The Closing Ceremony to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, like the Opening Ceremony, was unmistakably, sometimes inexplicably British. Like the Games themselves, I loved some elements, was baffled by others, but watched regardless…
Even after an Opening Ceremony that saluted just about everything British except for Jack the Ripper, I was caught by surprise my certain elements of Sunday’s closing ceremony, televised in prime time by NBC.
I loved, for example, the use of a John Lennon video to have him sing “Imagine,” after a choir had done the same. Some of the lyrics, after all, are positively Olympian in spirit, and, as athletes from around the world celebrated at the center of the arena, marvelously apt: “Imagine all the people / living life in peace.”
I didn’t expect, however, organizers would have the nerve to also include a lyric that was positive anti-Olympian, but they did. The late Lennon, on film, sang: “Imagine there’s no countries / It isn’t hard to do.”
But without countries, what would the Olympics be, exactly?
Also, no one but British — let’s face it — would have brought on Eric Idle to lead the stadium crowd on a sing-along of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” the song sung by Roman prisoners being crucified at the climax of “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.”
The crowd obviously loved it, and knew it. Surely, however, the rendition would not include the original lyric couplet in which Idle sang, while nailed to a cross, “Life’s a piece of shit / when you look at it.”
But he did. And though NBC bleeped it, nether the network nor the Olympics hid from it.
The rest of the Closing Ceremony ranged from high showmanship (George Michael singing “Freedom 90,” the Spice Girls reuniting, and a concert film clip of Freddie Mercury igniting the Olympic crowd) to low results (Russell Brand as a tone-deaf Willy Wonka).
And though there were many acts who were almost defiantly British, where in the world — or, at least, in London — was Ray Davies of The Kinks? His nostalgic songs about the England he loved, such as “Waterloo Sunset,” would have been perfect for these Closing Ceremonies.
Instead, the Who showed up at the after-party, but only after the NBC prime-time telecast and Closing Ceremony was officially over. I was waiting for The Who — but, like so many events at these Olympics, had to settle for time-delayed gratification.
“Won’t Get Fooled Again,” indeed.
We’ve asked our British TVWW correspondents, Janet McCabe and Kim Akass, to weigh in soon, evaluating and explaining the Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies from their informed local point of view.
I can hardly wait.
[And now I don't have to. Janet's story is posted in her latest One if By Land, Two if By TV column. And it turns out the BBC showed more of the Closing Ceremony than NBC did — including, amazingly, one exact moment I didn't know existed, but longed for: Ray Davies singing "Waterloo Sunset."]