Beijing Olympics: London 2012 handover blow to British pride
For the past couple of weeks it has been possible to feel an unaccustomed glow of pride at the achievements of our athletes at the Beijing Olympics. All those gold medals, fourth place in the league table – who would have dreamt it?
Then came yesterday’s closing ceremony, and Britain’s eight-minute window of opportunity to invite the world to London 2012 as the breathless BBC commentators put it. And guess what? We blew it spectacularly.
Amid the cast of thousands of thrillingly well-drilled Chinese dancers, acrobats, singers and fireworks technicians, a red, double-decker London bus chugged ominously into the bird’s nest stadium.
There was some naff modern dance from British youngsters pretending to be standing at a bus stop, and a cute 10-year-old girl chosen by the viewers of Blue Peter appeared at the bus door to receive a football to deliver to David Beckham, who later kicked it into the crowd of massed athletes.
How did he feel about this hardly challenging task, he was asked earlier.
It’s very proud for London, very proud for myself, he replied inanely. What an archetypal British hero he is.
The roof of the bus eventually folded open to reveal green topiary depicting unrecognisable London landmarks and the X-Factor winner Leona Lewis rising up and up on a hydraulic lift and looking understandably uncomfortable in a dress that seemed to be made out of a couple of hundred yards of crumpled Bacofoil.
This was as nothing however to the horror of the raddled, sweat-drenched face of Led Zeppelin lead guitarist Jimmy Page, his snow-white hair unwisely tied back in a horrid little pigtail as he thrashed out the celebrated riff of Whole Lotta Love.
Unfortunately both he and Leona were virtually inaudible and all the palaver about toning down the song’s famously filthy lyrics was unnecessary because you couldn’t hear them anyway. The sound resembled a badly tuned transistor radio in a tin bucket, though elsewhere in the ceremony, and particularly when Placido Domingo sang, beautifully, it was perfectly acceptable.
In my time I’ve witnessed countless Royal Variety Performances and the opening ceremony of the Dome. This British fiasco was worse than any of them, and even at only eight minutes seemed interminable. No wonder London mayor Boris Johnson looked so uncomfortable beforehand. He must have known what was coming.
I have two tips for you, Boris. Keep your hands out of your pockets when attending high-profile events like this, and secondly fire whoever responsible for this fiasco and hire proper showbiz professionals – from Las Vegas if necessary – to handle the opening and closing ceremonies in 2012. Another toe-curling embarrassment like this would be unendurable.