XXX Notes on the XXX Olympics Opening Ceremony

 

i.

JUST WATCHED THE intro to the show. The ceremony hasn’t even started yet, and I’m already tearing up. God, this stuff is stirring. Bring it on!

 

ii.

The journey down the Thames was inspired. My favorite part: the pig over the factory building, the Animals cover. The more Pink Floyd, the better, it says here.

 

iii.

Although it’s an odd title for an anthem about England, “Jerusalem” is a hauntingly beautiful song, especially when sung so angelically by a nine-year-old boy. That said, whenever I see a British boys’ choir, I want them to sing about ridding the classroom of education, thought control, and dark sarcasm.

 

iv.

Every time Matt Lauer says the name “Danny Boyle,” I think, for a split second, that he’s talking about the song “Danny Boy.”

 

v.

I had this exchange with Stephanie during Kenneth Branagh’s entrance:

Stephanie: Is that Kenneth Branagh?

Me: Yes.

Stephanie: Why is he dressed like Abraham Lincoln?

 

vi.

“So much of children’s literature is British,” Meredith Vieira tells us. Other than Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm and Dr. Seuss and Mark Twain, totally true.

 

vii.

J.K. Rowling, looking fine. I always thought her last name was pronounced like howling, but it rhymes with bowling. Fifteen years ago, she was a single mother struggling to get by; now she’s a national treasure, worth more than the Queen, speaking at the Olympics. I’m not a big Harry Potter fan, but how can you not be inspired by his creator?

 

viii.

No 50 Shades of Grey tribute?  Fie, Danny Boyle, fie. Also, is this a good place to float my theory that those books were actually written by Rowling under the pseudonym EL James?

 

ix.

Danny Boyle has made a multi-million dollar tribute to the National Health Service—universal health care, for those playing at home. Note to American viewers: he would not have gotten away with this if socialized medicine were as unpopular in Europe as the Republicans lead you to believe. Note to NBC: would it have killed you to cut to Mitt Romney looking uneasy? Maybe this is what he meant when he told the British press that “a few things…were disconcerting.”

 

x.

We all know that the Romneys spent a whopping 77 grand on that dressage horse, which they wrote off on their taxes, right?

 

xi.

I’m sorry, but when I see Daniel Craig, my first thought is not “Hey, it’s James Bond,” but rather, “Wow, the escort service sent a particularly handsome chap this time.” Was Sean Connery not available?

 

xii.

The Queen has been upstaged by her dogs. I wonder if this happens to her a lot.

 

xiii.

“That was the greatest entrance in the history of the Olympics!” Correction: it would have been the greatest entrance in the history of the Olympics, if it were actually the Queen and 007 parachuting down rather than stunt doubles.

 

 

xiv.

“People who know her well say the Queen has a wicked sense of humor. It’s on full display tonight,” says Vieira, as Elizabeth does not so much as crack a smile—and not, seems to me, in a wickedly funny, Rowan Atkinson sort of way. Also: I know it’s the National Anthem and all, but it’s creepy to sing “God Save the Queen” in front of Her Majesty.

 

xv.

I don’t watch any of the morning shows, so I’ve never seen Meredith Vieira in action before. Is she always this stupid and annoying? Because, you know, she’s sort of sending the message to the eight gajillion viewers around the globe that American women are ditzy and dumb.

 

xvi.

Seriously, Meredith: the only thing less helpful than you telling us who sings “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”—anyone savvy enough about the culture to be watching you on TV right now knows, even in places like Kyrgyzstan and Timor-Leste—is you singing along with the song. I want Matt to be like, “Hey, Meredith, who sings this song?” “The Stones!” “Let’s keep it that way.” Actually, I want Matt to send you home with the North Koreans.

 

xvii.

I know who Tim Berners-Lee is, Meredith. I mention him in Totally Killer, because he invented the World Wide Web in 1991. We’re not all as ill-informed as you. Do us a favor and keep your opinions to yourself; this is the Opening Ceremony, not Mystery Science Theater 3000.

 

xviii.

Nothing says “I’m just happy to be here” like shooting video during the procession. The parade of athletes is one long iPhone commercial.

 

xix.

I love how the one athlete from Liechtenstein competes in the gentlemanly game of shooting. I bet Rick Perry $10,000 he’s pals with Romney.

 

xx.

Kudos to the IOC for letting Oscar Pistorius qualify for the Games. I don’t care if you have jetpacks from the knee down—there’s no way in hell not having legs can be an advantage in running.

 

xxi.

Count me among those who think the U.S. outfits are lousy. I get that they’re preppy and evoke a certain British flair, but our team looks like they all decided to dress up as Little Lord Fauntleroy for Halloween. And that ginormous Polo by Ralph Lauren logo on the breast is inexcusable—unless it’s supposed to remind everyone about how the Romneys a) own a dressage horse, and b) wrote off its losses as a business expense, rather than a hobby.

 

xxii.

LeBron James, you made, what 50 million dollars last year? You couldn’t have sprung for a hidden camera to be placed in that ridiculous hat? The iPhone thing is for losers, dude. Do you see Kobe Bean Bryant walking around with a fucking camera? You do not.

 

No smartphone for Kobe.

xxiii.

What are the chances that Zimbabwe’s best athlete is Kirsty Coventry, a white woman? Someone should do a statistical study on the demographics of Olympic athletes.

 

xxiv.

David Beckham is piloting the motorboat carrying the torch along the Thames. I’d be nervous, doing that. You do NOT want to flip the boat and accidentally extinguish the Olympic torch. I’m thinking, “This guy is so good-looking it’s ridiculous,” when Stephanie says, “You know, I don’t think he’s that hot.” Obviously she’s trying to boost my self-esteem.

 

xxv.

Too bad Meredith Vieira isn’t on hand to tell us who Muhammad Ali is. Thank God they tapped Ali and not Bruce Jenner. It’s safe to say that every single athlete here is fleet enough of foot to keep up with the Kardashians.

 

xxvi.

The torch lighting. Must be seen to be believed. Lauer understated it beautifully: “Does ‘wow’ suffice?”

 

xxvii.

Pink Floyd FTW! The ceremony is gonna end with “Eclipse”!

 

xxviii.

Oh, wait, here comes Paul McCartney. Which makes sense. If I’m charged with doing an opening ceremony, and I can use anyone or anything British that exists, I pencil in “Paul McCartney sings ‘Hey Jude’” for the finale and work my way back.

 

xxix.

Bloody hell! Paul’s voice just broke. Get the man some tea. It’s Britain, for Christ sake. Don’t we have a kettle on? My kingdom for a cup of Earl Grey! This is what they get for not getting Ringo involved.

 

xxx.

Hats off to Danny Boyle. That was astonishingly good. And hats off to Her Majesty, for not cracking a smile for three hours and twenty-six minutes, breaking the world record set by Holy Roman Emperor Leopold the Hog Mouth during the signing of the Treaty of Wyswick.

 

Chariots of fire, indeed.

 

 

Greg Olear

About Greg Olear

Greg Olear (@gregolear) is a founding editor of The Weeklings and the author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker, an L.A. Times bestseller. He lives in New Paltz, N.Y.
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7 Responses to XXX Notes on the XXX Olympics Opening Ceremony

  1. ‘Jerusalem’ is beautiful. I find it more stirring than the actual national anthem (that might just be because I’ve heard God Save the Queen about five million times this year). Fantastic and haunting way to kick things off before the silliness…

    When Branagh walked out I said ‘It’s Sir Kenneth Branagh’. Everyone said I was wrong and being stupid. He was portraying Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who’s probably not as famous globally as he is in the UK.

    The Bond bit would have been so much better with Roger Moore. Before the ceremony began my mum said ‘they should get the Queen to parachute into the stadium.’ Eerily accurate.

    Regarding Her Majesty’s humour— it’s never very evident publicly, but the fact that it is actually Buckingham Palace, the actual corgis, and the Queen herself in the video indicates a certain level of humour. Especially the fact that they filmed that in March, and the Queen was commited to the joke enough to wear the same outfit. I’m convinced that if she had been younger she would happily have gone the whole hog had made the jump as well…

    McCartney got paid £1 for that performance— the token fee for all professional performers. It was a bit obvious, but it was all in good fun. It was a brilliant spectacle, and that torch was quite something… It was very British though, to the point where most of it was probably lost on a lot of the other nations.

    Did the US broadcast show all the nations walking out? Because my highlight of the whole thing were the three Independent Olympic Athletes, all hailing from the Dutch Antilles. They were having enough fun for everyone…

    • Major Weekling says:

      Thanks, Jedi. That clears up a few things. “God Save the Queen” is not a good song…we sing it here, as “My Country ‘Tis of Three,” and it’s awful, and really easy to sing badly. Using that when you have “Jerusalem” on hand is like sitting LeBron James on the bench to play me.

      I LOVE the athletes parade. Those IOA people were fun, but they were all from the Dutch Antilles, so I’m not sure what the deal is.

      And you’re not going to sell me on her having a sense of humour because she allowed Daniel Craig in the palace. Compared to her, Kaiser Wilhelm II was Ricky Gervais (who should have been involved, BTW).

      • I still like God Save the Queen— 0r King, as it was originally. I believe it was made the anthem before Jerusalem was set to music. Every now and then there’s noise about changing the national anthem, but nobody cares that much. At least nobody is as passionate about changing the anthem as the people who like things just the way they are.

        Personally, if it were to change, I’d choose ‘I Vow Thee to my Country’ which is set to the middle section of Holst’s Jupiter. The thing with Jerusalem is that it’s not actually that patriotic, but somehow with the music and everything the negative outlook of Blake’s words become positives…

        The deal with the Independent Olympic Athletes is that the Dutch Antilles ceased to exist two years ago. It dissolved, so three islands— Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten became new countries, whilst the other three are municipalities. So the three guys from the Dutch Antilles either qualified prior to the dissolution of the Antilles, or hail from Curacao or Sint Maarten— neither of whom have entered. If they had been born in Aruba they wouldn’t have had a problem— they decided to enter…

        I have a strong dislike of Rickey Gervais. It’s not that he isn’t funny, it’s that he isn’t funny enough to justify a lot of the things he says or does or his immensely hypocritical stance on celebrity culture. And whilst ‘Extras’ is very funny, it wouldn’t work without the celebrity cameos. And then every show he’s done since that has revolved around celebrity guests, which is either incredibly egotistical or magnificently lazy.

        You’ll have to trust me on the Queen— and it’s more the fact that she allowed the skit to happen than the hilarity of the skit itself. The Queen could easily have told Danny Boyle to stop being so silly, and insisted on sticking solely to opening the games. But somebody said to her ‘Your Majesty, would you like to be the first octogenarian Bond girl’ and she said ‘Yes, one would’. The Queen has never done anything showy or silly in public, and it does reveal a side to her that previously is only mentioned in passing.

        Okay, it doesn’t make her the Queen of Comedy by any stretch, but it lends does lend a certain legitimacy to statements made by Palace staff, and the princes, that claim Her Majesty is something of a laugh riot.

        • Major Weekling says:

          Note to the chaps at Buckingham Palace: James D. Irwin is a loyal subject. Please make him a knight of the realm forthwith.

          Ricky can be icky. No argument. And the last few shows, eh. But he’s still pretty damned funny. Did you see him on Curb this past season? Oh my. Oh my.

          • I am slightly aware that I’ve rather fervently leapt to the defence of the Queen for no real reason. It’s probably a guilt thing— in between these comments I’ve been filling out paperwork to (temporarily) emmigrate.

            I haven’t seen any of the last few seasons of Curb. I only started watching it last year. He is, or at least CAN be, very funny. It’s just a shame he can be a massive nob at time. He’s a lot like Russel Brand in that respect.

            I think actually my only really gripe with Gervais— and it isn’t really his fault— is that Stephen Merchant gets very little credit despite co-writing everything. And if you listen to their podcasts, it’s clear that Merchant is the more naturally funny of the two.

  2. Matt Harris Matt Harris says:

    Should have gotten Lennon instead.

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