Britain’s Party: The London Games Rock On at the Closing Ceremony.

Martin Meissner / AP

Martin Meissner / AP
Fireworks explode over the stadium during the closing ceremony of the London Games on Aug. 12, 2012

I was rushing to catch a train to Olympic Park for the closing ceremony and checked the electronic board for when the next one was coming. Instead, the sign announced that Anthony Joshua had won another gold medal for Team GB in superheavyweight boxing. That brought the British gold-medal haul at the London Games to 29, compared with just a single Olympic title in 1996. A group of Brits in a similar state of haste crowded around the board. Surely they shared my frustration at not knowing when the trains were to depart? But they burst out cheering. A girl with a nose ring took a photo of the sign with her iPhone. “Wonderful, innit?” another exclaimed. I felt like the Grinch who stole the Olympics.

Patriotism, it must be admitted, is easier to forgive in countries with a smaller global footprint. The chant of “USA, USA” might prompt fears of hegemony in some places, but who didn’t love it when the Fijians shook their grass skirts at a weight-lifting competition or judo fans from Nauru (the tiniest nation at the Olympics) broke out into a whoop-whoop-whoop-hoo-hoo-hooooiiii (which I can only imagine must be a traditional South Pacific cheer)?

(PHOTOS: The Show-Stopping Olympic Closing Ceremony)

So what to make of Great Britain, the empire on which the sun once never set but which has now been demoted to the world’s seventh largest economy? Throughout the London Games, the British deployed their best tactical weapon: a self-effacing sense of humor. It was as if the nation were emphasizing its insignificance, not so much a sceptered isle, in Shakespeare’s words, as much as a wee scattering of rocks in the North Atlantic. The world was charmed. How threatening are the Beatles, Mary Poppins and Mr. Bean?

But when home-team medals came rushing in — and not just in what the British term the sit-down sports of rowing, cycling and equestrian — the mood turned so earnestly enthusiastic that even an American would feel right at home. The Union Jack, which rarely flies on private flagpoles, fluttered from windows and balconies. Where was the British arched eyebrow, the irony held so dear? What would the country do with all that winning?

Cue the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. The stage was set with an understated London panorama wrapped in newsprint, as if the Olympics were an order of fish and chips to be discarded the next day. Then an actor dressed as Winston Churchill burst out of Big Ben. The stage turned into a canvas for Damien Hirst, which was described in the program notes as “a centrifugal explosion of red, white and blue — an expression of the dynamic, anarchic energy of British Pop art.” By the time “God Save the Queen” rang out, the stage erupted in candy-colored hues, and Union Jacks flew from every cute little British vehicle.

by Hannah Beech / London.

Read more @

Comments are closed.