5 Things Olympic Opening Ceremonies Always Have …

Now we know how the 2012 opening ceremony is going to start, what’s going to come next? Having watched one or two of these before, there seems to be a pattern going on. So what are 5 things every opening opening ceremony always features?

1. A child

Forget all the problems of the past, the host nation is always much more innocent-seeming when figured as a child. There’s always one there hanging the narrative together: remember the little girl on the beach in Sydney 2000? The “Child of Light” in Salt Lake City 2002? The little boy in the paper boat in Athens 2004? Even the little girl who needed a body double in Beijing?

2. History

An Olympic opening ceremony is always an opportunity to tell a story about the host nation’s rise to fame. But history fans watch out: it tends to be a very selective story. Witness the version of Greek history presented in Athens 2004 – most of the time spent on the ancients, then quick as flash we’re up to date!

3. Multiculturalism

Olympic host nations are always very inclusive societies – rich, varied but ultimately united in their passion to stage the games. Even if history would tell another story, which is probably the reason they think up this ruse in the first place. Examples? What about the Australian Aborigines being met by the aforementioned child in Sydney or the Native American tribes in Salt Lake City?

4. Technology

Opening ceremonies are a big advertisement for the host nation being a major player in the global economy. Remember the suspended spinning cube in Athens? Of course, Beijing was all about technology. And if you can fit in the discipline of a mass choreographed display you have the added advantage of touting your national workforce for jobs in a passing global franchise.

5. Parade of nations

Of course this is what it’s all about. Here we can see who are the biggest and best, and who is small but plucky. The rest of the games are pretty much redundant after this bit. But it brings a tear to the eye …



Olympic anxiety

What is it about the Olympics that worries you? This week many of us silently celebrated the 100-days-to-go milestone by completing London 2012’s online survey to help them

gather information in order to provide the best possible experience for spectators

only to be greeted with a question that sought to interrogate our worries about the forthcoming Olympics. What, asked Neilsen, the company that London 2012 have hired to do their market research, do you have concerns about (select all that apply)? I can tell you that, although prior to completing this question, my concerns were pretty much at zero, with every option they gave, my trepidation steadily built.

Even the first option

nothing – no concerns

worried me – was I being stupid? No concerns – you can’t be serious? Then they gave us a list of potential worries – each one making me imagine a new fear. For example: mobility issues for the elderly or those with disabilities. Well, probably I should be worried about that – I am aware from looking at the disabled access icons on the London Underground map that the ancient tube system is practically inaccessible to disabled travellers. This contrasts somewhat with the build up to the Paralympics games. On a different note, today I was promised the opportunity to win 1000s of Paralympics tickets if I spent more than 50 quid at Sainsburys. I won 50p off a bottle of Coke instead.

Back to the survey and the next possible source of anxiety: was I worried about my food and drink options being rubbish or too expensive? Well, probably. Was I worried about overcrowding – well yes, that is what we have been promised: “sell out”, I believe, is the term.

The next one took the biscuit: “tickets being too expensive or hard to obtain”. Is that a worry or a fact? Are you telling me that the months of complicated lottery allocation procedures for the promise of a cheap ticket that finally revealed the lucky winners were the ones who bid the price of their house for a couple of front row handball preliminaries ¬†was not a reality? Am I just being paranoid when I think that yes, the tickets were hard to obtain?

Then the worry options listed accommodation, ticket touting, interruption to daily life, as well as the biggie – cost to the city/UK and taxpayers. Yes, I am a little concerned about that. I think you would have to be mad not to be in the age of austerity, when we will gladly cut benefits to the poor/disabled/elderly/children but build a massive sports park in East London.

Was I worried about poor sportsmanship or disappointing performances? Was I worried about transport around London or transport to London (they had it in bold like that). What about traffic congestion? Parking? Bad seats? Long queues? Had I thought about expensive prices and a lack of alternative entertainment? Was I worried I would miss out on something because of lack of information? Was I worried about safety and security issues? Protesters? Poor signposting? The weather?

One of the options even asked me if I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get my hands on enough Olympic merchandise. I can tell you now – that was not one of my concerns. John Lewis has stocks and stocks of those mini cyclops things but I still do not want to buy one.

So what is this? I was going about my business not being particularly concerned about anything, then someone comes along and makes me feel that I should be worried about all kinds of things I hadn’t even thought of! Is it all part of the build up? Are these little frissons of fear part of the spectacle? Do they want us to be worried? Is this Olympics affect?