Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Highs and Lows of Being a Brit

The best we can hope for is a huge piece of ribbon suspended across the stadium with the Queen and Philly taking one scissor, Boris Johnson and Seb Coe taking the other and a quick snip snip, "I declare the games open, now start running, I've got to get to the bingo at nine."

That was truly what I believed would be the best riposte to Beijing's incredible display in 2008. No point competing when you're not going to win. That's the Olympic way. In fact, I don't think I actually saw the CGI fireworks over Beijing, the pretty girl who didn't sing nor the amazing drumming. Not live, anyway. I did eventually see each of these events but only through HerTube as the missus would have encouraged me to have a butchers as she was reviewing them. Not 'reviewing'; 'reviewing'. Seeing them again, not analysing.

I have actively avoided opening and closing ceremonies in all sports since 1992.

1992 was not only the anniversary of something big which happened in 1492 but was the year that I went on a French exchange. One has had a more profound effect on me than the other. As I was flying into Lyon airport, the Albertville Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony was coming to a triumphant close. 'Triumphant' because I had successfully avoided Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Halliday singing to the world about Joe's Hackney Carriage service.

For two weeks, I spent time trying out stuff whilst getting to know my exchange partner and host family. I greatly enjoyed learning to ski, trying cross-country skiing for the first and only time, seeing some caves where people once lived and visiting the caves where Chartreuse was and is produced. I believe it was towards the end of my stay when a fortunate pre-arranged evening prevented me being subjected to the closing ceremony.

It was on the morning of my final day that my exchange's step-dad revealed his big surprise; the one to which he had alluded on numerous occasions but which he had successfully kept secret until that moment: he had managed to fit not just the opening but also the closing ceremony on to a single VHS (C-240 on long play). With a certain amount of trepidation and but a rudimentary grasp of some of the French basics, dubiously few of which would apply to what I was about to be subjected, I sat down for a marathon Opening & Closing Ceremony combo. I remember little of it but I believe Jean Michelle Jarre had something to do with it.

Announcing that I had 12 years, liked strawberry ice-cream in La Rochelle and that the weather at my grandparents' house was 'fortnight' did not seem to do much to dampen his enthusiasm nor diminish his desire that I should enjoy it as much as he did the first time he viewed each.

Many moons later, I was back at the airport with my fellow students, ready to return to Blighty with one solemn vow: I would never ever watch an opening ceremony ever again.

That explains why I caught up on Beijing's highlights via the use of Youtube. A man of my word, I will never watch another opening ceremony for the rest of my days.

But Jesus Christ, last night's opening ceremony was awesome.

Arise Sir Danny Boyle.

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