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The Priceless Paralympics

How many of you watched the Opening Ceremony to the Paralympic Games? If not, why? Was it because the Games wouldn’t be as enjoyable as the Olympics? Was it because the athletes don’t have much strength since they’re disabled? Was it because it’s essentially the Olympics’ younger brother that is always in their older brother’s shadow? If so, then I’m about to show you why all these thoughts are complete balderdash; the Paralympic Games may be the Olympics’ younger brother, but they are the younger brother who quickly develops into a courageous, powerful and important person, faster than it’s older brother. The Paralympic Games should NOT be overlooked. And here’s why.

The Paralympic athletes are so superhuman they might as well be from the planet Krypton. They defy the limitations of human strength, perseverance and determination to show the world that even if they may be disabled, blind, limbless or otherwise, they can professionally play versions of Olympic sports that are ludricously more extreme and violent. Can’t imagine blind people playing football? Think wheelchair basketball is nice and calm? Consider the idea of people missing a leg swimming like super-professionals to be impossible? Well, think again. Like the C4 ad says, the Olympics is just the Warm Up; the Paralympics is the real challenge.

If you thought the task of creating the Olympics Closing Ceremony after the brilliance of Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony was tough, just imagine the amount of stress on the people behind the Paralympic Opening Ceremony. It would be almost unbearable. But in the end, it was awesome. Even if there was no special event like the Queen parachuting out of a helicopter, it was an all round spectacular ceremony centered around the girl Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Instead of all the action taking place at the beginning, they split between the beginning and the end, which I thought was a wise decision, since in the Olympic Ceremony they classified the lighting of the Olympic cauldron as a brand new thing to be enticed by. Since this was now expected, they needed to end the show with some brand new stuff.

The imagination behind the show was immense. The fact that Stephen Hawking in a sense began the entire ceremony was a genius idea, since he’s the biggest brain in the world, and has defied his disability by living far longer than expected. The show was a fascinating celebration of science and human rights, focusing on the Big Bang and Newton’s apple (I didn’t really understand the meaning behind everybody watching taking a bite out of an apple). Miranda’s journey was so eccentric and imaginative it brought to mind a girl wearing a blue dress and white apron staring up at a cat that has teeth so big it’s a miracle that its jaws are actually still intact. It was like a dream in both senses.

They had a man zipwire hundreds of feet above the ground to take the Paralympic torch to the cauldron. How cool is that?! And watching disabled artists defy their limitations to entertain us in dazzling ways was another real highlight (the dancer in particular was extraordinary). And then there was Boris. Good old Boris: the only politician who would laugh at the suggestion of him being in one of the zipwires above the stadium; the only politician who asks the interview, “How are you?”; and the only politician who is so human that they actually watch enough television to refer to C4’s Paralympic advert!

May the Paralympic Games live long and prosper! 🙂

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It’s The End

Well. That’s it. Like clever putty, London has reshaped itself into it’s dull form. The Olympics have gone to Rio.

The opening ceremony was astonishing. How much pressure was put onto the closing ceremony organiser’s shoulders is unimaginable. But instead of creating a rival ceremony, he wisely did a different kind of ceremony: a mish-mash of Britain’s best beats.

Jessie J. John Lennon. Elbow. Madness (fresh from the Queen’s jubilee). The Pet Shop Boys. ELO. Fatboy Slim. Muse. Russell Brand. The Spice Girls. And tributes to The Beatles, Queen and the Bee Gees. These were just some of the bands and singers and DJs playing at the closing ceremony (my personal favourites).

The opening ceremony was full of mesmerizingly memorable moments: James Bond and Queenie parachuting out of a helicopter; the return of Mr Bean; and, of course, the breath-takingly remarkable Olympic cauldron! But the closing ceremony was chock-a-block with its own moments. Who can forget Russell Brand making a surprise visit on a Willy Wonka bus? Who can ever forget Fatboy Slim riding a GINORMOUS INFLATABLE OCTOPUS (which came out of the bus)? Who can ever, ever forget beaming like a halo as Eric Idle’s head pops out of a pit and starts singing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life? And who can ever, ever, ever forget giggling like a hyena at the sight of David Cameron and Boris “Bushy” Johnson boogying like dads to the Spice Girls?

Good old Boris Johnson. Who doesn’t love him! Stuck in the middle of a great big zipwire, 20 feet from the ground, he grins and says, “This is great fun, but it needs to go faster,” as onlookers frantically photo him with their phones; during a post-Olympics press conference, upon request, Boris joyfully does the “Mobot” (and also kind-heartedly says that he does not want to be PM); and always talking in a kind, croaky voice, always with a sense of humour that’s so childish for a boring old politician, and hair that’s far too poofy for a dull, formal job. He has no sense of dignity, and a heart-warming sense of humour, and that’s why we love him.

It was a real shame that neither the Queen nor the Duke of Edinburgh turned up; they really missed out on a cracker of a ceremony! Madness making another return put a smile on my face (especially with the saxophonist in a harness). The Pet Shop Boys’ unusual sense of style was particularly interesting. It was a bit of a shame that Spellbound performed instead of Diversity (who I know would make full use of the stadium in their performance). Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody starting off the main portion of the ceremony had me clapping and laughing like a monkey (as did Lennon’s face appearing in the form of a white 3D puzzle as Imagine played). Russell Brand was fun and bubbly as always, performing the ‘Bolt’ and the ‘Mobot’ while suitably singing Wonka’s wacky song Pure Imagination. The giant octopus I possibly mentioned before was mental enough for me. Jessie J was fun to listen to as always. And I can’t complain about the Spice Girls if they made the PM and the Mayor of London dance like a pair of dads. And the human cannonball Eric Idle singing Always Look On The Bright Side of Liff Life…need I say more?

Jessie J taking Freddie Mercury’s place was, for me, perhaps a little bit too risky. Freddie Mercury was one of the greatest singers of all time, and having somebody replace him might be a bit too bold for some. However, I think Jessie J did a good job of it, and her voice is fairly similiar to Mercury’s, and it’s good that Queen have finally, after all these years, got a (temporary) female member.

Watching the extinguishing of the Olympic cauldron was a particularly sad moment for me. It was as if a dandelion was dying as the copper kettles — the dandelion seeds — flowered and then went out, as if a wind was blowing them away across the wilderness. And, as the last extravaganza of fireworks died away, so did the joy and excitement and hope that the Olympics brought to London.

The Olympics

The Olympics. Big topic. Where to start is pretty hard. Being able to start in a way that’s not boring is much harder. So I guess I’d better start big.

The opening ceremony. Even I was a bit dubious by all the “This will beat the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony” talk that was going around. I saw an annotated image of how the stadium would look during the ceremony. The biggest things it had to boast were sheep, a giant tree, mosh pits, ducks in a pond, artificial clouds and grass. It said it was supposed to represent England in its rural form.

That’s it? That’s all Danny Boyle set up in answer to China’s extravaganza? (Although it did heavily rely on CGI and lip syncing.) I was a bit shocked. I know people out there with heavily creative minds would dig deep into that picture and see oodles of creative genius from the Oscar-winning film director. I did a little, but I was still a little put off.

Then I saw it. And I loved it.

I love a bit of history, and the way it was conveyed at the start. And there’s nothing more I like than a bit of Jerusalem being sung. When Brunel came in, and the countryside was stripped, and the drumming music started, every thought of how the ceremony would be a load of tosh was eradicated. But it just kept getting better.

Happy and Glorious in particular. James Bond in Buckingham Palace? Bond escorting Queenie? QUEENIE PARACHUTING? You can’t get any more flabbergasting than that!

The arrival of Mr. Bean brought a smile to my face. Even though it has been confirmed that will never be another Mr Bean episode or film in the future, it was good that he came back for just five minutes. And since those five minutes were during the Olympic Ceremony, NICE! Mr Bean re-enacting the famous Chariots of Fire beach scene was particularly interesting!

Then came the monsters. And the Child Catcher. AND A GINORMOUS LORD VOLDEMORT! And Mike Oldfield — an excellent musician who I quite like. THEN CAME THE OLYMPIC CAULDRON. What are those copper kettles for? Where’s the cauldron? What’s that flower they’re just lighting? Why are the flames spreading? Why are the kettles bunching together? What is — OH! MY! GOD!

I haven’t seen much of the Olympics yet. I’ve only heard about it through news updates (such as the unfortunate event of Tom Daley and his partner coming 4th). I saw a bit of Gymnastics a few days ago, where I saw the Chinese and Russians and Americans somersault over a vault and do a triple drill roll through the air at 45 degrees before landing perfectly on their feet. I also saw gymnasts hanging from bars swing round it in circles, temporarily gripping the bar with one hand, or letting go of it to do a double spin in the air, or just swinging from it like a super monkey.

There’s so much more to come: Usain Bolt in the 100m sprint, the rowing (or have I missed it?), the closing ceremony and more. The only off-putting things about the Olympics are the choices of events to watch when you have other things to do, and the fact that the events go on for hours every day. Ignore all the insults and accusations and stories in the news about the inadequate planning.

The London 2012 Olympics is going strong.

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