Ultimately, my problem was simple. The reason the Opening Ceremony was so brilliant was that it was about the Britain that I recognise, the Britain which is multi-cultural, proud, self-deprecating, inventive, full of history. It showcased the things that the nation has done to change the world, and continues to do so. And it did so in a self-deprecating manner, with a lack of the usual London/UK cliches.
The following 16 days provided fantastic entertainment, drama and emotion. There were fantastic role models and in a single hour on a Saturday night, we had Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah all succeeding aided by a surging tide of noise and positive national pride. As someone on Twitter so astutely noted “This is something on a Saturday Night telly that I actually want to watch”. We had a break from the remorseless march of superficiality, stupidity and attention-seeking of a TOWIE, X-Factor or The Voice and watched real British people work hard to get to their goals.
The Closing Ceremony broke all that. Where the track and field had been graced by true stars, it was now being used by vacant supermodels who turned up and… well, posed. Where Mo Farah had done laps towards gold medal glory, trucks and Rolls Royces disgorged One Direction and Jessie J. Where the 4 x 100m USA and Jamaican teams had worked years towards world records, we now had five women who hate each other singing a 16 year old song purely for the money. Where the Opening Ceremony had featured a silent plea from millions of Britons that there would be no Del Boy falling through a bar, we had Del Boy Batman and Robin instead. Where the Opening Ceremony featured a sweet multi-cultural love story between two young kids, its closing counterpart featured a song from a film that was released 33 years ago, sung by a man who seemed confused by having foreigners around him. Instead of a simple subversion and celebration of Rowan Atkinson and “Chariots of Fire”, we got Russell Brand miming to “I Am The Walrus”.
(As an aside, how much fucking Beatles was in the show? The bus, I Am The Walrus, Lennon, Imagine, Magical Mystery Tour… pretty sure I’m missing a couple of references, too.)
It was, in short, everything that was bad about media-driven modern Britain. Past glories, confusion at strange people, superficiality, looks and miming above effort and talent. When was George Michael last relevant? It promised Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Kate Bush – and delivered none of them. The best bit was the singalong to Freddie Mercury – which if I remember correctly, dates from 1986. You kept watching because occasionally something good happened – Elbow with their own brand of crowd pleasing melancholy, Annie Lennox being as mad as a box of frogs, Fatboy Slim miming to somebody elses records.
For a Games which were tagged “Inspire a Generation”, we got the Who, Madness and John Lennon. Those guys don’t have any relevancy to this current generation, because they were out of date for my generation, and I’m nearly forty! It was bland, packaged, slick , soulless product reasserting its authority over the wonderful things we have produced. It showed British music stuck somewhere in the mid-1990s. Or more precisely, stuck right here. It featured people using the occasion to sell their new single or current West End Show, forget about the things you have seen, consume, citizen, consume!
There was an bitter sweet irony, that the Closing Ceremony should feature the very type of people that the previous two and a bit weeks had tried to sweep away. The bland and the beige and the spray-tanned orange trying desperately to reassert their money grabbing grip on our popular culture. I can only hope they don’t succeed.
Edit: The linked article says much the same as this, but better.