13.8.12

The Finish Line

The London Olympic Games delved into the dictionary of Britishness. The city's charismatic Mayor, Boris Johnson started proceedings with zoinking off the Geiger counter and yesterday evening's Closing Ceremony said farewell to twenty-six million viewers across the world with a reminiscent zig-a-zig-ah. London has undoubtedly presented one of the most memorable and spectacular Olympic Games in modern history with stunning backdrops for sporting events across the city as well as the humbling service provided by volunteers and the armed forces over the last sixteen days. Add athletic finesse and unexpected triumphs with an electricity in the air that tasered even the stiffest of upper lips, the die-hard cynics were converted - even I caught the bug and I am now a proud owner of a Team GB t-shirt. British identity had a confidence boost on the court, lake, ring, track, pit... (didn't we do well?) as well as in the mirror - it is OK to be proud in competition, particularly when one is winning. It felt like the national anthem was on a loop for two weeks!  London 2012's official slogan is Inspire A Generation. Much debate will now take place around legacy and the future of sport for young people. Ironically London 2012 may have also inspired the quintessentially British introverts who may no longer be young, but are still young at heart and who have rather enjoyed the patriotic fanfare that has decorated our streets and television screens. 

Under the artistic direction of Kim Gavin, the Closing Ceremony was to be the last plug of brand GB. The arts have played an important role since London won the Olympic Games with an extensive programme of events, performances and commissions organised by the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and it was time to shine on the global stage in a dramatic and soulful read-all-about-it finale of made in Britain culture. Boy bands, Girl Power and the late Freddie Mercury - our other Queen - celebrated decades of musical favourites around a London cityscape formed in the shape of the Union flag.
Hirst goes epic for London 2012 Closing Ceremony
Having visited Damien Hirst's retrospective at the Tate over the weekend (Money Maker, April 2012) and viewing his music video collaboration with U2 for the rerelease of their 1992 hit , Even Better Than The Real Thing, I was hoping Hirst would be involved in the ceremony and as the first shots of Sunday's stadium were being aired, my suspicions materialised. The stadium floor was covered in the artist's iconic spin painting in a red, white and blue colourway that spanned one hundred and thirty metres wide, providing a contemporary artwork as the backdrop for the bird's-eye shots throughout the evening. Art's ability to inspire was followed by a mobile fashion show with Moss, Campbell and Tennant joining a cast of British supermodels who showcased golden creations to the soundtrack of David Bowie's Fashion in global success stories such as Burberry, McQueen, Westwood and Paul Smith. From the billboard-sized lorries that looked if they had migrated the whole of Oxford Street to the Olympic Village and the iconic London black cabs, sold around the world, to the export go-to in luxury motors; a fleet of Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coup├ęs handmade in West Sussex circulated the stadium, travelling in time through Lennon's I am A Walrus from the Sixties and then to Fatboy Slim's appropriately named, Right Here Right Now of the Nineties. British business old, known an emerging had viewers spinning in sound and vision.
Imagine: Yoko Ono creates John Lennon sculpture 
Touching moments for reflection were encapsulated by a large scale piecemeal cast of John Lennon's face, designed by Yoko Ono, resulting in what must be the most unanticipated art intervention with that of Hirst to be ever staged in one venue. Competing with as many stars in the sky as those on stage, the mashup continued with super hits from Pink Floyd, the Bee Gees, Oasis and Julian Lloyd Weber alongside the Pet Shop Boys, the Band of the Coldstream Guards and George Michael. 

If the Opening Ceremony was a lesson in British social history (Opening Up, July 2012), yesterday evening was recess - a guilty pleasure playlist of Brit Rock, Pop and pride that catapulted brand GB, in Monty Python fashion, naturally, over the finish line to win Gold.

The verdict: congratulations to everyone who was involved in the London Olympic Games - it's been #highlife.