The Olympics closing ceremonies began with a rather odd Winston Churchill impersonator gargling gravel and slobbering a snippet of The Tempest. Meanwhile a flatbed truck, papier-mâchéd as a giant spitballs, cruised across a newsprint-covered Union Jack’d set: And British wack-a-doo-ness was in full swing.
The leftovers attendees from the Parade of Nations blended in as one, sans pomp and spittoon-bearers, into the stadium, apparently still unaware that the ceremony was being televised as they recorded and viewed the entire happening via their smartphones, iPads, and even held-aloft laptops. While we were unable to see our favorite costumes from the formal Parade of Nations as we had during the opening ceremony, splashes of Germany’s pink and blue Baby Wet-Me costumes still managed to visually punch through the crowd. And Team USA’s casual Friday oxfords and shirtdresses with enormous Polo logos made it clear that if America actually paid Ralph Lauren to advertise his brand (that is mostly made in China) we may as well toss our chips down on the global roulette table and walk away in defeat.
The closing ceremonies, as we were told by Bob Costas — whose visage and reportage gets more like Nanette Fabray every minute — promised a more relaxed “party” atmosphere. And as the evening wore on, the aural wonders would balance delight and disgust in perfect measure.
The segments that rose above the mediocrity were grand theatrical pastiches, while those that floundered were little more than musicians masturbating to their former relevance. In the beginning of the program we remarked, “Well, at least John Lennon and Freddie Mercury will have the dignity to not show up to this. At least we can be grateful for that. Oh wait.”
After NBC carved up its own version of the musical festivities, the evening ended (at least for American viewers) as it always does: with a slice of what’s to come from the next host country. We knew in Beijing that London would pale in comparison, and after Brazil’s Olympic preview last night, it looks like the next summer Olympics will be a passionate over-the-top spectacle that will be not unlike a beautiful burlesque star with a really bad drinking problem. And we’ll take it.
The Best of the Closing Olympics Ceremonies
The Bronze Medal Goes to the Queen/Lennon Mash-Up
Without a doubt the two best performances came from dead men Sunday evening. The all-too-brief Queen intro to Lennon’s “Imagine” was a tuneful spray of pearls before swine. Lennon’s near-hallowed closeup accompanied by the requisite moppets choir, while cliched, was nonetheless like a glorious breeze in a furnace of banality. This segment could have easily made the silver or the gold were it not for the Styrofoam sections that came together like clouds forming an image Lennon’s head, which actually ended up looking like a baked Alaska. And just once, just once in our lifetime, can children please sing this song with their hands in their pockets? Please, dear God, just once.
It’s a Tie: The Silver Medals Go to Annie Lennox’s Ship, and that Cool Octopus
We’ll be honest: We can’t recall what she sang and we don’t care; the art direction for this section of the spectacle was stunning. The lighting, the smoke, the death ship with the dark angel holding billowing sails, and the ship’s wake of Thénardiers-via-Vivienne Westwood were a visual feast.
Bob Costas said he really didn’t know what that octopus was about, but then again we don’t know what Bob Cotas is about either, so fuck him. The octopus was brilliant for virtually no reason whatsoever. We don’t really understand the Fatboy Slim, however, so to hell with it. He seemed quite pleased with himself and he wasn’t overtly offensive — anyway, we weren’t paying any attention to tell you the truth because we were too busy talking about that awesome octopus.
And the Gold Medal Goes to the ELO/Monty Python Mash-Up
This pastiche could not have been more British if it sang “God Save the Queen” with a mouthful of spotted dick and chamomile tea, and that’s precisely why it was so damned terrific. This segment’s over-the-topness, both literally and figuratively, was a tremendously fun ride from the strains of the Electric Light Orchestra to the slide into Monty Python lunacy complete with nuns, centurions, bagpipers, angles, bhangra dancers, bleeped expletives, and a man being shot of out of a cannon — all presided over by Eric Idle’s buoyancy and energy that quickly put to shame half the punks in the arena who were half his age. This was pure unrelenting joy.
The Worst of the Closing Olympics Ceremonies
It’s taken a certain amount of astonishing restraint not to have ties in each of the medal categories, but we’ve done it. Still, we didn’t want to leave any of the main offenders out so first we’d like to present to you our runners-up.
For some women, the Spice Girls are nostalgic reminders of their misspent tween years huffing gas while turning tricks in dumpsters, while to others, the British bubblegum confections are living allegories of human waste. Victoria Beckham, in a mullet dress, even managed to deadpan a disdainful snarl throughout the entire performance just like old times. Some guy appropriately named Beady Eye sang a song we used to like until we learned he looked like a goddamn monkey. Russell Brand took a terrifically produced segment and ruined it with a lackluster performance that was not unlike pouring lemon juice on a ripped-back hangnail. A band called Take That who looked like Fisher Price pilots from Shitass Air sang a song we had never heard of but certainly learned to quickly despise. The worst offender of the evening, however, was NBC, which decided to actually edited out Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” NBC, you fail.
The Bronze Medal Goes to George Michael‘s Performance
It’s not that we’re necessarily hating on George Michael. It’s more the incredibly boring production of his performance in the arena that was so excruciating. When you’re alone on a platform in an Olympic stadium your pipes had better be in perfect condition and your material had better be pristine and new or at least a classic. What happened here was the antithesis of that. And if your voice is shot and the song is tired then, by God, we’re going to need to see some naked folks, or pyrotechnics, or dancing urinal cakes, or something. We wish he’d have awaken us before he went-went because we were still hiding in the kitchen getting our wine-wine on and missed the beginning of the next performance. Choose life? No thanks, George.
The Silver Medal Goes to Jessie J
This woman must have incredibly impressive fellatio skills, because there is no other logical reason why she was allowed to sing four songs in public without being beaten to death. We would like to say thank you, however, for that fact that she did not announce that “Jessie J is in the howwzze!” at the beginning of her songs — a proclamation to which we’ve sadly been subjected in the past. At first we were grateful when she saw her seated in this open-air car because we hoped we could not have to witness her baby-like knee-bend “I’m a gangta” dance — but as bad luck would have she was still able to walk. It wasn’t bad enough that she sang two of her own (hopefully — oh, dear God, please) forgettable songs, she also sang the Bee Gee’s “Dancing.” Yet the most shocking and repugnant move of the night came when she sang Queen’s “We Will Rock You” while writhing to her knees and air-guitaring — yes, back-bending air-guitaring — or perhaps she was simply lowering herself to crotch level to pay for the pleasure of destroying a genius’s song in front of millions of viewers.
The Gold Medal Goes to These Kids‘ Fucking Hair
This manufactured youth group is just really a whole wad of what-the-fuck-just-happened-to-my-damn-eyes? Good Lord, why is this happening? There are more people in this gaggle of hair offenders, but we didn’t want to be cruel to our readers who don’t deserve this type of abuse. Look at this guy’s hair. We first saw these things on Saturday Night Live, and we thought surely after they’d seen the tape they would stop blowing drying their tresses with Elmer’s Glue and industrial wood-chippers. These creatures are called One Direction, which is ironically exactly what we did: We went in one direction to the bathroom and slit our wrists in one direction the second these things come on the television set.