02 August 2012

Olympics 2012: Opening Ceremony and Tennisspotting Day 1

Location, location, location.  Yes, the Olympics location is probably the hitch that has pulled me in...London.  An opening to Olympic coverage from BBC One:

A British Opening: Ceremony review
I have never watched an opening ceremony.  I have never really paid much attention to the Olympics, but again location makes the difference.  So, for the first time I watched the festivities of the opening ceremonies with great interest.  I'll admit it straight off, I didn't make it through the whole event, only through the Bs of the nation march, but the interesting part of the whole ceremony had already past by then.  Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, NT's Frankenstein) did not disappoint.  In a first act, the history of the United Kingdom was played out in Boylian style, as anyone who has marveld and enjoyed his production of Frankenstein can attest, with a tribute to the agrarian lifestyle (accompanied by real animals and English countryside sod) to the industrial revolutionary smokestacks and factories. The Industrial Revolution felt like a scene right out of Frankenstein with huge gears, workers cracking various machines, and the soundtrack of Underworld.  It was Boyle doing what he knows.  Sir Kenneth Branagh took center stage in this act with one of the only speaking parts in the whole ceremony.  

Act two, my personal favorite, focused on children's literature of the UK and the NHS (National Health System).  Performed by actual NHS doctors and nurses playing medical caregivers, we saw an evening in a hospital with bedtime stories and dreams with some of Britian's most well-known evil-doers from Captain Hook to Cruella de Ville and the Queen of Hearts to Lord Voldemort haunting their dreams only to be saved by a fleet of Mary Poppinses.  All quite magical.  JK Rowling introduce the segment by reading a portion of JM Barre's Peter Pan.  The only thing a bit odd was the large baby at the end...couldn't tell if it was cute or creepy.

The third took spectators on a trip of the last 50 years of British pop culture and the evolution of the digital age.  Telling this story through the eyes of a boy meets girl scenario, the audience was taken through a trip on The Tube (via colored tubes carried by performers) and different decades showcasing the best of British music from the Beatles and Rolling Stones to the Sex Pistols and David Bowie to the ever-modern Muse.  All the while, internet-like images of text messages and status updates pop on screen as the would-be couple makes there way to each other.  By night's (and decade's) end, they have found each other and share a kiss.  

It was an impressive sight on the telly and I can only imagine how much more amazing it was to see on site.  If every opening ceremony is done with such dazzle, I can see why they are highly anticipated.  It was a fun start to the Olympics.  Nice job, Britian!

Opening Ceremony photo from internet press
Olympic Tennis: Day one
As a tennis player and fan, London is a prime spot.  I've enjoyed watching Wimbledon since the days when Pete Sampras and Jim Courier were two top men's players...boy, do those seem far off...and still enjoy catching games and highlights of recent years.  Wimbledon, like Roland Garros or other Grand Slam sites, can be sacred for tennis buffs.  My two trips to clay-court heaven in Paris, are always etched in my mind:  the first as a teenager on a school trip through Paris was an unscheduled, spontaneous stop for me, but I will never forget the enormity and awesomeness of the site, and the second trip I was fortunate enough to actually sit in the audience of early-round matches.  An experience, any Roland Garros spectator knows, that is unforgettable. 

Back to the All England Club and the Olympics, a perfect site to hold the tennis matches, the club gets to host a unique experience for the third time. previously in 1908 and 1948.  Tennis will likely be the only sport I watch and the first day didn't disappoint.  Even from the telly, it seemed the atmosphere was different.  The colors of nations flying on and off the court and the enthusiasm of national spirit flowing from the crowd.  It was a nice change of pace.  Men's doubles matches were two different matches with, I must say, unsurprising results.  I saw two matches of US vs. Brazil with each country taking one win to advance.  One match featured two brothers who have played together a long time and two singles players who were playing together for the first time.  Guess who won and lost?  Yes, the doubles brothers won and singles men lost.  Really, I think that would have been a no-brainer.  Who would pair two great singles players and think they could win when they've never played together?  I think US Tennis will have to rethink a future decision like that.  On the other hand, the Bryan brothers were a joy to watch.  Their match was extremely close and they played like a well-oiled doubles machine.  I'll continue to watch and follow tennis results; I've got Belgians to root for in singles matches and the American brothers in doubles.  My choices are set and maybe on my next trip to England, I will make my trek to the courts at Wimbledon.