LTW boss John Robb has already posted his views of the Closing Ceremony and we’re also posting about the Other Thing in Hyde Park but here Chris T-T gives his opinion on the Stratford spectacular – and why it wasn’t just shit but also dangerous.

I knew Kim Gavin’s Closing Ceremony would be the antithesis of the crazy-beautiful joy that Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce brought to the opening night: I knew it would be predictable and mainstream. But that was fine, we’d have a laugh, enjoy the music acts we like and I honestly thought it would still be funny after three hours. Witnessing the pop stars and lickspittles trying to equal Boyle’s heady brew. Art is subjective, after all.

I was mistaken: it was a numbing, disheartening disaster. The biggest floating turd we ever did whiff; reducing, demeaning and re-squishing Britain, at the very moment we’d felt shifted long-term for the better by these liberating Olympic Games. In one fattened pig of a gong-show, Gavin forced us back into clunky shackles that Boyle and Boyce briefly, tantalisingly freed us from, only a month ago. Far worse than just being bad, what unfolded was ”“ I think ”“ proper fucking dangerous. You know that phrase: the banality of evil. So.

There’d been rumblings that Danny Boyle didn’t put enough Churchill in. Our war leader, fast deposed in peacetime, wasn’t given enough of a strident voice for organisers’ tastes. Because obviously we need thoughts of conflict and top-down triumphalism, not co-operation and shared effort, to show us off to the world on the eve of a big sports pageant. Dur. Anyway, Kim Gavin kicked off by correcting that error, with admirable actor Tim Spall bellowing something from The Tempest, stretched over a noisy background canvas in awful parroting rasp, reprised in broader strokes from his performance in The King’s Speech. Not a fresh moment then; instead lifted from someone else’s casting and someone else’s process.

This flags up clearly what was about to happen for fucking hours: piles of stuff presented as unique, weighty or historical that was actually just re-staged ubiquity; hackney carriaged bits and bobs, flung up-and-out on stadium scale, nothing new added. Constantly disappointing, the show repeatedly heralded musical legends who weren’t there; Bowie, Bush, they didn’t appear, just backing tracks over a tannoy. Desperately a commentator tells us Kate Bush re-recorded her vocal part for the ceremony. Why even bother, though?

Another outing for Emile Sande. In the Opening Ceremony she performed too but it wasn’t so much about her, then, as what she was singing: The Meaning had little to do with her domestic fame or career path. This time it was the opposite: entirely about Sande as a PR machined product ”“ and she went on for ages. I have to believe both Adele and Leona turned down Gavin, for Emile to have got this length of slot; I’ve forgotten anything about the song except the totally Adele-ish solo piano accompaniment. Foghorn Florence was too edgy to appear, or too smart.

Gavin couldn’t get Oasis to reform; instead relying on Liam’s Beady Eye to karaoke ancient song Wonderwall. And what the fuck has happened to Liam’s voice? Once perhaps the greatest sneering, louche roar this country has produced ”“ a rich, northern counterpoint to Johnny Rotten ”“ yet now I guess ravaged by cocaine,  inactivity, far too much soft cheese, it’s a horrible whining dither. Like when The Fast Show one week swapped Jazz Club for Indie Club (ha, there’s a boring, outdated 90s reference for you) it was a disinterested parody of ”Ëœalternative’.

I reckon George Michael’s live auto-tune was still on as he spoke between his two songs, so his voice glitched out as if he’d breathed helium.

And the most audaciously lazy bit of all: the entire audio track of the opening section then replayed as backing soundtrack to the athletes arriving and partying. Gavin couldn’t even be bothered to pick some different tunes to play out over the PA. Even the shittest amateur wedding DJ wouldn’t pull that stunt. So cheapskate, one almost expected the Spotify adverts to interrupt halfway through.

Such relentless, vacuous prioritising of burger van iconography over real-life performance (or talent) is summed up by Russell Brand’s song’n’dance number. I like Brand but he is a stand-up comedian, television presenter and sometimes a useful cultural commentator. None of these are here, instead we rely on his hyperdriven celebrity itself to carry something that is patently (and self-knowingly, since he played it for laughs) drivel. Now I’m getting carried away slagging it off but there is a more important thing needs highlighting about this show, with a direct comparison:

From the Opening Ceremony, take Atkinson-as-Bean’s comic bit around Sir Simon Rattle conducting Chariots Of Fire. Whether or not you enjoy Bean, this was an undercutting and re-humanising of an epic ”Ëœclassic’ piece of music that ”“ without fundamentally lessening its power (it was subsequently used throughout the Olympics) ”“ took it to a previously unseen, interesting, funny place. THAT is how to treat an icon. It was Gerard Hoffnung-esque, de-mythologised the orchestra and took itself lightly without deadening itself. Meanwhile, there was Akram Khan’s powerful Indian dance in near silence, linked to Emile Sande singing Abide With Me in tribute to fallen comrades. Here, crucially, the ethnicity, or ”Ëœexoticism’ of the dance is not the point of the dance, rather it is presented as part of a bigger ”Ëœus’, while the emotion in the dance is its strength and focus.

Compare those two sections to their near parallel in the Closing Ceremony; where Eric Idle flounces through Python smash Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life before being interrupted by, again, some Indian dancers, who befuddle and confuse him, throw dust on him, leave him distracted. On a quality level; again nothing new or rare. Performances of this song take place every night somewhere across the UK as part of Spamalot. On a political level, it no way captured any of the subversive silliness of the original from Life Of Brian. All reference to the film’s edgy content exorcised, of course.

But far worse, this routine was entirely about the otherness and exoticism of the Indian dance juxtaposed against Idle’s familiarity; this was the dancers’ sole point; to be alien where previously there was comfort. This is deeply malignant. Idle’s uncomfortable adversity was cultural diversity, because that is how this ruinous establishment needs us to feel about multi-culturalism, even as we pay lip service to difference. We already saw clearly ”“ for example in far-right Tory arsewipe Aiden Burley’s “multi-cultural crap” tweet and a Daily Mail piece so bursting with racism even they re-edited it ”“ how Boyle’s opening work was drastically radical by comparison: ethnicity and background properly enmeshed and un-highlighted.

Kim gave a similar bashing to gender, sensitivity perhaps heightened by how the past three weeks has been an extraordinary Olympic Games for women; with significant, real steps taken. The ”Ëœfashion biz’ segment in the Closing Ceremony was an unfathomably regressive bit of choreographed objectification. It felt deliberate, as if designed to rein in any aspiration or hopes that briefly glimpsed light this past month. Huge photos of girls in posh frocks. Superstar models appear, celebrified, apeing their runway work on flatbeds. It wasn’t a fashion show in itself, or a true celebration of design (which would’ve told us something about design). It was more like the revenge of the owner of the commodified clothes-horse: as if womankind needed to be ritually re-objectified, after a short respite month of being valued in a better way. Ramming back home the wider truths of rape culture and wealth-based costumery idealism.

Appalling on both fronts: politically (not party-politically but in its representation of us as a people, a nation, to the world) and culturally, through its sheer, gobsmacking lack of material. Kim Gavin’s ceremony contained not a single new or unexpected idea. Not one! Just relentless looping of overly-seen bits from other big recent shows, produced by the same hegemony. The Who perform. Tick. Brian May does a big guitar solo. Tick. Ed Sheeran. Tick. There is no content and no meaning here whatsoever.

They were perfectly within their rights to produce a poor show ”“ or rather, a show I personally didn’t enjoy: one person’s piece of crap is another person’s fun party. But what they weren’t within their rights to do was claw back the goodness. They stole our rapture and they put John Lennon’s dead face onto commodified conventionalism. Kim Gavin is the perfect example of an endemic disease in the modern British arts industry: a hugely powerful establishment creative director who is not actually a creative person, or if he was, long ago outsourced it for status and pies. His show was not cookery but mere assemblage ”“ a Lego house built from bricks we all saw already, outdated values and the co-opting and commodifying of grace. And not even an interestingly shaped whole.

What Boyle’s Opening Ceremony had done was open up the doors; a box of delights; the best of what we are and what we can be in Great Britain, how we built this motherfucker. Showing us our truthful crazy-beautiful spirit and heralding in two weeks of sport in such a way that we felt something could be reclaimed and changed. We repaid him by being the best athletes, volunteers and audience in history.

What Gavin’s Closing Ceremony has done is to throw Britain back in the box and slam it shut; fiercely and unquestioningly placing current hegemonies back in charge; re-infantilising and re-exoticising all that Boyle had tried to unlock for us; a revenge for the otherness and the hierachy and the celebrity-for-its-own-sake, just as these bullshit Cowellian things had seemed to be proven unneeded. It was a boot on our face. I wonder how we’ll repay him.

All words by Chris T-T. A version of this post was originally published on his own website here.


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Chris T-T is an English singer songwrier with 8 thought provoking albums an a brilliantly thought out opnion on every subject...


  1. I love it when people review parties like they’re intended to be avant garde pieces of physical theatre, and then ramp up the hyperbole to 11 to ensure their review goes viral.

  2. But you are forgetting that this Closing Ceremony delivered EXACTLY what was required, which was to be the antidote to this TERRIFYING article by Elizabeth Day in the Observer-Grauniad ‘Axis Of Evil’…


    Subbed with the following headline… “Skinny models, actresses and reality TV stars are no match for our powerful female athletes. ”

    Well, good grief, if that sort of nonsense was not ‘nipped in the bud’ our entire economy of celebrity-dependent consumption would go belly-up…

    So the Closing Ceremony, including the unintentionally hilarious sight of athletes succumbing to ‘bling culture’ by flashing their medals, was a way of saying ‘Relax, Britain, Normal Service is Resumed, and Jeremy Kyle is back on the telly next week..’

    All the best,

  3. I’ve been hunting for some comment about Annie Lennox – what the F*** was going on with that pseudo-slave ship, with black bodies in the undercarriage being wheeled around the stage?! Was it just us who saw that and winced deeply (for the umpteenth time).

    Partner called it “Sunday Night at the Dudley Palladium”. It was grim. Normal Service is Resumed indeed. How very depressing…

  4. After such a great two weeks it was a bit shite. Pet Shop Boys and Annie Lennox were trundled out again and Fat Boy Slim danced like my Dad (I’m 45 by the way). It’s not the end of the world though is it?

  5. It was just a poxy closing ceremony! Nobody has died! Why so serious and po faced. You make yourself look more of an arse than George Michael did. As for the Eric Idle thing, I couldn’t help seeing it as a dig at Cameron and his comments about “Indian dancing” although I may be wrong. It could never live up to the opening ceremony and as far as I’m concerned our athletes did good and we pulled off a great Olympics. That’s what really matters, who cares about the cheesy after party!

  6. And, of course, there had to be a balloon release – littering the environment with “biodegradable” rubbish which takes years to disappear and in the meantime is fatal to wildlife and domestic animals.

  7. ….oh and there’s also the £10 billion plus bill to think about isn’t there? I think the failure to lure Bowie out of retirement or Kate Bush only appearing in audio form pales in comparison, don’t you?

  8. ….oh and there is also the massive bill of £10 billion plus to consider. I enjoyed the Olympics and I’m proud of our athletes achievements but that bill is worrying! The failure to lure Bowie out of retirement and Kate Bush not putting in an appearance pales in comparison , don’t you think?

  9. “What Boyle\’s Opening Ceremony had done was open up the doors; a box of delights; the best of what we are and what we can be in Great Britain, how we built this motherfucker”.

    A lot of us in Britain don’t believe in the term GB ChrisTT. I’m afraid it sounds a bit 1890’s for a lot of us in Wales ,Scotland or even England. You have heard of devolution and the call for autonomy for these countries i take it? Maybe your not quite as culturally and diversity aware about modern Britain as youd like to make out
    This is a good read (bang on about Beady eye) but i’m afraid i would have to agree with Michelles above comment when she says ‘It\’s like a Daily Mail version of liberal outrage’

  10. Great article. I don’t agree with it all, but that’s the privilege opinion commands. A really good read: Thank you.

  11. Great article. With so much praise being heaped on the closing ceremony in many quarters, i am relieved to find that I’m not alone in thinking it was appalling crap. I just hope that the enduring memory of the games is the opening night and the two weeks of wonderful sport, volunteering and cheering for everything.

  12. Ok WHAT???
    ten million???
    All we needed was ten of our best and most beautifully-voiced singer songwriters, (and we’re so lucky to have them…. ) to sing four hits each…
    Followed up by a Welsh male voice choir….some fireworks and some dance,.. that would do nicely… Bill? One million.

    That leaves nine millioin to do the following

    1)Re-openin the hostels for the homeless that are closing due to lack of funds.
    2)Women and children who need refuge from violent husbands are being turned away from Refuge centres due to lack of space. Build more shelters, and maybe even explain to men that a cocktail of drink drugs and cruelty isn’t a great idea.
    3)Funds towards ex-army people wandering around with PTSD…. seriously,.. trained killers with mental health issues….? Might be an idea to sort this out….? Fast.
    4) Child abusers are being flown in to perform FGM…so far France has given them prison sentences, but we do nothing about it here. The cruelty involved in turning a blind eye to this, needs to be looked at….would some extra cash help the sociologists to take off their rose coloured spectacles?

    I could go on… but I better not.. My point is.. We needed that cash to improve our society. We didn’t need what we got. Good blog from Chris.

  13. “What Gavin\’s Closing Ceremony has done is to throw Britain back in the box and slam it shut; fiercely and unquestioningly placing current hegemonies back in charge; re-infantilising and re-exoticising all that Boyle had tried to unlock for us; a revenge for the otherness and the hierachy and the celebrity-for-its-own-sake, just as these bullshit Cowellian things had seemed to be proven unneeded. It was a boot on our face. I wonder how we\’ll repay him.”

    Except that it hasn’t worked. I’ts not back in the box, because so many of us are arse-clenchingly angry about the piss-poor effort he put on, and at the hubris of opining the “he would have done the opening ceremony dfifferently”. Thank fuck he didn’t get the chance. It was supposed to be a party, but it was a party I would be preying never to be invited to.

    We saw what the Opening Ceremony did, and how wonderfully personal it felt to many of us. Gavin’s Closing was vacuous and superficial. The reaction to it in this country has been wonderfully refreshing: we knew if was a duffer. And said so.

  14. Didn’t understand a lot of the big words, but there was enough content left for me to thoroughly enjoy and agree with.


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