A few weeks ago when we all got together to ask ourselves WHAT ON EARTH that opening ceremony was all about, I had no idea the discussion would basically turn into THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR PART TWO. It seemed a handful of our (awesome!) British readership found my photo recap to be some kind of damning indictment of the American mind? First of all, what's British for RELAX? It was all in good fun, guys. The fact is, regardless of which country hosted, that was not a very good Olympics opening ceremony. It wasn't. It was a mess! But I will be the first to tell you that if AMERICA had hosted it, it would've been at least as much of a tacky nightmare, maybe even more so. Instead of Danny Boyle as artistic director, we'd probably have Terry Perry. The main act would involve Justin Bieber and, I don't know, Skrillex, up on stage just making us a laughingstock. (Lest we forget, our Atlanta opening ceremony involved pickup trucks). So it would've been totally fair for our foreign friends to give us a big ribbing over it! You know? We ALL have pop-culture shortcomings. It's just that Great Britain's involve inflatable Voldemorts.
ANYWAY, if anyone is even able to READ this through their bleary, tear-filled eyes due to the Olympics being over (sloppy sigh), this here is a round-up of what went down in Sunday night's CLOSING ceremony. I'm going to keep this super short, because (1) the ceremony wasn't nearly as weird or baffling, and (2) I basically LOVED it. Seriously, I loved so much about it. Total success in my book. Still weird and expensive and LOOONG, but the closing ceremonies as a rule are generally just big parties for the athletes. Whereas the opening ceremony is more like, "Hey world, check out our culture!" the closing ceremony is more like, "Great job, you Greek Gods made mortal. Let's dance!" So really, any time the camera cut away to a smiling and/or dancing athlete in the audience, it was evidence that the organizers DID THEIR JOBS. Good times!
First, the Scottish Mary J. Blige came out and sang while standing on a garbage truck, a truck made of garbage.
As it turned out, it was actually just newspaper! The whole town was covered in it! But instead of salacious tabloid journalism, the newsprint was actually classic literature. Anyway, the whole scene became some kind of tribute to London turnabouts and traffic jams. I truly didn't know how they'd top the fun times of the Industrial Revolution, but here we were!
Then Winston Churchill popped out of Big Ben and started shouting at everybody.
Then these two guys showed up for eight seconds dressed as old-school Batman and Robin. I'm pretty sure British viewers were thrilled to their very essences by these guys' arrival because they're probably famous there? I'm hoping that's the case, at least. For American viewers, this would've been like if the cast of The Big Bang Theory fell out of an ice cream truck or something. Imagine how awestruck you'd be!
Then Madness came out and sang "Our House," which is one of the greatest songs of all time, for real. All of the covered big rigs unfolded into color-coded tea parties and everything became this big block party. Seriously fun.
Then this happened. Still not sure why.
A super classy marching band played Blur's "Park Life" and everyone sang along. I guess at the same time Blur was off playing a farewell show in Hyde Park, which didn't seem like very good scheduling if you ask me.
For my money, one of the best things of the whole evening was the Pet Shop Boys, who came out with their army of pyramid-heads and sang "West End Girls" while dressed as goth dunces and standing on bicycle rickshaws. That sounds mean, but I loved it so much! The design, the audacity, it was all just amazing. At this point the ceremony was already starting to put The Hunger Games' Capitol to shame.
Then One Direction came out on their float (seriously, this was the world's most expensive high school Homecoming parade) and one billion pre-teens all experienced sexual awakenings? I don't know. But I will say this: I've heard this song hundreds of times (usually in grocery stores) and I don't hate it yet. What does this mean??
Haha, Stomp. Oh Lord, Stomp. Must you?
Although, it's hard not to appreciate a musical group that incorporates sweeping the stage into the act. That's just efficient!
So, you have to be some kind of villain to not find the blended parade of athletes to be straight-up powerful. They all walked out together!
Sure, not all of them had medals, but it appeared that ALL of them were stoked anyway. Wouldn't you be?
TOM DALEY and FRIEND sure were!
Was there ever at time when "Imagine" wasn't a meaningless cliché? (Not saying *I* think that! Asking for a friend!)
The enormous sculpture of John Lennon's face crumbling like it was being disassembled by army ants was probably the scariest image of the ceremony. Question: Is that really the best imagery you'd want to associate with an artist that you're trying to HONOR?
Then George Michael came out and sang "Freedom '90." It's his best song, sure, but unfortunately it's been kind of ruined Stateside by being featured in a series of ubiquitous credit card commercials. I don't know, it just really bummed me out that I couldn't even hear the song without thinking of zero-percent interest rates or whatever. So I'm just gonna use some revisionist history magic and declare that George Michael came out and sang "Too Funky" and absolutely killed it!
The lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs was brought out in a manner that probably most rock stars dream of? VERY badass.
Then, in a weird tribute to David Bowie AND fashion, eight trailers rolled out featuring billboard images of famous British fashion models. And THEN, not unlike presents being unwrapped, the images fell away to reveal the ACTUAL models chillin' inside!
America's Dreamboat Boyfriend™ Nathan Adrian had the best reaction to the Kate Moss reveal:
Honestly, this .GIF basically sums up the whole night. Silly, fun, colorful, confusing, just-going-with-it-anyway.
After all the famous supermodels turned the Union Jack into a huge runway before striking a pose in the middle, it became fairly shocking to me that this wasn't somehow blended together with the George Michael segment. WHO overlooked this? In fact, I remember when he was singing "Freedom '90" how weird it was that Naomi Campbell hadn't walked out. She's British! I just can't believe this was overlooked. It's all a big mystery.
What do you think, Nathan Adrian?
"YES WE WILL marry you!" —America
Aside from the Pet Shop Boys, Annie Lennox MIIIIIGHT'VE been the best part of the whole ceremony? Her entrance and sincerely incredible performance was nothing short of a show-stopper. No joke. Super good.
Then some group of randoms came out and covered Pink Floyd while a tightrope walker awkwardly re-enacted one of their album covers.
Then Russell Brand came out and covered a Willy Wonka track. The thing is, I realize he's as close to untouchable as British pop culture gets, but what British people may not be aware of is that Russell Brand currently has one of the most awful shows on American television, Brand X with Russell Brand. Just miserable, terrible stuff. So forgive me if I sighed with my arms crossed the whole time he was shouting at me through a bullhorn, okay?
Because the 1990s were my formative years, I am NOT ashamed at how much I loved the Fatboy Slim segment. I loved it. I loved it. I just plum loved it. It had a lot to do with watching young people dancing in unison to "Rockefeller Skank" (like the prom scene in She's All That!) but it was MOSTLY to do with this:
That's right, an enormous, inflatable, neon-trimmed OCTOPUS. Why? Don't ask why! It was simply amazing. I know Danny Boyle wasn't technically the artistic director of the closing ceremonies, but this image alone caused me to re-evaluate my opinion of the opening ceremony as well. Sometimes British people just GET IT. Inflatable Octopus > Paul McCartney any day of the week.
So then Jessie J came out and screamed at everybody and since this was the Olympics, it basically meant that she screamed at the entire WORLD! Congratulations, Jessie J, your destiny has been fulfilled.
Some other stuff happened.
And then THIS stuff happened. The Spice Girls reunited! Now, I was not a big fan of theirs during their original recipe days, but again, the '90s stuff just hits me in my brain's pleasure zone. Man, how great was it seeing the Spice Girls all reunited and looking great and singing those great songs? So cool.
And just when I worried that I was only enjoying the Spice Girls because I am quickly becoming an old man barreling toward the grave, it turned out that even teenagers love the Spice Girls! Check out legit teenager Missy Franklin's awestruck smile!
I mean, basically everyone in this whole ceremony was carted around by a car or truck (seriously, was that whole arena filling up with carbon monoxide??), but leave it to the Spice Girls to do it the best.
Ginger Coriander Spice was even doing the Girl Power peace sign up on her ride!
I am including so many screengrabs because of how fun it was. Nice going, ladies.
Then some middle-aged librarian came out and covered "Wonderwall."
And in what Ryan Seacrest ominously described as "the comedic part of the show," some nonsense happened involving a man dying after getting shot from a cannon? It was hard to tell. But then Eric Idle played his ghost and sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." The actual performance wasn't super funny. Mostly just nuns on roller blades and a part where Idle played a white dude confused by Bollywood dancing. But the crowd was really into it, so what was the harm?
Genuinely cool: A digitally enhanced video of Freddie Mercury leading the crowd in some melodic call-and-response. Seriously, it gave me chills. Technology!
Then "Queen" came out. It was basically Brian May and—back by popular demand?—Jessie J singing "We Will Rock You," easily one of Queen's least-good songs. Queen was amazing! Couldn't they have picked ANYTHING better? "Don't Stop Me Now"? Or maybe the best song of all time, "Under Pressure"? I don't know. I wasn't in charge. But let's just say that Brian May's face in the above picture was exactly how I looked during the performance too.
Body language experts: What was going on here?
Then everything fell to a hush as the distant sound of Samba began wafting over the stadium. That's right, it was time for the symbolic "Here's what to expect" segment from the Olympics' NEXT host city.
And I don't know quite how to tell you this, but it seems that Rio de Janeiro's taste levels are now in question. The whole thing was centered around a janitor teaching an uptight security guard how to hallucinate up a jungle rave.
LED peacock-feathered drag queens came out, followed by metallic Cousin Itts, robot street performers, human glowsticks, Brazilian Cee-Lo, Brazilian Andre 3000, and Brazilian Miss Brazil. Oh and PELE OBVIOUSLY.
So, uh. Any British citizens out there still smarting from having their taste levels questioned can now look forward to 2016 when the heat will finally be OFF Danny Boyle.
Nearing the end of things, possible Bond Villain Jacques Rogge patted himself on the back for an Olympics well done. But seriously, it WAS well done. Aside from the funny stuff we're laughing about in these ceremonies, the overall event was one for the ages. So good.
Then in a moment to parallel the majesty of the torch lighting in the Opening Ceremony, the Olympic flame disassembled into its disparate parts (which would then be returned to each country once they cooled down), and extinguished as a lit phoenix dangled overhead. Genuinely spectacular. But don't just take MY word for it:
And that was it! Well, that wasn't REALLY it. That was it if you were watching NBC because America's fourth favorite network then decided to cut out a huge chunk of performances so that it could premiere a sitcom that looks destined for cancellation (although Tim thinks it has potential). That meant we had to miss performances by The Who, Kate Bush, and Muse. And based on the overriding theme of the night (the '90s), I have to assume NBC also cut out B.B.Mak, All Saints, and Travis? Damn you, NBC!
But seriously, regardless of our snark, the opening and closing ceremonies were a pleasure to watch, if only because watching and discussing them brought us all together.
How did you feel about the ceremonies, Nathan Adrian?
What did YOU think of the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony?