Building up to the Olympics

I remember when Cape Town made a bid for the 2004 Olympics. Back in 1996, we were newly back in the international world, thoroughly enjoying our elevated status as a fledgling democracy. Optimism was high, and the enthusiasm for the bid was a common talking point. About half the population thought it was a great idea, another half thought it the worst thing possible, and the rest of the population didn’t really care at all. In the end, we didn’t get it, the hype and hullabaloo faded away, and we didn’t really have anything to get excited about until the 2010 World Cup.

Meanwhile, back in the old country, there hasn’t been anything on the sporting front to get excited about since about, oh, 1966. Unless you’re in the minority and follow cricket, in which case you may just have woken up from a depression-induced coma around 2005 or so. And so having the Olympics in London this year is a major event, worthy of getting the whole nation behind Team GB in a huge, coordinated wave of publicity. All very patriotic and exciting. The procession of the Torch is covering the whole country (it passes us on 1 July), and we’re all starting to get into the spirit of it.

It was therefore big news this week when the announcement of the details of the Opening Ceremony was made. For many, this is the highlight of the whole thing. In fact, for quite a few, it’s probably the only thing they take notice of. There’s usually a great big song & dance extravaganza, complete with fireworks and music, and Ultimate Awesomeness. I remember people talking about the Beijing opening ceremony for weeks afterwards. So, what will the London opening ceremony be like?

Well. It’s going to be a celebration of the British countryside. There will be a large, life-size model of a typical country farm scene built in the stadium. Now, I love the English countryside, and can speak in reveries about it for hours. But it’s not the sort of thing that you get 80,000 people into a stadium to watch. As thrilling as it is to see families having picnics in a field, townsfolk take in a game of cricket on the village green, and farmers tilling the soil on their farms, there’s got to be something more exciting to present. But wait! – that’s where the animals come in: there are 70 sheep, 3 cows, 2 goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, and 9 geese. Oh, and three sheepdogs. (I have to ask – why only 9 geese? Why not 10?) And if that’s not rustic enough, there’ll be overhanging clouds strung up above the stadium, and some fake rain, on the off chance that there isn’t any real rain on the night.

Admittedly, things do get better from there. There’s the world’s largest tuned bell. And “an hour of culture”.  There’s inspiration from Shakespeare, and a large cast (including nurses!) to entertain the crowd. I can’t wait (unlike the party-poopers quoted in this article). I bet those sheepdogs will outshine the Beijing fireworks like nobody’s business.

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