The XXX Olympiad: Let the Games begin!

I watched the Opening Ceremony yesterday at 4 A.M. Two SkyCable channels–Solar Sports and TV5–broadcasted live the nearly four-hour-long show.

Fireworks, like a rainbow of explosions, erupted to light the London night. Confetti, instead of rain, showered. James Bond rode the helicopter beside Queen Elizabeth II. Mr. Bean? Ha-ha. He was, as usual, funny, playing “Chariots of Fire” and running by the beach. J. K. Rowling read a passage. And, the greatest British musician, Sir Paul McCartney, serenaded the 60,000 spectators with “Hey Jude.”

Impressive? No and Yes. Anytime you spend $42 million on a single production–then that show ought to be grandiose. And London was. But, compared to the last Opening in Beijing, this one pales in comparison. (Beijing spent $113 million!)

I found London’s show too much. They had too many simultaneous movements. The camera focus would jump from one scene to another too fast–maybe good for action movies but, for a live show of 10,000 volunteers (plus 70 sheep, 12 horses, etc.), I thought it was confusing and hurried.

To me, the show dazzled but did not inspire. The lighting of the torch? The 200 mini-torches was excellent –but maybe it could have been more dramatic? A few more seconds of pause to alert us of the Opening’s most awaited moment? My wife Jasmin and I, after the torches stood combined, were left wondering, “That’s it?”

Again, I’m basing my comparison with Beijing’s opening.

SPEECHES. Of all the portions of the Opening, the part I liked best was serious: when Sebastian Coe and Jacques Rogge spoke. A four-time Olympic medalist, Seb Coe is the head of the London Games. Here’s part of his speech…

“To everyone in this stadium attending our opening ceremony, to every athlete waiting, ready, prepared to take part in these Games, to everyone in every city and village in the world watching as we begin, welcome to London…

“To the athletes gathered here on the eve of this great endeavor, I say that to you is given something precious and irreplaceable. To run faster, to jump higher, to be stronger.”

The IOC President Rogge himself gave an excellent speech, talking of this Games as the first ever where all nations have women athletes, with Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia sending female athletes for the first time. He also paid tribute to the hosts, saying:

“This great, sports-loving country is widely recognized as the birthplace of modern sport. It was here that the concepts of sportsmanship and fair play were first codified into clear rules and regulations.

“The British approach to sport had a profound influence on Pierre de Coubertin, our founder, as he developed the framework for the modern Olympic Movement at the close of the 19th century…

“I offer this thought: Your talent, dedication and commitment brought you here. Now you have a chance to become true Olympians.

“That honor is determined not by whether you win, but by how you compete. Character counts far more than medals.”

TEAM PHILS. Our Philippine flag bearer was 21-year-old weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who also competed in 2008. With uniforms designed by Rajo Laurel, our 11-athlete contingent looked plenty–thanks to the usual cast of coaches and officials who outnumber our athletes. Seen all-smiling was a familiar face: Monico Puentevella, the POC chairman.

TO WATCH. Out of the 10,902 athletes competing, only a handful standout as the superstars of superstars. The rivalry all are awaiting? Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte. (One writer terms it “Phelpte.”) Phelps has 14 gold medals and is aiming to be the first male swimmer to win gold at three straight Olympics. Lochte is the defending 400-meter individual medley world champ and beat Phelps at the US Trials. Says Bob Bowman, the coach of Phelps: ‘‘A very rough race. It will be a coach’s dream, but also a spectator’s dream. It will be fantastic.’’

On land, the 100-meter dash is, of course, the most anticipated. Usain Bolt is the record-holder but lost his last race to Yohan Blake. Tyson Gay is healthy. Justin Gatlin is back. And so is another Jamaican, Asafa Powell. These five will sprint come August 5.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *