Olympic closing ceremony: where genius and cheese battled it out
In a sprawling affair, with as many highs as there were lows, cheesy UK finally raised its proud, sour milky, head and showed the rest of the world just how to do tack. ‘I’d like to see Rio match that’ one commentator bragged, briefly forgetting the carnival in the Brazilian city that would have to go a long way to up the cheese quotient to match this closing ceremony.
Not that it was all bad. There were some great performances on there and let’s face it, the athletes, crammed between the parade of British pop culture, deserved a chance to bask in the limelight that they worked like dogs for.
Cheese is not a bad thing. We eat a lot of it and we are good at it. Infact we are gold medal winners at cheese and in these celebrity obsessed days of X Factor culture it’s something we beat the world at. We are a schizo culture, being the country that gave the world both the Beatles and Mr. Blobby and this was reflected perfectly in the closing party which had musical high spots mixed with Eurovision style moment of high tack. And Annie Lennox.
The closing ceremony understood that it was important to acknowledge our mastery of the cheese form and not have the whole world thinking that we were just Danny Boyle’s brilliant extravaganza on the opening night. A night that caused the Daily Mail to meltdown and the odd, quite odd, Tory MP to get onto twitter and let the truth of wtheir thinking slip from behind the spin of corporate politics.
That opening night of the Olympics caught us all out with a brilliant depiction of British culture, so expectations were high for the closing ceremony. But would that be fair? Afterall we can’t have the music fans getting more than the one per cent of TV they are thrown like rotten bones to a hungry dog and it was good to see the sort of people who think Russell Brand singing I Am The Walrus and the Spice GIrls are as good as it gets. We don’t begrudge them their TV time and, despite rumours of Kate Bush and David Bowie appearing, we kind of knew the game was up when Organiser Kim Arnold promised us something ‘cheeky and cheesy’ which was delivered.
I guess a closing event that would have been the same as Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony would have been too much for most viewers. In the culture wars cheap and cheesy is as valid in modern UK as Boyle’s audacious culture coup which managed to slip in loads of great ideas and off the wall stuff and make them populist. Boyle’s was an event that proved that people are generally up for something that is not just X Factorlite but never get the chance. These days we all live in a Simon Cowell world, a culture theme park, where our culture has been edited out of the mainstream and replaced by karaoke versions of songs that were once battle cries but have been reduced to sour, wet puddles of, er, fun.
Tonight was an exercise in the other Britain- a celebration of that fun thing- that most overrated of things. Fun is a dreaded word. A word that conjures up Timmy Mallett and Noel Edmunds – clown bullies who attempt to force you to have fun. It’s that fixed grin, that gurning trying to have fun in a rainy seaside town kind of fun and we’re food at that. Fun is never fun is it? But fun had to be had. So in a very British, colourful, jolly knees up parade came a broad spectrum of pop that, to be fair had its moments with the classic rubbing shoulders with the silly.
“If the opening ceremony was the wedding, then we’re the wedding reception,”Â is how Arnold accurately summed up the whole affair with memories of the classic wedding reception of strained attempts of having a good time with a cheesy DJs and Abba’s Greatest hits springing to mind as drunk men dad danced awkwardly.
Far closer to the Jubilee ‘extravaganza’ this was the the Spiceworld version of UK culture, a place where pop music is something in the background and where Russell Brand slaughtering John Lennon’s LSD classic I Am The Walrus is not done as a joke but as a serious idea.
Ultimately it was the perfect ending to the whole running and jumping around affair. When Boris Johnson wobbled his fat arse around like the minister of fun he should be instead of being trusted with something important it all made slobbering sense, the Olympics ceremonies had both shown us everything about the UK from its sometimes genius culture that blows your mind to its compassion to its cheap and cheesy and I guess we should be grateful for this soul bearing honesty of the closing event that didn’t pull any punches in its truth telling about the fun myth.
The Olympics have been great. If you forget the bullying of the sponsors and all the other grumbles the brilliance and attitude and the UK athletes has been really inspiring. Oozing the kind of modesty and dedication to their craft that a whole swathe of spit roasting premiership footballers would find utterly alienating they have lifted the spirt of the nation in a way that the footballers never do when they play in major tournaments.
When we met some of the athletes at the Stone Roses gig last week they were as down to earth as ever, letting us share their medals and their limelight and still in love with their obscure sports that are now hopefully mainstream.
Ultimately if the Olympics get a bunch of cheese munching Brits out from the safety of the sofa to getting involved at some of the sports, even if they were as unfathomable as that strange walking event then they will have won.
If Danny Boyle’s event was total genius this closing ceremony was, perhaps, a more accurate reflection of our dear old country with the genius and the Cheesy mcCheese stacked together like those dear old episodes of Top Of The Pops that we used to curse and cheer in our damp and clammy youth. It had the same on going argument between the great and the rubbish, the cheese and the brilliant and the fun filled terror of modern life.