The Olympic Opening Ceremony, As It Happened.
Cheese graters, global warming, a parade so long it’d test even Brazilian stamina, and other glib observations.
For those who’ve not bothered to stay up for the opening ceremony of the Olympics (and I can’t say I blame you; my sole interest in it is political, and I’m only up because I have essays to write), here’s a little summary:
A brief portrayal of Brazil’s native peoples, its colonial settlers and their slaves, and the growth of the favellas, followed by a short infomercial on global warming and then a few thousand athletes, led by tricycles from a Dr. Zeuss adaptation I’ve not seen before, planting seeds in what look to be giant cheese graters.
Onto the parade…
Saudi Arabia have sent a few women along, which we’re all supposed to agree is a lovely thing (because any nation that can send 4 women to play sports must be alright). The UAE seems to have sent only 1.
Canada has only recently finished paying for the 1976 Montreal Olympics, so we can probably expect Brazil to be paying for these until the 23rd century.
The Islamic State has not entered a team, which is unfortunate. They’d have had a blast…
This is possibly the first time in history Angolans have been brought to Brazil willingly.
Not strictly related: I spent some time earlier browsing fitness programmes that suit lazy people. One anonymous contributor to a very bizarre website asked:
“How can I get a swimmer’s body?”
By swimming, you dozy cretin. The clue is in the name.
The only thing the BBC has to say about Djibouti is that it has a large US military base. A distinction of a kind.
Ecuador has only won 2 medals, both for walking. Sitting is not yet an Olympic sport; if it were, I think I’d win a medal.
Refugees have a team this year. I’ll not make any tasteless, inexpensive jokes about them doing well at the swimming.
John Kerry is in attendance. Cutaway to him as the US team enters the stadium; he’s on his phone. Important State Department business? Nope, he’s taking a selfie. Possibly sending it to Hillary; I’m sure Wikileaks will confirm.
I told myself I’d not have a cigarette until the procession ends. I’m beginning to regret it.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia boasts the longest name. No medals for that, though.
Granada have come prepared… with selfie-sticks, so I hope they win absolutely nothing.
There are officially too many countries in this competition.
I misheard the BBC commentator when he told me that Honduras means ‘depths’. I heard ‘deaths’, which I must say I prefer.
The delegation from Yemen are, one presumes, jointly funded by Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Genuinely nice to see that Iran’s flag bearer is a paralympian woman.
Italy are bidding to host the 2024 Olympics. This is the country that had to include revenue from drugs and prostitution in order to escape recession by a Berlusconi (I intend to make that a noun meaning ‘dubious technicality’, or, ‘extremely suspect condition’), so they’re obviously a good choice to host a very expensive tournament.
Lesotho. A Kingdom “apparently surrounded by South Africa.” BBC precision, there.
Libya has a team but not a country.
Definitely regretting my cigarette pledge…
I’ve not checked Donald Trump’s Twitter tonight: I wonder if he could tell us which members of the Mexican team are rapists, which are criminals, which have brought drugs and which, he assumes, are good people?
Does the first team into the arena get an honorary medal for standing until the end?
Palestine gets a bigger cheer than Israel, which is… Well, predictable.
Pakistan. 199 million people, only seven athletes. Quality over quantity is all very well, but one suspects the team lacks both.
Portugal get the welcome only a returning colonial power can: cheers all around.
Those cheese graters must be getting full. This procession has taken such a long time, I’d be surprised if there weren’t a tree in at least one of them come the end.
I want a god damn cigarette!
Checking for pupil dilation on the Russian athletes now…
For a nation ostensibly opposed to empire, the number of countries that are US protectorates, or the host of US bases, or are not-quite-US-states, is remarkable.
Dapper delegation from the Seychelles. Suits trump tracksuits, so well done them.
Syria should really have at least three teams. One government delegation, one rebel delegation, one refugee delegation.
Sod this, I’m off for a fag. Superkings, naturally, but at this rate I could smoke a pack and still get back in time for the lighting of the cauldron.
And back to work. Where are we now… Uganda. Thankfully there are precisely 0 countries I can think of with names beginning with X, and one of the few positives to take from the collapse of Yugoslavia is that it knocks one off Y. That said, one should never underestimate the capacity of small island nations to bloat the parade. St Vincent & the Grenadines, for example.
Glib though one might be, the entry of the refugee team — the last into the stadium, save Brazil — is quite admirable. A nice touch to a tournament with a considerable amount of nastiness hidden beneath the surface.
No sign so far of (deservedly) impeached President Dilma Rousseff, nor of her particularly loathsome replacement Michel Temer.
Ah, it turns out that the cheese graters are, officially, called mirrors. Mirror cabinets, to be precise. No prizes for guessing what’s inside.
Lo and behold, trees have emerged from the mirrors! Given the length of the ceremony, I suspect they’ve grown naturally.
I think I’d find a seconder if I suggested that the last thing we need now is a grey-haired bureaucrat giving a speech. That, of course, is what we’ll get.
Two, in fact. I know nothing about IOC President Thomas Bach, save what I am learning tonight. First: He’s boring. Second, he’s deluded. He praises the gathered audience for “turning Rio into a modern metropolis.” One suspects very few of those in attendance are builders, and one can be quite certain that nobody in the stadium will go home to a favella, to a gang master, to a drug den, or to be confronted by an aggressive, corrupt, militarized police force.
“Respect the Olympic values,” he says. One saw precious little of that at the games in Sochi.
Oh, here’s Michel Temer. Not a particularly good reaction from the crowd to that, though he quite wisely restricted himself to just a few words. (I recommend, to anyone still reading, the coverage of Brazil’s current crisis in The Nation.)
Still waiting to discover who will be lighting the cauldron. It’s not Pele, he’s unwell. (And, I might add, unfit for the duty.)
Anthems, oaths, more time passes…
An old man claps a beat, a young child dances. This is only a dog collar away from sinister.
This now has the feel of a party that has gone on far too long. The weary, terrified, fervour before the fall. That horrible certainty of knowledge. A come-down is inevitable.
Here comes the flame. I’ve only stuck with it for stubbornness; I want to see who’s lighting the cauldron.
Who’s it going to be? Who is it?
Who… Who’s that?
Ah, Vanderlei de Lima. Not all that well-known internationally (I had to Google him, and I can claim for myself that I’m normally quite good at this sort of thing); he was on track to win gold in the marathon at the Athens games in 2004 when a mad, defrocked priest named Cornelius Horan jumped on him, taking him off the track. De Lima lost 20 seconds and could claim only a bronze medal, whilst Horan — still insisting, as his type often does, that the end of the world is nigh — went on to perform a jig on Britain’s Got Talent. If he weren’t mad enough to enjoy it I’d have said that was punishment enough.
Right, that’s that. Decent message, quite dull.