Sunday, July 28, 2002

Heard on BBC Radio Merseyside last Thursday:
-So, we know representatives of the Manchester games went to see the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics, which are generally reckoned to be the best ever. Do you think Manchester will top that?
-I don't think they'll even be trying (which we took to be a polite way of snorting a derisive 'No')
And indeed, they didn't. The Commonwealth games kicked off with the sort of school play we've come to expect; but the main question from this quarter is: we know we can't run. We know we can't jump. But we can do pop. So why didn't we show that off?
Sure, the appearance of S Club 7 was nice; they're a tight, pretty pop act and they could be relied on to give good polish; perfect for the context. But couldn't some more of this sort of act have been rounded up? Sophie Ellis Bextor, maybe? Perhaps even Atomic Kitten. But, no - the rest of the musical entertainment was provided by faceless acts which instead of saying "We rule pop" (or, more honestly, we used to rule pop) said "Look - we have more stage schools turning out so-so lip-synchers per head than any other nation." The ceremony was topped and tailed with two acts of this sort - the first did 'One nation under a groove' which was odd (surely the whole point of the Commonwealth Games is that it's meant to try and get us past the idea that there was a single British Empire? Isn't it meant to be a celebration of the multiple nationhoods which have grown up in place of One Empire Under the Gun?) and so bland, you suspect part of the millions Manchester has frittered on the games was spent on a device to blow-dry the funk out of songs. This impression was redoubled at the end when a band ("from the centre of the grandstand!") attempted to sing 'Aint no stopping us now' with some degree of conviction. Ethnically balanced to the point of satire, with those groovy headphone mics that Howard Jones managed to simultaneously make familiar and unfashionable, it was like watching Simon Fuller's wetdreams. Lets hope they're stopped in time for the closing ceremony.
Even more odd was the music that the atheletes stomped across the stadium to. It did seem some thought had been put into this - when the Australians came on, Kylie's spinning around was playing, raising the possibility that we were going to hear pop from each country taking part; but by the time Elvis V JXL was playing (An American remixed by a Dutchman - just two of the great nations not in the Commonwealth) it was clear someone had just shoved on Now Thats What I Call Music Volume CXXVI. Another wasted opportunity.
Nice fireworks, mind...

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