Today, with the lighting (and uh, re-lighting) of the Olympic torch in Greece before the ruins of the Temple of Hera (must. resist. Battlestar Galactica reference), it finally became official:  Olympic fever is upon us!

I am REALLY into the Olympics, especially the Summer Games. How can anyone resist the pageantry, the peaceful coming together of nations, the sheer athleticism, or the inevitable smack talk? (Hey France! Your Minister of Sport announced that your country expected a total of 41 medals at the Olympic Games this year. Good goal! Should we expect you to surrender your medal count now, or after the games have commenced?).

It’s awe-inspiring. To say nothing of the parade of spandex. That, too, is glorious. Plus, this year we have a special bonus: being the London Games, lots of attention will be paid to whatever fabulous threads (and gravity-defying ladylike hats) the Duchess of Cambridge – aka Kate Middleton to us non-Brits – dons as the host nation’s Olympic ambassador. It’s going to be awesome.

But what does all of this have to do with Well, the music in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, of course!

Opening and Closing Ceremonies

Theater and film director Stephen Daldry (The HoursBilly ElliottThe Reader) has been appointed Executive Producer, (Creative) for the ceremonies of the London Games. But he’s not the only entertainment heavyweight involved: Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle (127 HoursSlumdog MillionaireTrainspotting) will be filling the coveted role of Artistic Director for the Opening Ceremony, which takes place on July 27th and is entitled “The Isles of Wonder”.

Inspiration for the event’s theme was taken from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a play with more music than any other penned by the Bard. Look it up. Or, better yet, go see a production. The music for the Opening Ceremony is under the direction of Rick Smith and Karl Hyde, the English duo behind the electronic music of Underworld (and frequent collaborators with Boyle). Not much information regarding the ceremony is available so as to maintain an element of surprise; but considering the source material and creative team, I’m hoping for a recitation of Prospero’s “…We are such stuff/As dreams are made on, and our little life/Is rounded with a sleep”, set to some ambient electronica. Depending on execution, it could be extremely evocative or really really awkward.

And as for the Closing Ceremony, live event producer Kim Gavin (responsible for such things as the Circus tour for the British pop group, Take That) will be serving as Artistic Director. English TV/film composer David Arnold (of five Bond films, Independence Day, Sherlock) will be acting Music Director.  The theme? “A Symphony of British Music”.

The details behind the Closing Ceremony and its music are also being kept under wraps, but we do know the basic idea: it is to be “an elegant mashup of British music”, where all-British musical acts will perform and represent everything from “from Elgar to Adele”. No musicians have been officially confirmed, but there are speculations that we are likely to see Adele, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, and The Who, among others.

Comparing to Past Ceremonies

Gavin even indulged in a little smack talk himself when he criticized the past Olympic ceremonies in Atlanta, Athens, and Beijing, saying:

[About Beijing] They had mass numbers of people doing the same thing and stylistically, it was faultless. But if you looked at the audience in the stadium, they were not engrossed. They were distracted…I want to engage my audience.

Hmmm. I’m not so sure that statement is accurate. But hey, you’re inevitably going to be compared to the blow-your-pants-off extravaganza that was the 2008 Beijing Games, so why not piss on it? We Americans can’t do that because China owns our ass – literally. So the act of criticizing previous Olympic Ceremonies before yours has even been performed takes some massive balls; especially for a man recently rejected by a band with their own self-entitled patchouli perfume (we’ll get to that). Way to really swing your bangers and mash around Gavin!

As you may recall, the 2008 Beijing Summer Games opened with a ceremony that was both breathtaking and, admittedly, pretty intimidating. Next were the Vancouver 2012 Winter Games, where the opening ceremony was…well, it’s probably best not to talk about it. Most especially this part. And so, because Vancouver dropped the ball so epically hard, London has a much lower expectations bar to clear. They should send Canada some flowers or something as thanks.

Embarrassments for London Organizing Committee

And it’s a good thing that the bar was lowered after Beijing because, despite Gavin’s words of confidence in his Closing Ceremony, there have already been some laughter-inducing missteps and embarrassments thanks to the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (or LOCOG), not limited to but including:

– The Sex Pistols were among the musical acts invited to participate in the Closing Ceremony. The hope was that they would represent the 70s punk movement in the overall musical spectrum. Alas, the stick-it-to-the-man rockers stuck by their central mantra and declined the invitation. Oh, and that patchouli perfume thing? That was the Sex Pistols.

– Keith Moon, former drummer for the The Who will also not be among those participating. Why? Well, it has less to do with an active choice on the part of the musician and more because he is deceased. Moon died in 1978 of a drug overdose, a detail that managed to be overlooked by organizers when they invited him to join the rest of the band in the Olympic performance.

– Finally, information was recently released stating that much of the music in the ceremonies will not be live, but rather pre-recorded in a studio.  Making it possibly be the grandest display of karaoke any of us have ever seen outside a Britney Spears concert.  This is a bummer of massive proportions, to be sure.  The reasoning given by LOCOG was that staging a live music performance in Stratford, (the location of the Olympic Village) proved to be rather complex.  And in order to avoid problems due to weather, winds, how such things would affect mics, and other sound issues, it was decided the music would be pre-recorded.  Which just seems…lazy.  Because, you know, I have heard tell of these things called “outdoor music festivals” and “live music concerts held in open air arenas”.  Are they the stuff of myths?  No.  Actually, I believe such things exist, even in the UK.  They are called Glastonbury and Lovebox and Field Day.  And somehow, despite this thing called “weather”, each one of these events manages to be produced and executed year after year.  How DO they do it?

I suppose the only consolation in all of this pre-recorded music malarkey is that we know in advance; therefore, we can all get our indignant anger out now and Olympic organizers can’t later be accused of trying to pull one over on us. To wit: remember when the Chinese stole a plot point from the film, Singin’ In The Rain, and did a Debbie Reynolds/Jean Hagen switch? Their reason for the lip syncing was that the girl who’s voice we heard singing was determined to not be cute enough. Yeah. That was fun. Did I say “fun”? I meant “heartbreaking”. Here’s hoping there’s none of that this year.

Here’s to the 2012 Olympics!

All of this said, I will watch the Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies no matter the anticipated outcome, with managed expectations.  Because any major live event is expected to have some glitches – either in planning or before a captive live audience of millions. Let me be clear: I’m not hating on London. I LOVE that town. Which is why my fingers are crossed that the words of 30 Rock‘s Wesley Snipes (played by the awesome Michael Sheen) are proven wrong come July 27th:


The 2012 Olympic Games take place July 27th – August 12th.  USA! USA! USA!