In search of Olympic Closure: The Right Jumping Off Point?

This is a first of a short series of posts on the Olympics Legacy. And possibly the most frivolous of the one’s to come: excepting maybe the one which will review the “French” Olympics in their own words.  This post focuses on the closing montage from the Olympic Ceremony of London 2012 broadcast last Sunday by the BBC.

It is now well documented that the Olympic end credits sashay from an epic orchestral crescendo to the dark depths of a grimy intensely dark programme loosely based on “Jack The Ripper” And perhaps this and the closing credits say more about the British psyche, and that of the BBC’s, than any of the words spoken leading up to the closing ceremony.

The words, events, sounds and scenes we experienced during Olympics will all have an impact. Several images will become iconic, legendary and possibly semiotic.  As hearworms from Brand Valhalla has written this was not only the first social media games but the first “sonic games” and the impact of the sounds of the games will only become fully apparent over the few weeks, months and years.

The closing montage of the BBC’s London Olympics 2012 coverage was of course John Lennon’s “Imagine” sung by Emeli Sande.

This is certainly another fantastic sequence of video clips from the masters of the video montage. A real Tour De Force. The action is beautiful edited and the narrative and exposition skilfully delivered. I usual find myself heaping praise – with an almost universal approval – on these amazing montages, which are often done at short notice. However, on this occasion I praise but not without some lingering reservations.
1. I think the mood and timbre of the song is wrong. Lovely as it is the tone of Emeli Sande’s voice is too harsh and there is too much attack to properly create the mood of reflection the BBC sound architects intended. The original would have been better if their mission was to elicit either quiet reflection, a sensation of goose bumps (Ray Davies, The kinks) …yet…
2. Even John Lennon’s Imagine,though part of the show, seemed a strange song to end on. World Peace and the search for a common shared identity for a united worldwide people are laudable utopian objectives, but does this song strike the right tone and provide resolution and closure to such a highly competitive sporting tournament (“wars fought on playing fields not in trenches” metaphor etc.) and following such an up-tempo party? Is it also now a bit clichéd because of the scale of its ambition. I am not sure this particular facet was remedied by having a new singer and a new style of delivery. It was certainly much harder for her to deliver a new interpretation because it had already been used in the main show – where theatrically dominated and it had extra pathos because of the poignancy of John Lennon’s projection. So I’m conflicted……
3. Why conflicted? Because whilst we need to reflect – and the song has a strong message of acceptance and tolerance which is a global must – its authors anti War positioning dominates and can obscure other meanings. People so often associated it with superpower Imperialism (Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam), and one wonders if the man in the street (because that is what we are), or those fighting internecine wars – that pivot on religious persuasion – would be able to extrapolate the meaning. The mission was also to inspire personal endeavour and world peace is at distant hope that strikes inertia not activity.
4. The thing we are forgetting in all this is the montage was primarily meant for home consumption. Imagine has a sad tone, it may speak of happy outcomes but the tone and timbre of the song is melancholy. There is love of pathos at the BBC and the end of the event always did have the possibility to feel like a bereavement. Didn’t recessionary Britain deserve an optimistic ending…

There are many candidates. A repeat of  “Always look on the bright side” by Monty Python which gives a realistic view of life but by its humour is tinged with an optimism. Perhaps not epic enough? Well what about any number of classical sweeps. Then there is “Don’t you forget about me” by Simply Minds to emphasise the legacy element. “Running Up That Hill” (Kate Bush) to illustrate the hours of practice and struggle in athletic endeavour and show its rewards.  “When I ruled the world” by Coldplay could even have been our ego centric play.

And then we could consider the long list of tracks that were used during the events including “We are the Champions” (Queen) and “Open Arms” (Elbow) or even “First steps”, their charity single that is in aid of Children in Need and Sport Relief and still be bought.

I think the big miss could have been M People’s “Search for the hero inside yourself“. It references much sporting endeavour including Euro 96 and sends a legacy message. One that we can all respond to….

What would your choice have been, this or something more uplifting and less prosaic?  Suggestions….

Respond here or join me at Twitter Englistics.  If you want to see comprehensive running order of the closing ceremony check at the Telegraph.