We were somewhere around Startford Underground Station on the edge of the Olympic Stadium when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like, “I feel a bit balmy. Maybe you should find our seats….” And suddenly there was a great roar as 80,000 people began cheering to the 10,000 fireworks exploding around us, signaling the beginning of the closing ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
(Really, I was sitting in front of my television, hoping that NBC wouldn’t completely screw up the last bit of broadcast time they had to get their Olympics coverage right. They screwed it up.)
The ceremonial field was cross-cut with runways covered in newsprint forming a giant Union Jack of Britain’s greatest literary heroes. What this had to do with A Symphony of British Music – the dubbed moniker of the ceremonies – I don’t know. Maybe it was the words to all the Culture Club and New Order songs that weren’t included as part of the country’s live catalog of greatest hits.
As flying acrobats banged on pots and pans hanging from paper models of the London Eye and the Tower Bridge, cars and buses rushed around until a flatbed truck – errrrrr, lorry – arrived with the band Madness on the back singing “Our House”, full throttle, Two Tone styling in full effect. Somewhere off in the distance, I heard a teenager mock, “What the heck is this?”…but the party was starting, and for the next three hours, there was no coming down.
The Pet Shop Boys brought in “West End Girls” while circling the track on orange rickshaws wearing what looked like black latex KKK garb. Next up, millions of screaming girls woke Justin Bieber from a fitful sleep as One Direction rocked the cute clothes and adorable hairdos. I think they also sang something. I was totally distracted by the cougar patronus that appeared, telling me that, when I tossed my hair, I was kind of beautiful for a middle-aged woman.
STOMP banged around some more, and then all the athletes entered the stadium looking fresh-faced, happy, and finally with their hair styled in a manner suitable for prime time viewing. The United States contingent sported preppy white summering-in-the-Hamptons garb, possibly paying homage to our comparatively endless monetary resources when it comes to kicking the world’s butt. Although, it could have just been a Great Gatsby movie tie-in.
I started getting woozy around this point, vaguely remembering volunteers wearing working light bulbs on their hats. But that can’t be right, can it?
A bit of “Bohemian Rhapsody” played before John Lennon materialized from a group of children singing “Imagine”, and the whole world cried because, you know, just imagine no more countries: Jordyn Wieber would have made the women’s gymnastics All-Around final.
The next bit got confusing. Was that Bono dressed as George Michael, or George Michael dressed as Bono? He was singing about freedom, so maybe it was both. I heard my grandmother say something like, “Jezus Chrystus! Is he wearing a skull belt buckle?” which was especially distracting since my grandmother’s been dead for ten years. The Kaiser Chiefs rode in from Brighton with the mods and kicked Ray Davies’ rocker ass completely off the NBC taping of the show. Then, David Bowie appeared via a photo montage, and we all wondered whether he had died, but no one cared much because, well, Lady Gaga was still alive to fill in any whatthefuck blanks.
In a sideways look at British fashion, Kate Moss and other luminaries of the modeling world strutted their shiny stuff, making the already emaciated Russian rhythmic gymnasts regret their first meal in days. Then there was Annie Lennox on a gothic skeleton ship, Prince Harry singing along to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, Jessie J in the nude, the Spice Girls—OMG, THE SPICE GIRLS—all looking VERY fit and life-like, singing on top of taxi cabs, tossing One Direction’s knickers into the crowd, and one half of Oasis singing “Wonderwall” without a hint of irony.
Around this point, I began peaking, so I wasn’t quite sure whether I was really seeing Eric Idle singing “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” while surrounded by bhangra dancers and nuns on roller skates. But then NBC bleeped Idle saying, “Life’s a piece of shit…”, so I knew it was all real.
Then there was a Freddy Mercury sing-a-long, Queen’s Brian May rocking out in the hippest outfit at the senior center, and a gynecologically dressed Jessie J belting “We Will Rock You” to the background track of North Korean athletes requesting political asylum and a cold shower.
Two men in suits harshed everyone with their mellow jabbering on about good will and rising to challenges. But then the stage was turned over to Brazil, and that’s when things got really weird. All I can say is I have four years to tone my abs and get a total body hair electrolysis in preparation for the games in Rio, and thank goodness.
When Pele showed up, I started drinking.
I’d love to say that I stayed awake to watch The Who, but NBC in their infinite fuckery postponed the closing of the closing, instead opting to go with a commercial free (OH, REALLY?) sitcom premiere about bad acting and stupid stupidness. They also cut Kate Bush, which…I don’t understand the world anymore, I just don’t.
The Olympic cauldron unwrapped itself into a gigantic blooming onion as an enormous phoenix flew into the night. And then the fire extinguished.
The clean-up would trouble London for nineteen years. But all was well.