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TV: Olympics 2012 and Closing Ceremony

Gerry Corner finds that after a fortnight of smooth running, the nation finally got to give something a good kicking

Written by . Published on August 13th 2012.

TV: Olympics 2012 and Closing Ceremony

MO Farah said there were “no words” to describe his enthronement as our Greatest Living Athlete. Clearly, the BBC disagreed and, as has become the norm, used rather more words than necessary. 

The “best I have ever witnessed in athletics in Britain” were a mere nine of them, in this case from Brendan Foster (Olympics 2012, BBC1), summariser and proud possessor of a bronzy, the team's sole track and field medal at the Montreal Games. 

'People try,' Daltrey complained, 'to put us
d-down.' But, Roger, wouldn't that be the merciful thing? 

Following Farah – oh, and that Bolt chap, of course – the night before, Sunday's competitive loose ends were all a bit After The Lord Mo's Show.

There was the marathon, run on London's streets, but hadn't there been one of those already this year? 

And a final gold for Team GB, this time in boxing, a sport they saved until last because it embodies the Olympic ideal of peaceful competition... er. 

Plus a silver in something called the modern pentathlon, which BBC anchorman Jake Humphrey and roving reporter Clare Balding seemed to think we might be interested in. Evidently invented to replicate the skills required by Napoleonic soldiers – riding, fencing, shooting, swimming and running – the event is “absolutely brilliant,” said Clare, but she was fooling no one. 

To celebrate modern pentathlon's unlikely existence, the town of Bootle held its own version last week, but concentrated mostly on the shooting and running. Local police were invited to join in the fun by doing some of the horseback stuff but they preferred to sit in their cars. Spoilsports. 

Such was the Beeb's enthusiasm for London 2012 that, despite little prospect of sporting drama on Sunday, it still managed to devote 18 hours to it, non stop, other than a break for what was billed as the news but turned out to be a recap of the day's lack of Olympic excitement. 

Jessie+J+Celebs+Olympic+Closing+Ceremony+Naso1hl3g3klLook away: Brian May and Jessie J

Never fear, at least we had the closing ceremony to look forward to. Traditionally, this is meant to be a dismal anticlimax and, after a worryingly promising start, Britain rose, or should that be slumped, to the challenge. 

For the cynics, after a fortnight of almost completely smooth running, it was a blessed relief to find something to be sarcastic about. 

It had started well; a replica Big Ben bonged out from a twinkly, shinily impressive-looking set and Timothy Spall appeared from the top doing an uncanny impression of Winston Churchill's paunch. 

There was the capital in microcosm, with the London Eye, St Paul's, and the rush hour. You could tell it wasn't real because the taxi drivers were smiling. Their cabs were clad in newsprint; probably the budget wouldn't stretch to nice wrapping paper. 

Roger Daltrey sings about his generationLook away: Roger Daltrey sings about his generation

Then Suggs appeared on the back of a lorry, singing Our House, and an exploding Robin Reliant recalled a popular British sitcom, and you wondered what they were making of this in Turkmenistan. 

What followed was ceremony director Kim Gavin's personal compilation tape come to life. Meant to represent the best of British popular music, there was a place for One Direction but not for the Rolling Stones. 

Her Majesty had made her excuses so they wheeled on another old Queen, or what's left of it, led by Brian May. Liam Gallagher sang Wonderwall while the song's writer, brother Noel, swore along at home. 

At times, you had to wonder if the organisers had actually listened to the songs; Twitter did not miss the irony of Jessie J singing It's Not About The Money while riding an open top Rolls Royce. John Lennon's invitation – via his ghostly big screen presence – to “Imagine There's No Countries” would make the staging of any future Olympics tricky. 

“Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can?” asked Lennon but, in the VIP seats, they had their fingers in their ears. 

Olympics-Closing-Ceremony-001Look away: The Spice Girls inspire Boris Johnson and Cameron to do dad dances

The Spice Girls were reunited for the night, which would not have been so bad if it had not resulted in the unseemly sight of the Prime Minister gyrating. You can only hope the people have that image in their heads when they go to the polls. 

There were still a couple of formalities to complete. Jacques Rogge delivered the Olympic Committee president's customary boring speech and then repeated it all in French. Lord Coe – I was always an Ovett man myself – vowed the Games would inspire a generation. Is that with or without a Big Mac and large fries? 

Cameron Dancing
A little dignity was lent to the general din by the London Male Voice Choir as the Olympic flag was lowered. After the rigmarole of lighting the flame, it was snuffed out with unseemly haste to make way for The Who. As  Daltrey and Townshend creaked into My Generation, there was something not quite right about a group of pensioners singing about teenage rebellion.

“People try,” Daltrey complained, “to put us d-down.” But, Roger, wouldn't that be the merciful thing? 

The BBC team's Olympic zeal did not falter, no matter what, or Who, all the way to the finishing tape.

The honour of smashing the Olympic hyperbole record fell to sports editor David Bond on the late night “news” bulletin.

“It was,” he fizzed, while the clock neared 12.30am and we were too weary to protest, “a stunning finale”.

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Andy MeliaAugust 14th 2012.

And Pete Townsend didn't even smash his guitar...

Liverpool wagAugust 14th 2012.

Maybe he can't afford to these days, on his pension and all that....

AnonymousAugust 14th 2012.

Not smashing his guitar had little to do with his meagre pension arrangements and rather more to do with excessive credit card bills after a recent bout of (ahem) internet research, I'm reliably told.......

AnonymousAugust 14th 2012.


Townsend LaneAugust 14th 2012.

Ho ho!

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