A chance sighting of Christine Lagarde and impromptu interview by NBC were mere accents to the greatest show on British soil. A week after the Opening Ceremony, we are still buzzing about that amazing night.
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==B Opening volley==
The O.C. (sic) was equal parts awe-inspiring, humorous, deeply touching and, at times, an endurance test. The atmosphere in and around the Olympic Stadium was actually very relaxed and upbeat. Dress code was largely casual, security was friendly, efficient and a piece of cake. The run up was largely uneventful with two notable exceptions: we walked past Christine Lagarde with her small entourage - nice tan - and an NBC reporter grabbed me for an interview, trying unsuccessfully to get me to comment on whether Trainspotting would be mentioned during the ceremony – very cheeky.
Most of the Olympic Park was, wisely, closed off for the O.C., which left thousands of folks standing around looking for places to sit – resulting in mass ‘plunking down’ on the pristine, new pavement outside the stadium. Getting in, around and out of the stadium was extremely efficient. Following advice to arrive early meant no wait at the huge bank of airport-style security scanners, which was staffed by the fine men and women of the Royal Air Force. Required to be in our seats 90 minutes prior to broadcast, it seemed likely, and indeed was the case, that Danny Boyle would address the crowd, and that we would receive some pre-show instructions.
==B Herding cats==
Boyle emphasized in his few, brief words that this event was just the ‘warm up’ for the Olympians, and that for him the night was all about the volunteers, performers and staff alike. Quasi aerobics-instructor volunteers, Mechanicals, followed Boyle and attempted to direct everyone on how to wave on queue the digital ping-pong paddles that were installed behind every seat. Acting as cheerleader coaches, with their brightly colored matching baggy-trouser uniforms, the Mechanicals directed us on how to follow basic formations (left-right, down-up) and when to put on our 3D glasses, which were handed out upon entry.
The glasses ended up being more exciting in concept (“3D ceremony?”) than practice, and the 60,000 attendees behaved more like excited cats than a well-trained unit, which of course we weren’t. If some of the fan participation didn’t quite work out, it didn’t detract one smidgen from the evening, and actually added a bit of gleeful mischief to the night.
==B Rings of fire==
Central to the night was of course the 90-minute parade of Olympic athletes. Watching the world’s best athletes in one place, setting aside politics and doing their countries proud, was endlessly intriguing. There were huge cheers for Team USA and explosive roars from the partisan crowd for Team GB. A touching moment, early on, was the series of children’s choirs from every U.K. country, singing representative hymns. But the biggest crowd-participation was Sir Paul's ‘na na na’ sing-along caper, which was doubly impressive considering the crowd had been (mostly) in their seats for six hours.
You didn’t have to be in attendance to realize that the Olympic rings flying in from the eves were other-worldly, or that the industrial smokestacks climbing out of the ground were extremely impressive. It was fitting and appropriate, though, that O.C. highlights included the small moments, whether of Mr. Bean, Bond or Butterfly (as in ‘Float like a…’). What isn't apparent on your TV screen, is that the stars of the show, and indeed of the Olympics, are the 70,000-strong Games Makers volunteers. They were posted throughout the grounds and stadium, and really set the positive, almost ebullient tone. Where ever you go in tourist and Olympic London, their purple and ‘Grenadier Guards red’ shirts ensure that a smiling, helping hand is never more than a few feet away.
==B Music to our ears==
Music has always been an integral piece of Boyle’s cannon, and he was true to form with his O.C. selections. Classical, teeny-bopper, pop, punk, arena rock, you name it. Personal highlights included New Order’s genre-defining dance hit Blue Monday, two (!) tracks from the Sex Pistols, the Jam, the Kinks and Beatles - inspired choices, all. Mike Oldfield playing his hit Tubular Bells sent me right back to Sue Sasso’s class at Addison Elementary, when we all crowded around the record player imaging what the Exorcist looked like (hehe). All the other live performances were thrilling: Dizzy Rascal, the Arctic Monkeys and of course Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra with their somewhat ‘bonkers’ special guest.
==B London on stonking good form==
With the first week of the 2012 Olympics in the bag, the resounding consensus, based on our experience and that of our friends attending Olympic events and public festivals, is that London is functioning very smoothly and more than rising to the occasion. The medal table is well and truly filling up, with records being set at a rapid pace and controversy, badminton notwithstanding, kept to a minimum. When asked which country I support, I fall back on the parents’ prerogative: I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite. Between my homeland and my country of residence, I thankfully haven’t had to do too much choosing. Amidst following Team USA, it’s worth highlighting that Britain is threatening to exceed their record, set in Beijing, of 19 Olympic gold, and that yesterday they enjoyed their biggest ever one-day gold medal haul, behind ‘Golden Girl’ Ennis. These are truly proud days for London and Great Britain.
I look forward to reporting more on London 2012, and to further reflections on being a Palo Alto expat in this fine land.