Monday, April 27, 2015

"God save your mad parade"*

"God save your mad parade"*

Um, so that Olympic opening thing Friday night...I don't know about you, but I saw a lot of it, and I mostly liked what I saw, even though I couldn't really articulate why. Then I stumbled across this amazing piece by Alex Wolff on SI.com, which perfectly put into words what I was not able to:

Somewhere amidst the traumatized pasture animals; and Mr. Bean's reenactment of Chariots of Fire on the beach; and the parachute jumps of James Bond and the Queen from a helicopter; and the joint lighting of the cauldron by seven young British athletes, each chosen by a former Olympic great -- somewhere, that is to say, between Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins' ringing of the Olympic Bell and the echo of Paul McCartney's final note of Hey Jude -- artistic director Danny Boyle smuggled into the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics a worthy and important thing.

He gave us a chance to celebrate protest and dissent.

Four years ago, after a comparable night on the other side of the globe, the rest of the world had a moment of collective sadness for the London organizers. No way could the stagers of the next Olympics possibly equal Beijing's lid-lifting spectacle. But tonight we learned that if the guy in front of you zigs, it's best to zag. Boyle, the Oscar-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire, spent almost four times less money and deployed roughly one-tenth as many people. But he outstripped the previous Olympic host city by flaunting what the Chinese actively suppressed.

This was pageantry as jiu-jitsu.

Exactly! The London spectacle was no product of centralized planning. It was sprawling (seriously -- was there a famous British citizen who did NOT participate?), it was loud, it was embarrassing at times and surprising at others, and it was rebellious and it was messy. Just like democracy at its finest.

The moment that clinched it for me -- which Wolfe aludes to in his post -- was when its over-the-top music medley included a snippet of the Sex Pistols. Can you believe it?...the folks who a generation ago sang "God save the Queen...she ain't no human being." Now included in a celebration of English culture, in front of the royal family. Do you think such a thing would happen in China?

Would such a thing happen in America, in 2012? Good question.

* Title is a lyric from "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols.

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Will Bunch
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