You’ve probably noticed that the Olympics have started. As a lapsed patriot in self-imposed exile I might not be the best person to comment on the opening ceremony; on the other hand I’m a TV critic, so here goes nothing. By the time you read this, of course, the ceremony may well be a distant memory, as will potentially the first one and a half weeks of the games. But there’s one thing we’re all likely to take away from that magical night, which is that Danny Boyle is completely bonkers.
I’m not sure when I got most confused, but I suspect it was sometime around the point where village cricket was being played in the stadium one minute, and the next thing I knew massive phalluses were rising from the earth belching smoke. It turns out they were supposed to be chimneys symbolising the industrial revolution and not huge genitalia, which I thought was a shame. Nice tie in with the molten iron Olympic rings though, as well as plenty of celebs to bring my reeling head back down to earth. That Rowan Atkinson is a one, isn’t he?! Naturally, the whole thing was too blooming long by half – four hours! – and was in fact so long that I fell asleep on the sofa and didn’t even get to see seven unknowns lighting the Olympic torch at the end.
But I saw enough to realise that, even if you were completely enraptured by the director’s artistic vision it doesn’t take a genius to realise that the whole thing was a massive, colossal waste of money. True, it only costs around 34 million euros this time round, compared to the 75 million euros the Beijing opening ceremony cost, but that’s not really the point, is it? The point, I reckon, is that you can do a heck of a lot more with 34 million than put on some one-night only schizophrenic musical show. Like what, I hear you ask. Well, at a guess you could feed the starving, give medicine to the poor or housed the homeless – or some of them at any rate. And it’s true, I suppose, that the ceremony was paid for by sponsors but so what? I never eat at McDonald’s but I might do if I heard they’d donated a few million to eradicating polio.
Anyway, since the ceremony we’ve had our fair share of athleticism on our screens. It’s almost enough to make me feel guilty when I watch it from the comfort of my armchair. The best bit about it all is that with any luck Great Britain will win a pitiful amount of medals and end up on the table somewhere between Finland and Burundi, meaning all the hoopla and hubris was entirely unnecessary. Maybe you noticed – I just can’t get excited about it at all. As an event there is nothing more hyped on the planet, and since I’m basically allergic to hype to the extent I need to take a shower and some scrubbing with some iron wool when I’m exposed to it, I plan to spend the next two weeks hibernating in some Olympics decontamination facility, watching reruns of David Attenborough documentaries instead.
The writer knows the art of channel surfing.
LEHTIKUVA / AFP PHOTO / MORRY GASH