August 25th, 2008

The Closing Ceremony

 The closing ceremony was very much like the opening ceremony- with thousands of well drilled persons in sparkly costumes milling about like shards of glass in a kaleidoscope. The director, Zhang Yimou,  has said  the only other nation that could have put on this sort of show is North Korea. Westerners don't have the discipline, belong to unions and demand coffee breaks- to which all I can say is, "Thank God for that!"

I hate totalitarianism- and what Zhang Yimou has created here is totalitarian art- reminiscent of the Nuremburg rallies and May Day morning in Red Square. There is no human interest,  no humour, no self-awareness,  just spectacle and sloganeering and hubris- one ooh-ah moment after another. I defended myself against it with boredom. As Ailz said, "They're like children: they don't know when to stop."

London had eight minutes in the middle to give us a foretaste of 2012. What it offered was a reproach. Firstly the performance was small-scale, secondly, it didn't take itself too seriously.  We got a multi-ethnic choir in casual dress, a modern dance troupe with umbrellas- each member dressed as a different, stereotypical Londoner,  a big, red bus, a very ordinary small girl who had been chosen by the viewers of Blue Peter to be the Alice or Lyra of this dotty, parallel universe, and three world famous millionaires- David Beckham who kicked a ball into the crowd, Leona Lewis who sang and Jimmy Page who whopped his guitar and sweated copiously. It was witty and silly and fun. After the triumph of the will, the triumph of the individual!  And suddenly I understood how celebrity culture- which I've groaned over often enough- isn't merely crass, but can also be a force that sets us free.