Monday, August 11, 2008

It's Been An Eventful Few Days

Let's kick off first and foremost with the Beijing 2008 opening ceremony. I am biased so I'm not the best person to ask seeing as Athens 2004 forever has a place in my heart but nevertheless Beijing's opening ceremony was pretty impressive. I loved the fireworks and the futuristic elements; the Olympic rings rising off the ground was a breathtaking moment as were the synchronised drummers at the start. I can't imagine the amount of work and preparation that went into the whole thing.

The one element that I think let the ceremony down was the scores and scores of people. If you were in the Athens 2004 ceremony, there is a good chance you could spot yourself on screen at some point and say "Look! There I am!" No such chance in the Beijing ceremony, most of the people didn't even make it onto the screen and it's a pity because all of them worked so hard.

So kudos to Beijing who have raised the bar almost impossibly high for London 2012. I'm so curious to see what London will do. 1000 synchronised yobs fighting? 2000 drunk teenagers vomiting in time to music? The Olympic rings formed out of fish and chips? Alright, alright! Calm down I was only (half) joking.

Whatever it will be, I have lived in the UK for 10 years and watched them make disasters of events that should have been glorious. The words organise, piss up, brewery come to mind. Moments to note are the Millennium Dome and anything that involves "modernising" the tube system. Bring on 2012, I'll be standing in the sidelines and cringing. I hope I'll be proven wrong but the track record proves otherwise.

So as of late I am reliving all my fond memories of my volunteering days and plastered various Facebook group walls with messages of a Athens 2004 volunteer reunion down by Syntagma fountain on Friday night. I was there as was another volunteer friend, both of us dressed in our uniforms. We waited. Someone approached us but it was only a lost tourist. A lady approached the fountain wearing an Athens 2004 volunteer shirt, but she kept on walking. Either she had decided on some spontaneous reminiscing too or saw the two crazy eyed people waiting at the fountain and decided she didn't want any part of it. The clock ticked on, no one else came. So we went off and had a two-person cocktail party. Champagne cocktails, might I add.

Sadly, my splurge on Friday night moved onto scrounge on Saturday morning. I went downtown to kill some time and look at the sales, and just look I did. We are in the process of trying to build a place for us to live seeing as me and Mr Zeus no longer fit in this bachelor flat we call home. As the expense involved in such an endeavour even at the paperwork stage keeps adding up, it was look but don't buy for me. I whetted my appetite for meaningless consumerism by trying on clothes I liked and putting them all back again. Honestly, a nun in a room full of male Calvin Klein underwear models would display less self control than me.

I thought about the super-rich stratospheres of Athens where you can buy whatever you like and the stories Mr Zeus' niece tells me of the clients in the salon where she works, ladies who delight in the constant spending of their husbands' money to get EUR 1000+ hair extensions that only have to be taken out again after a month. Who has that kind of money? What do these people look like? I would soon find out.

I got to know a lady who is living and working in Athens for a few months with a big name company and we became friends. Said big name company has put her up in the Hilton for months on end and I finally got around to exercising my sycophantic muscles and dropped in for a visit on Saturday afternoon.

We hung out in the Executive lounge, in her Acropolis view executive room, the pool, the jacuzzi and the sauna. I had never been in a jacuzzi or a sauna before, the latter being akin to sitting in your car in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of a Greek summer. It was great fun. The pool at the Hilton otherwise costs EUR 55 for mortals to use which is nuts when you have the sea for free so close by.

After cleaning up we next headed to the Galaxy Bar where my friend once spotted Billy Zane who she confirmed is hotter in real life. It was all so glamorous and there was me in the summer dress I had been wearing all day. Oh well, that soft lighting and a few drinks make anyone look good. I took a napkin to prove that I'd been there.

Now it's a sad and work-packed Monday morning and I have to console myself with my fun weekend, yesterday's summer shower and the glorious, the-gods-must-be-happy sunset that followed.


Rositta said...

You know Bollybutton, the Brits might "pissup" but at least they won't loose their life for it. In communist China, who knows...the firing squad maybe...ciao

Sesi said...

I've spend my weekend watching our very own ceremony of 2004, looking for volunteer videos on youtube, remembering the whole thing. I had much fun with it.
I also watched parts of the chinese ceremony. It was big, as big as things can get in events. Actually it was massive. It was impressive, but that was all it was for me. It didn't give me the chills, as the Greek one did. Basically, I constantly kept in the back of my mind, that these masses of people must have been terrified of making mistakes, with fear of their freedom the least and their live the most.
These Olympics turned out to be a redicule of the Olympic movement and a redicule of everything we had here 4 years ago.
I clearly remember the panic about terrorism, as it was the first Olympics since 9/11, and how strict everyone was about security, and how many visitors we lost because of this panic. Only few games in my Stadium were sold out, and few games had a 70% coverage of seats.
Now, bombs blow up in the same country (even if its 3000 kilometers away from Beijing), an American tourist gets killed, there is no Olympic trouce going on (war in Georgia), and the Olympic Committee insists that everything is going fine.
The Chinese people were told not to wear short skirts if their legs arent pretty, were told not to speak to the visitors, were told not to ask questions, were told to always smile.
Noone had to tell us here to smile. We just did.
What a sad sad summer.

bollybutton said...

I definitely think we had a happier olympics. my spies on the ground say everyone is constantly stressed in Beijing that things won't go perfectly. In Athens, we weren't bothered if things weren't perfect so long as everyone was comfortable and having a good time. Groups like Al Qaeda weren't interested in Greece so we felt safe too.

I have a feeling that Athens 2004 was the last completely joyful and happy Olympics we're going to see for a very long time. Lucky we got to be part of it eh?

Rokos said...

The Beijing opening ceremony was full of 'wow' moments and was deeply impressive, but lacked the emotional engagement of Athens 2004 - and underpinning it all was a rather unpleasant fascistic tone that didn't feel too comfortable.

Nonetheless, it was widely watched here in Britain, I guess so that we could see what on earth hosting the Olympics actually involves. And the general consensus is that it's an impossible opening ceremony to follow in terms of sheer spectacle. That kind of thing isn't really our strong point anyway - we're not ostentatious enough - so I can't wait to see/cringe at exactly what we're going to lay on by way of putting on a show.

As a TV spectactor, my other thoughts on Beijing 2008 are a) that the weather looks wretched, and b) that the Games lack the feel-good factor of Barcelona '92, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. Those cities were not using the Games as a platform for launching a bid for world superpower status; the hosting of a good Olympics seems a sufficient end in itself. Not this time. The Chinese desire to micromanage this Olympiad to perfection seems to be draining the Games of all their fun.

And this is hopefully what London 2012 will identify and seek to reintroduce to the Olympics.