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Monday, August 13, 2012

A Kaleidoscope of Colour ends London's wonderful Olympics

Eric Idle brings the roof down
The day after the end of the Olympics. BBC Breakfast is still coming from the Olympic Park but there's no-one there and the sun has gone. "Why are you crying?" demands J, as a solitary tear creeps down my cheek.

I, like many others today I suspect, am pining for the colour, warmth and exuberance of the most amazing two weeks we have ever known. An intoxicating cocktail where Londoners lost their stiff upper lip, everything ran to time and the recession was forgotten. Even the weather came good, after months of relentless rain.

Even on Twitter, the cynicism had disappeared for a fortnight, but during the early part of the closing ceremony it was back with a vengeance, people moaning and whining. Fortunately the show morphed into something so eccentric and over-the-top that it won everyone round and the tweets became funny and catty, like the Twitter we know and love.

So what of the closing ceremony? Looking back, it was like something that started gently and gracefully and then speeded up in a blur of flashing colours. No doubt this was intentional, but the start was a little too restrained. After a stunning backdrop of London's cars and lorries speeding past landmarks in a papier mache world (yesterday's news?), the first few acts including Madness and the Pet Shop Boys didn't seem to be hitting the right notes.

Ray Davies, 68, looked slightly overwhelemed as he was deposited by a London cab to sing his wonderful "Waterloo Sunset."  He may have a limp from when he was mugged in New Orleans a few years ago but he showed he still had his voice, unlike Paul McCartney and Elton John when they performed at the Jubilee concert.

The arrival of the athletes seemed a welcome distraction on Twitter, where people were scathing and restless, but it took too long to assemble them and form them into the Union flag. I was yearning for Usain Bolt to move everyone along. Meanwhile the four songs that we had heard so far seemed to be endlessly reprised. "I love Britain and I love our four songs," said someone on Twitter.

Eventually the athletes were all successfully kettled, and then the party really started. Whoever was staging the show was now determined to turn it into a raucous celebration of British eccentricity and diversity. This is what we're really good at.

Two deceased artists, John Lennon and Freddie Mercury, appeared on video screens. When pictures of David Bowie appeared, the whole of Twitter went mad - "is it him? We need him!" and it would have been the most fantastic, best kept secret had David Bowie appeared. He didn't though: we had a few super models standing around while Fashion played.

I would have done without George Michael, who had the audacity to sing a new song, and "Pink Floyd." Elbow and Muse both seemed to lack a bit of welly in the vast stadium. Annie Lennox was also surplus to requirements, although the pirate ship was a nice prop.

I was getting concerned that none of the kettled athletes would have even heard of any of the acts as we were fielding quite a lot of mature talent. Fortunately some younger acts appeared including Jessie J and Tine Tempeh, with someone's dad (Fatboy Slim) coming down from the pub to spin a few records.

Russell Brand was a cross between the child catcher and Willy Wonka as he demonstrated that he can't sing but has enough charisma to compensate, trundling along in a Magical Mystery Tour style camper van.

The Spice Girls looked and sounded great, although Victoria Beckham had a slightly pained "I didn't really want to be here, I have a career you know" expression. The highlight of their short set was Boris and Cameron dancing and being captured on Youtube.

For me the show was undoubtedly stolen by Eric Idle and "Always look on the bright side of life."  Shot from a cannon (I was hoping Boris would have been the cannon fodder), this was totally surreal. Eric was surrounded by Bollywood dancers and hoardes of nuns. Suddenly everyone on Twitter was saying it was so over-the-top it was wonderful.

After the speeches from Lord Coe and Jacques Rogge  (does he ever smile?) and the formalities of the handover of the 31st Olympiad to Rio, it was left to Take That and Darcey Bussell to extinguish the cauldron, a poignant and moving moment. Then the party revived with The Who proving "their generation" still has a lot more to offer than zimmer frames and hip replacements. And thank goodness we didn't have to endure Paul McCartney, Elton John and Cliff Richard this time!

Fantastic night to round off the most aamazing two weeks. I have been privileged to be part of it. Tickets for the Paralympics opening ceremony have now been secured as I was determined that this time we will get into the park.

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