I’ll say it.
What the fuck just happened?
Between a bunch of dancing Abraham Lincolns disassembling Middle Earth and, in a sentence I thought I would never actually write in the history of my life– an army of Mary Poppins fighting a 100 foot Voldemort—I feel like, somewhere along the line, something missed the point.
Yeah, the lighting of the torch was cool and we all got a kick out of the terrible costuming decisions of a few countries, but come on.
You know who made an awesome opening ceremony? Nike. Ford. Chevy. HyVee.
Hear me out.
The Olympics is my favorite time of the summer/winter whenever they’re around. There’s always something on TV, and the soothing voice of Bob Costas is there to assure me that whoever is competing has a number of interesting facts about them as well, rendering them human and, well, just like me. Only like if I was a superhero. And had spent my childhood in a gym. And could walk in a straight line.
Anyway, the best part about the Olympics are the commercials. Much like the Super Bowl, only even better, because for once every 4 years or so, commercials stop playing to our sex appeal and our “get a better car so you can be better than your neighbor” and for a brief couple of weeks, appeal to something much bigger than ourselves.
“Buy a car because UNITY AND HOPE AND DEDICATION”. I’m totally a sucker for those ads.
I remember driving around town in the weeks following 9/11 and seeing American flags everywhere and feeling this uncanny sense of “I’m part of something bigger”.
Obviously, the Olympics is a much more positive (and global) event, but that is the only other time I ever feel that feeling of “I’m one person, but my one small part plays a much bigger section of a whole, and acting as a whole, we can achieve great things”.
And that’s what these commercials do. They’re entirely predictable from their grab-bag of tricks:
1. Black and white/slow-mo montage of an athlete in training, coming into color as they compete at the Olympics
2. Morgan Freeman
3. A montage of a kid training, growing up, mom and dad in the stands.
4. A bunch of work-a-day folk being boring, but standing for something Much Greater Than Themselves.
5. An impassioned speech about dedication and hard work and unity.
Sure, they’re cheesy. And lame. And buying a Big Mac is literally the opposite thing that any Olympian would actually do, but goddamn does getting McDonalds seem like a heroic thing to do every 4 years.
But in some small way, I feel like that feeling– that ideal of standing together for something is what the Olympics represent.
And these opening ceremonies?
Sure, Kenneth Brannaugh shouting Shakespeare was cool for us nerds, and the 6 kids getting to light the cauldron, that was a cool idea– but all of that in between?
What did it represent? What was the point?
Sure, it was a “retelling” of the UK’s history (albeit shined and shimmered and greatly refined), but I wish that the opening ceremonies could be less of a dick-measuring contest and more about what the games actually represent.
I don’t understand what a bunch of dancing stereotypes of what disillusioned grown-ups think teenagers are like dancing awkwardly around a house covered with projections of movies has to do with the glorious achievement that is the Olympic Games.
Where is the brotherhood and compassion and dedication in a 100-foot Voldemort? (Okay, it was cool, and I will fully admit that I lost my goddamn shit when the Child-catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang showed up because …well…fucking Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) but still.
The other thing that I keep wondering about is the close-ups. Watching the ceremony on NBC was awesome–you got to see the important bits and cute shots of kids being too excited to pretend to be asleep and great aerial views of the acid-trip puppets, but what the hell did that clusterfuck seem like from the cheap seats 5 stories up?
If your country is granted the honor and privilege of hosting the Olympic games, why not use that power and prestige to show the world that the Olympics isn’t about the country it’s IN, about everyone who CAME. Paul McCartney is neat and all, but why not use it as a statement on the possibilities of peace and kindness as opposed to divisive politics and the horrors of wars and disasters that people forget about as soon as their twitter newsfeed reloads?
Representatives from nearly every country on earth are present for one night to celebrate the ultimate symbol of brotherhood and peace in a world torn apart by politics and war, and the best you can come up with is the industrial revolution and some glow-in-the-dark comforters?
Maybe next year, let Morgan Freeman narrate.
(Oh, and for god’s sake, teach Team USA the words to Hey Jude.)