The Games of the XXX Olympiad

In the upcoming weeks we’ll become expert in sports we only hear about once every four years.  Fletching and crosswind, draw and release, examined with all the focus of Agincourt Sargent-at-arms or an Irish poacher. Tosses and throws, snaps and entry angles will mark martial arts, weightlifting  and high board diving seen un-ironically by a watching public necessarily un-movable.

Last night we had the opening and I liked it. It tickled my very soul. And it took an Irishman to see the thing through. But still you’ve got to hand it to the English, they had the balls to swing with Boyle’s vision.

Edgy and hard, poetic and pastoral fused in a four hour extravaganza. But how beyond these Islands the resonance will echo is hard to judge. Most will connect with the music. And certainly the queen is iconic. Bond is well-known. But the 1960’s fashion culture ?.  And I wonder how many get the meaning of the little hill. Well, it’s not the hill of Cronos. No, it’s much neared home.

The entry of the Olympians, marked to a drum beat of upended plastic bins sending out a flat bass note that forced the pace packed them in at double time. There were a few that hadn’t the rhythm, but most came in at a fair old clip. It seemed the usual with the country name schlepped by a pretty chick. But this time this gal had a multi-racial icon emblazoned on the fabric of her dress and the name attached as if a growing thing from her back. On her right was the flag bearer. As usual an athlete. And on his/her right a child carrying what looked like a shell. This I took for the support for the flag pole once it was stuck in the hill.

In recent times the lighting of the caldron has oscillated from the kitsch to the sublime. I was on tenterhooks awaiting to see who they got to light the thing.But oh boy did they get it correct. The shells of earlier was to symbolize States in the way the interconnected rings mark the Continents. So when they were lit as individuals they lifted to form one flame. It was really really beautiful.

Well, I don’t think I’ve seen better.

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10 Responses to The Games of the XXX Olympiad

  1. Kimberly says:

    Just finished…phew! The only time I sit still for THAT long is when I’m sleeping.
    After Beijing expectations were high and I think it was wise to do it so differently. There were parts that I really liked and parts that I was like, “huh?”. The NBC commentators talked through most of it, explaining the meaning, but yah I missed the significance of the hill. The “industrial age” came out of it, but is there more? I wondered many times if those in attendance completely understood all the symbolism without the benefit of a commentator.
    The parade of athletes is always my favorite but that torch lighting was awesome, stunning. And of of course, a little 007 never hurt anyone.

    • Vince says:

      The idea for the Olympic games came from a chap in Shropshire who was much more turned on by the Celtic games than the Olympic.
      This coming month is Lughnasadh, the month of Lú’s birth. Ergo, the hill.

      I’d say those that attended picked up most of it. And while they might have been a bit mystified at first there was that ahh-ha moment when they forged the rings. The bit I thought was a bit twee was the fields. And Elgar just gets on my tits anyway. But I suppose there had to be a start someplace. The English wheel him out when they can’t shoehorn Handel. It a bit like Beckham, he’s flicking ubiquitous.

  2. Sage says:

    I don’t know why I watch opening games. I’m not a big summer Olympic fan, much preferring the winter sports, but there are a few events that I will like. Serena Williams was on top of game this morning in tennis! But I did like the way the cauldron was lighted! And I will have to watch the sailing most of the Star Class boats were built just down the road from me (we’ll about 25 miles down the road). This includes Ireland’s boat, but not America’s! Go figure. Check it out: http://www.starclass.org/artman/publish/article_622.shtml

    • Vince says:

      I watch it for many reasons. But the older I get to more important the aspect of Higher Concept. At first I was very dismissive of the army being used as security. But the more I though on it the more apt it became. You have the world focus on nothing more important than a sporting competition. Which is being protected by the host and the worlds countries accept this.

      Is that class not being removed from Rio. But it is something of an anomaly not having one of your own. But then why are the Irish not sailing in a boat built in Ireland.

  3. Rebecca S. says:

    We sat through all but the parade of athletes (after Canada came in, that is). I really enjoyed the ceremonies, although my son kept calling the hill ‘Hobbiton’. I liked the bit about Children’s Lit a lot, and the queen jumping out of the plane with Bond (alright, we all know it wasn’t really the queen) – she was a good sport to take part, and the London fashion bit was not lost on me. Someone I know said he wished he had some of what Danny Boyle was smoking when he dreamed up the show…it was that imaginative and visionary. Very cool indeed and I was happy the Brits could be proud of themselves for the way they were represented. My favourite bit was the Chariots of Fire sequence. That was brilliant, although I missed a reference to Monty Python, if there was any in the show. A few key musicians were missing in the sequence, too, but you can’t cover everyone, can you!

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about the lighting of the flame. The passing on of the torch to the seven young athletes from the older ones, the copper petals, the flame as a sculpture symbolic of what the games are all about was poisitively beautiful. I got a bit choked up there. Bravo to the Brits for involving so many children in the production. I appreciated that so much. Well done!

    • Vince says:

      The Hobbit and the Ring series were taken in large part from the Celtic sagas. So it’s no real surprise that the mound rings that bell. It’s the Fairy Mound/Fort. Newgrange, Knowth and so forth. Have a look at this

      Hmmmummm, I wasn’t so gone on Bean. But I really liked Daniel Barenboim carrying the flag because of this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West-Eastern_Divan.

      And yeah it was well done. Very well done. The English don’t quite realize just how easily they can piss off huge numbers of people and frankly that was not beyond the bounds of possibilities. They could easily have taken that first theme of the pastoral and ended up with Royalist pageantry.

  4. Michele says:

    I haven’t watched any of the Olympics. Not sure why but lack of interest comes to mind. I wish all the athletes well.

    • Vince says:

      Fair enough. I know a lot of people question the spend on a sports economy for privileged. I do myself truth be told. But nothing beats the spectacle I find.

  5. Ed says:

    As usual, I spent my evening watching the opening ceremony. People were worried that it would pale in comparison to the Chinese olympics but I think London held their own quite well. They didn’t have the manpower that the Chinese did but it was still spectacular. I too wondered about the ‘bowls’ that I saw being carried in. When they raised the torch, I had to wipe a tear from the corner of my eye. It was a beautiful thing.

    • Vince says:

      No one has the manpower of the Chinese. 😀

      I did think the symbolism of the E pluribus unum very good. It could only be bettered if each Olympian places in their own shell or bowl thingy.

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