Athletes, Art and Multiculturalism on Steroids

Of course I am not insinuating that ANY athlete from ANYWHERE was or is on steroids. My title is altruistic, not accusatorial. My point is that I can’t think of a greater culmination of our world’s collection of cultures than the Olympics. Every four years, the best athletes from around the world compete on a level playing field. Well sort of. Surely, there are those whose training is less “sponsored” and supported than others– think USA gold medal basketball winners. Regardless, raw athletic talent coupled with rigorous discipline were the key ingredients that landed this year’s athletes on the Olympic stage.

Our Space Olympics

It was awe inspiring to see the level of commitment, skill and pride displayed in London. For 17 days, people around the globe were united in watching, holding their breath, screaming in excitement and cheering with gusto for their faithful nation. For the athletes, it began with a recognition of their passion – any Olympians innate gift. It ended, for some with gold while others left London with nothing but precious memories. You watched, you know who won what. The Olympics are in some ways about who is the best at the given sport, and sure, the USA won more gold, silver and bronze than any other country. But strutting around with a medal doesn’t do much for our global peace, does it? I like to view it as everyone brought their best games, and, most importantly, everyone played nicely. Multiculturalism at its finest.

The 17-day event is bookended by two artistic demonstrations. The opening and closing ceremonies are spectacular manifestations of creativity and culture reflecting the host city, London. The 2012 games provided just that.

The opening ceremony, “Isles of Wonder” was created and directed by Danny Boyle. Best known for the outstanding storytelling and directing of his Academy Award-winning “Slumdog Millionare.” Boyle’s “Isles” was at times solemn and murky, and at other moments, silly and quirky in its telling of the cultural and industrial history of England. It was something to behold even the slow moments. Healthcare professionals represented themselves in the touting of the countries virtues within their very efficient system. Notable books came to life: Mary Poppins and Harry Potter, and the very famous present in real life, Queen Elizabeth, Sir Paul McCartney and Mr. Bean (not necessarily listed in order of importance).

 

 

As a UK blogger described, it was obvious to the Brits that the culmination was, “Boyle’s impassioned poem of praise to the country he would most like to believe in. One that is tolerant, multicultural, fair and gay friendly and holds the principles of the welfare state stoutly at its heart.” I’m not sure I got that… did you?

Apparently viewers will be available to enjoy the elaborate production anytime after it is released on DVD with added film clips that will supposedly help it make more sense. Here’s hopin’!

Then there was the end.

Creative Director Kim Gavin describes the intent of his vision and that of his team by saying, “it needs to be something where everyone, including the athletes, is going to be able to let off steam.”

“There are seven and a half thousand of them there, so it’s a show for them all to get involved with, and hopefully it will wrap up the spirit of what these Games have been, which is slightly anarchic, slightly mischievous, funny, heart-warming, emotional, inspiring and uniquely British,” said Gavin.

There were plenty of places to let off steam with crowd rousing performances from Madness, The Pet Shop Boys, One Direction, The Kinks, George Michaels, Oasis, Annie Lennox, Jessie J. Taio Cruz and the impressive but strange reunion of The Spice Girls. There was a powerful rendition of “Imagine,” where the sweet voice of spirited Beatle John Lennon joined and then overtook the army of youth singing the song. The song led up to an amazing three dimensional puzzle being created. Brilliant.

 

 

As a disgruntled NBC viewer, allow me a moment to bemoan the gross error in judgment on the part of the network to coin the end of the closing ceremony as “the after party” to be aired following a “sneak peek” of its new sitcom. What they gave the viewer was a chopped ending to the ceremony and the robbery of seeing The Who, whom I had been waiting all night to enjoy. I assumed I had missed it somehow, and alas I did. Damn networks… I promise I will NOT be watching your stupid show about the pet hospital after that!

Anyway, sorry for the rant, but you can understand.

Gavin himself called the celebration-al conclusion “a mashed-up symphony of British music.” The Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games will be titled “’A Symphony of British Music,’ to celebrate the fact that music has been one of Britain’s strongest cultural exports over the last 50 years.” Certainly not all-inclusive, they managed to touch on the likes of Bowie and The Beatles and as broad a spectrum as Pink Floyd to Adele. Spotify’s playlist of all the closing ceremony tunes does not even scratch the surface of the contributions made by the countless bands from the “Isle of Wonder.”

2016′s host, Rio de Janeiro topped it all off with a spectacular preview of what to expect when the world comes on their turf. If last night was a taste of how the Brazilians will welcome the rest of the global family – it is definitely something to look forward to. Those people know how to throw a party!

So that’s the end folks. The athletes will return to their homelands and be welcomed as heroes or comforted as heroic. Someone has to win in the end. But dare I suggest that when we can play nice with each other across all of our boundaries and differences, and when we can come together and unite for a common purpose – even if it is to find the “winner”- I say for the cause of multiculturalism, we all win.  And that is worth some fireworks!  No steroids necessary…

Cover Photo Source: Duncan Rawlinson via Flickr
Photo Source 1: Nick Webb via Flickr

 Jennifer is Director of Content & Ideation at SJG.  I am convinced that every human being is innately creative – Picasso said the key is to remain childlike within the body of a responsible adult, or something along those lines. As the oldest member of this opinionated clan, I feel responsible to share a different perspective. Engage me – I love a good debate!