say “Your Majesty; we’d like to depict you leaping out of a helicopter with the latest James Bond.” And she AGREED.)

AAAAAAAND then NBC called the Queen a Bond Girl. What is this, I can’t even? ALTHOUGH I think we all know that she REALLY should have arrived with the Doctor in the TARDIS. Amirite?

SO, with the Queen there, the Union flag is carried in by representatives of each branch of the armed forces, and the flag is raised and the national anthem is sung; very moving. Though, I kept having to explain to people on twitter that yes, it sounds like the tune of “My Country Tis of Thee”, but it was their tune first and let’s be fair, our own National Anthem is sung to an old British Drinking song.

At this point, JK Rowling steps on the Tor to read a bit from Peter Pan, and we have now entered a salute to British Children’s Literature AND the National Health Services. That’s right, shit just got political. And after a rousing swing dance from actual doctors and nurses in the NHS (because I believe it, because I know a lot of doctors/nurses who can swing dance, the doctoring is just their day job) all these children in hospital beds go to sleep, and their dreams AND nightmares come to life.

And this is where they are attacked by puppets of the Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, Cruella DeVille AND a 100 FOOT PUPPET OF VOLDEMORT.

If at this point you don’t understand that the British are insane in the best way possible, JUST WAIT, IT GETS BETTER. Because then, the 101st Airbourne Mary Poppins Brigade descend from the heavens and defeat the nightmare and villains. MARY POPPINS. AIRBOURNE DIVISION. AGAIN. WHERE DO I ENLIST?

I wish I was making this shit up, but I am NOT that clever, I’m really not. I was literary watching a Kingdom Hearts level.



So then there was an alright tribute to British pop music from the 60s to now, and a salute to British innovation in the technical age. It was fun but dragged on a bit long and I used the time to eat my dinner, which kept slipping off my fork because I was getting distracted by the wonderment of what had come before.
Dignity, what dignity?

But then, this part pissed me off. The American audience was then “treated” to an insipid Phelps/Seacrest interview, and later I found out that while we were watching THAT, we were missing a interpretative dance tribute to the lives lost in the 2005 London terrorism attack. I don’t know what your opinion is of interpretative dance—I’m no dancer myself so I couldn't tell you if it was "good", or even if it was appropriate, but I was FURIOUS that something that was a tribute to lives lost in an act of terrorism was cut from the US coverage. It felt like a truly disrespectful move on the part of NBC and to quote Captain Hook; BAD. FORM.

After that began the Parade of Nations, which, in the lull after the orgasm that was the opening acts, I felt like I needed a breather and cigarette. But I enjoyed watching all the countries enter—it’s always amazing to see the sheer number of countries represented, and if anything, it’s always fun to see what they are wearing. My favorite had to be the hats on the ladies from Belize, though the Czech Republic wore some hideous metallic blue Wellingtons; ouch!

But OYE those NBC announcers!

Someone joked on twitter: “This is actually a found-footage horror film about 3 americans in London who learn if they stop talking for 2 seconds, they’ll die.” They just Wouldn’t. Shut. Up. And they kept making these insulting comments about the smaller athletic delegations and how they’ve never won anything and probably never will. Ugh. Way to miss the point, douche-canoes.

Humorously enough, though, they kept freaking out when they had to skip notes because the Parade was moving MUCH faster than in past ceremonies. Mwhahaha. British efficiency, FTW!

SO THEN, with all the countries gathered and flags placed on the Tor (which looks really cool). The Torch was brought in. During the parade, each country carried in a copper bowl, which was then attached to a series of poles lying on the ground in a circular form in the center of the stadium. Then, with the arrival of the Torch, each bowl ignited, and all the poles were lifted into the air, coming together to stand as one.

That’ll do, London. That’ll do.

At this point, out steps Sir Paul McCarthy who sang while—um. Umm. Doves. Giant doves on bicycles.

“Doves” on bicycles were released, and rose into the sky, pedaling and “flapping” their wings.

…I willed them to spell out “SURRENDER DOROTHY”, but…no go.

At that point it was pretty much over. All in all, you can’t get any more British than that even if you tried. The only GIANT fail was the sincere and utter lack of Doctor Who outside of a quick TARDIS noise during the British pop music section. That was a fixed point in time, damnit! FOR SHAME.

All in all, it certainly entertained me, but then again I’m a terrible anglophile.

And now I can get back to not giving two figs about who wins what.

EDITED to reflect the get rid of my "God Damnit England" icon and tag, and strictly speaking, it's the UK that concocted this marvelous salute to British-ness.

From: (Anonymous)



Glad you enjoyed our Opening Ceremony, both equal parts of awesome and WTF???

I didn't quite understand in the celebration of technology/twitter/foursquare bit how, if the girl lost her phone, how was the guy phoning her up to say she lost her phone??? SHE LOST HER F**KING PHONE!!! But it was good to see Sir Tim Berners-Lee, whom which I could not witter on this fine website like a gibbering paunchy weather-bitten jolt-head, get a nod in person!!

As far as the Parade of Participants go, I thought Mexico was great, plus myself and the girlfriend couldn't stop saying ARUBA!! in a big Brian Blessed voice all night which probably annoyed everybody else in the pub.

Anyway, glad you enjoyed it, now us Brits can go back to complaining about the weather and well, everything.

P.S. If you need to see the rest, I'm on your "we all love Nella" facebook thingy, I've been asked to put the rest up on facebook for an American friend of mine, I'll throw up a link on your page.

Toodle Pip!!

Graham (mnky) Munn ;)

From: (Anonymous)

Re: Laff-a-Lympics

fantastic recap and as a brit currently travelling the US, this was the most I've been able to hear about it so it was very entertaining. Quick note though- it's the UK that's hosting the Olympics, as opposed to just england. I appreciate I'm nitpicking a bit but us Scots, not to mention the Welsh and Northern Irish, don't like to feel left out :) i promise you, we contribute as well.
As ever, love your blog! best wishes
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