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London Olympics 2012: Closing ceremony review

London Olympics 2012

Review by Jack Foley

LONDON 2012 finished the way it started… in spectacular fashion.

As with Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, Kim Gavin and David G Arnold’s closing one celebrated London’s rich diversity, its bustling nature, its musical and theatrical achievement and – most importantly – its recent sporting success.

And like Boyle’s curtain-raiser, this was as visually stunning as it was star-studded.

Emelie Sande, who performed on the opening night, kicked off proceedings with a stripped back version of Read All About It, a song that formed an apt metaphor for the past 17 days’ achievements where London became the spotlight (and envy) of the world, and the pride of a nation.

As Sande sung “I want to scream, I want to shout… they can read all about it”, you couldn’t help but feel this was London’s final parting shot… an invitation to the world to read all about the capital’s achievements, which surpassed probably even the most hopeful pre-Games estimate. And which really were worth shouting about.

With 65 medals in total and 29 golds, Team GB ‘inspired a generation’ just as they always promised they would, captivating hearts and minds.

But the lyrics also spared a thought for all who took part, the winners and the losers, while a grand stage epitomised the bustling nature of London both during the Olympics and every day either side of it.

There were busy roads often flooded with cars, iconic buildings from London’s skyline wrapped in newspaper… this was another feast for the eyes. Oh, and Timothy Spall appearing from atop a model Big Ben, dressed as Winston Churchill and quoting from Shakespeare’s The Tempest (just as Kenneth Branagh had done during the opener).

And on the half an hour mark, the flag-bearers, who provided a pertinent, colourful reminder of the true focus of the Games: the athletes, whose endeavour and achievement had kept a nation (and a world) enthralled. As key members of Team GB and other nations appeared to take their bow and display their medals (to a backdrop of Elbow songs), you couldn’t help but shed one final tear of national pride.

All in all, the closing ceremony was a spectacle to be proud of, right down to the final ceremonial act of the extinguishing of the Olympic flame, the handover to Rio 2016, the appearance by footballing legend Pele and the inevitable fireworks (although you can’t help but feel that Brazil now has a tough act to follow), as well as a not so inevitable but welcome (and brave) appearance by Take That.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg… here’s what we enjoyed the most and some of what we felt didn’t work quite so well.

The hits

An early ’80s medley started off by Madness performing Our House, complete with flying saxophonist, and Pet Shop Boys’ joining cyclists to perform West End Girls.

The Queen’s Guard performing Blur’s Parklife, while hundreds of volunteers – a key part in the Games’ success – sung along.

Ray Davies getting out of a black cab to perform a lovely version of The Kinks’ classic Waterloo Sunset.

Elbow performing One Day Like This with orchestral backing as the athletes joined the flag-bearers on the stage, taking their own keep-sake photos and showing off their hard-won medals.

The arrival of 303 white boxes (signifying the number of events), set against a backdrop of sporting images, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill and the creation of a giant pyramid in the centre of the stage (preceding the victory ceremony for the men’s marathon and Uganda’s golden moment).

The generous ‘thank you’ to the thousands of volunteers who helped to make the London Games what they became: a hit, renowned for the friendly face and helpful hand they offered to all-comers throughout.

A performance of Imagine, John Lennon’s anthem for peace, which was delivered by the late artist via a giant screen, as well as a cast of children live on stage as a hologram of Lennon’s face was constructed before them. The version of the song had been exclusively re-mastered by Yoko Ono and was genuinely moving, underlining the timeless relevance of the singer’s lyrics.

Ricky Wilson, lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs, arriving into the stadium in the middle of a procession of Lambrettas, singing Pinball Wizard. It was a grand entrance, as was the sight of so may Lambrettas, while the band delivered a rousing version of The Who classic.

Annie Lennox, no stranger to showboating, arriving by… well boat. Dressed in somewhat ghoulish fashion, she nevertheless belted out a theatrical version of Little Bird that wouldn’t have been out of place in a West End production.

Ed Sheeran performing an immaculate version of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here with Floyd member Nick Mason and a couple of others (a performance that flew in the face of Floyd’s dismissal that this was happening). Sheeran underlined his worth as one of Britain’s most exciting young performers.

A kick-ass DJ set from Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, that set the stadium alight (a la Jean Michele Jarre) complete with lights, dancers and a greatest hits couplet featuring Right Here, Right Now and Funk Soul Brother. We loved the giant octopus bubble he performed in.

Beady Eye – aka Liam Gallagher – performing Oasis classic Wonderwall… a cracking reminder of some great contemporary British song-writing complete with lush orchestral backing. It blew The Spice Girls away.

The comedy human cannon ball moment, which gave rise to an appearance from Monty Python icon Erid Idle and a sing-along version of Always Look On The Bright Side of Life complete with angels, roller-skating nuns, Roman soldiers and, finally, Bollywood dancers. A celebration of England’s multi-cultural society AND its bonkers sense of humour? Don’t bet against it!

Muse delivering an epic version of their hit Survival, the official song of the London Olympic Games. They continue to be quite the showmen of rock, particularly when allowing their guitars to do the talking. If you thought Britain was missing an act of Queen’s operatic, bombastic excess, then step forward Matt Bellamy and co.

How apt, then, to have a video image of that grand master showman Freddie Mercury appear to rally the crowd still further… a move which had a very classy symmetry about it and which cleverly set up Brian May for a grand entrance and an exhilarating guitar solo of his own. The remaining members of Queen then followed, together with Jessie J, for a blistering version of We Will Rock You (complete with crowd assistance). Again, it was an apt choice of song for a closing ceremony that, for the most part, genuinely rocked you.

Take That appearing as the penultimate act, prior to the extinguishing of the flame. It was a brave appearance from Gary Barlow and a good choice of song, We Can Rule The World. I think we did… certainly on a per capita medals basis!

The Who…. a genuinely class British rock ‘n’ roll act singing Teenage Wasteland and others. It ended things with the ultimate bang.

The misses

George Michael’s version of Freedom didn’t quite convince, or rather lacked the Wham bang factor. The singer had admitted to feeling nervous before the ceremony and his vocals seemed a little shaky. But the gospel backing did, at least, save him. Alas, second song, White Light, saw a more confident performance from him but was an odd, even poor choice of song.

A fashion extravaganza paying homage to the British fashion industry… an unnecessary reminder, perhaps, of the commercial aspect of the Games and the advertising side of it. Do Burberry, Paul Smith and company really need an extra plug in front of a world-wide audience? Still, maybe Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and company only charged £1 for their catwalk. And why just play Bowie’s accompanying song… why not get the artist himself or someone to cover him?

Russell Brand performing The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus atop a psychedelic, multi-coloured bus. It was a crowd-pleasing moment, complete with shapely violin players and dancers, but really? Brand doing The Beatles? It may have been an attempt to showcase Britain’s cheeky sense of humour (much like the presence of Rowan Atkinson during the opening ceremony) but it didn’t quite come off and was one of the oddest choices of the night.

The cheese element as contemporary artists Jessie J, Taio Cruz and Tinie Tempah paraded their ‘hits’ from within a fleet of Rolls Royce cars. Again, a nod towards more classic British product… albeit one now owned by the German manufacturer BMW! At least the trio hooked up for a rousing version of Bee Gees’ classic We Should Be Dancing to continue the party vibe.

The medley of Spice Girls hits, which saw the girls attempting to roll back the years. All they really achieved was to remind people of how disposable their music was. But I guess no ceremony would be complete without at least one Beckham, Britain’s ‘other royalty’, involved. Worse, it provided the unnecessary sight of London Mayor Boris Johnson and even Prime Minister David Cameron attempting to get jiggy with it. I think everyone – Girls’ included – came across too old. Still, London’s black cabs came off well out of it.