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15 August 2012 - 4:00pm | posted by | 3 comments

After the fireworks: Why London 2012's closing ceremony lacked the heroics that made the Games great

After the fireworks: Why London 2012's closing ceremony lacked the heroics that made the Games greatAfter the fireworks: Why London 2012's closing ceremony lacked the

Now the dust has settled, commercials director Trevor Melvin reflects on the London 2012 closing ceremony, which to many observers fell some way short of Danny Boyle's spectacular opening show.

As my Mum always says, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Sadly, I take after my Dad.

Apologies for my tardy response, but it seemed churlish to dig out the Olympic closing ceremony after all of the truly great sporting heroics that we’ve been privileged to witness during the last fortnight. The feel good factor that the games seem to have generated has been very special too and long may it continue.

I actually travelled back in to London from Paris a few days after the games had started and as I disembarked from the Eurostar, I was greeted by a rotund lady all clad in London 2012 purple and pink, who beamed "Welcome to London." Her huge moon like smile was so warm and genuine, from then on in, like everyone else, I’ve had the utmost admiration for the entire event.

Apart from Lottery money, a greater depth of thought seems to have been the true and underlying reason why Team GB have been such a major hit at London 2012. The devil has been in the detail if you like. We all know now that every aspect of how to win seems to be considered these days by the likes of the cycling and rowing teams.

Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony could be accused of being whimsical, quirky and eccentric at times, but it didn’t lack cohesion. The detail, the depth of thought behind the entire Olympic curtain raiser event was truly brilliant.

Sadly, the closing ceremony, or ‘A Symphony of British Music’, as it was entitled, which attempted to celebrate 50 years of British pop, felt inconsistent and certain irritating specifics left the whole show wanting.

The beautiful Emeli Sande for instance sang “Read all about it” twice… Did somebody not turn up? David Bowie, perhaps? The Thin White Duke was conspicuous by his absence and appeared to be the benefactor of some free prime time media space that most advertisers can only dream of, even though it seems he declined the offer to appear.

Admittedly, it was a terrific cover, but why did the Kaiser Chiefs perform a ‘Who’ number when Daltrey and Townsend were headlining? It can’t just have been because somebody at the eleventh hour said The Kaiser Chiefs couldn’t perform ‘I Predict a Riot’. Was Ricky Wilson’s Lambretta ride around the stadium really reserved for Roger at one stage, but suddenly there was a no show from the original headline act of choice? Bollocks, what are we going to do with all these flaming scooters!

The list of these conflicting concepts, or anomalies really does go on and on when you begin to analyse them through a Dave Brailsford like lens. Don’t worry; I’m not going to list them all! Suffice to say; as we now know, it’s within the fine margins where medals are won and lost.

Conceptually, it seems to me that what started out as a rich tapestry of 50 years of British popular music, became an unfortunate patchwork quilt when key artistes obviously declined the showcase.

The strategy behind the games themselves was ‘legacy’, something that was demonstrated brilliantly during the opening ceremony, when Sir Steve Redgrave handed over the duty of lighting the Olympic cauldron to seven of this countries best young athletes for the future.

Admittedly there were appearances during the final show from the likes of Jessie J, Tinie Tempah, Ed Sheeran, Muse, and One Direction, all of whom performed admirably. However, perhaps the celebratory mash up of British pop would have been better off following more of a legacy theme too. Particularly when the reality must have set in for director Kim Gavin that it wasn’t going to be possible (for whatever reason) to assemble the cream of British pop/rock of the last 50 years (namely The Rolling Stones) and fulfil his idea.

In which case, surely it would have been more beneficial to give the next generation of British bands the floor, rather than the now defunct Spice Girls; or allow George Michael the privilege of singing an extra song, which just happened to be his latest single.

As I’ve said, it seems churlish, truculent almost, to criticise one small cog of such a well-oiled British machine, which has done so much good. Perhaps if the bar hadn’t been raised to such dizzy heights, the closing ceremony would have gone unnoticed by me.

However, as we’ve learned from the athletes and coaches during these magnificent games, the devil is in the detail. If a concept can’t be properly serviced, because certain elements are unavailable, then you have to kill your darlings and think of some other tactic, or solution. Otherwise, it becomes difficult to look yourself in the mirror and say, as Lord Coe has been able to do, “We did it right.”

Trevor Melvin shoots for RSA Films and is one of the UK's best-established commercials directors, having worked on ads for the likes of VW, Kit Kat and British Meat. He recently worked with D&AD to produce a behind-the-scenes film showing how to win a coveted Black Pencil.

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Comments

15 Aug 2012 - 16:48
katew24599's picture
1
comments

Excellent analysis of the event - I completely echo your thoughts. The opening ceremony was always going to be a hard act to follow, but the closing ceremony seemed confused and lacked any real spirit until Take That came out to provide some inspiration and were followed by Darcey Bussell and then the fantastic headliners, The Who. For example, Jessie J, although a good pop star, did not deserve three songs - surely this was to fill a gap left open by someone else 'declining' the invitation?)

Annie Lennox has a fabulous voice and was truly emotional at the Jubilee concert, but the song choice seemed a bit odd in the circumstances.

Repeating the first few songs while other parts seemed to be on the move was also another filler and playing songs of those who couldn't be there for a variety of reasons (Kate Bush, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury) only highlighted the fact that it was brilliant music.

Freddie deserved a full song with perhaps an amazing dance routine to provide some accompanying visual entertainment, not the poor man's version of Queen (as much as I love Brian and Roger) with Jessie J belting it out but just acting as a reminder that you can't ever replace, nor should anyone try to replace, the late, great Mr Mercury.

The ceremony had it's heart in the right place, but it didn't deliver the spine tingling excitement of the opening - perhaps we were all just so sad to see the end of those fabulous two weeks that any kind of party was always going to fall a little flat?

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15 Aug 2012 - 16:51
neil_barr's picture
34
comments

I have to agree. I kept waiting for it to come together and take off, but it never quite did. The Bowie section was embarrassing and there wasn't any of the 'tingling' moments Boyle achieved in the opening ceremony. As you say, maybe focussing on the young artists would have been better.

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16 Aug 2012 - 10:48
psh1953's picture
51
comments

An excellent review and agree entirely. Yes so many stars could/should have been there but the question about whether they could sing live or not was a big issue for some but at lkeast the Spice Girls were well rehearesd in this aspect. After Danny Boyles amazing opening the finale was always going to be a big ask and sadly for me it fell way short of my expectations as I really hoped for something quite special

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