We are just about a half hour away from London 2012’s opening ceremony (televised by NBC at 7:30 EST), when athletic royalty, political royalty, celebrities and about 60,000 other spectators will pack Olympic Stadium (the centerpiece of London’s Olympic Park) to officially welcome in this summer’s Olympic Games. Queen Elizabeth II herself has the official distinction of opening this Olympic competition, and she will be flanked by Prince William, his wife Catherine, and London’s most famous bachelor, Prince Harry. Over 80 heads of state or countries will also be in attendance, including First Lady Michelle Obama and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney both representing the United States.
Before the Olympic torch makes its way around the track and is passed between representatives for each country participating in the Games, there will be an artistic performance entitled “Isles of Wonder”. Every Olympic Games has this type of artistic portion, and as the Opening Ceremony Artistic Director, Danny Boyle, said “this Ceremony is an attempt to capture a picture of ourselves as a nation, where we have come from and where we want to be”. This Ceremony was inspired by William Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest”, and will culminate with a performance by Paul McCartney. Many global icons will also be involved in this Ceremony (which will reportedly play out like a movie), including the one and only David Beckham, who was left off Team Great Britain’s soccer team, who have a legitimate chance to medal for the first time since 1912, but he will play a part in the Olympics after all.
Now I’m not normally a fan of Ceremonies, as I watch the Olympic Games to see the best athletes in the world compete and not for whatever cool presentation tricks that television networks and arena officials can present. To me, the only awesome part of any medal ceremony is hearing the national anthems of the winner’s country, and seeing the reaction on these athletes faces knowing that it’s playing for them. As an athlete myself I always thought that ceremonies were kind of silly, and more for the parents and families and not the athletes themselves (especially when you are on the losing end of the match, yet have to fake a smile anyway). Yet for some reason, I have a different feeling about the Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
The last Olympic Games in Beijing had one of the most spectacular performances I had ever seen, as it should have since the 4 hour show reportedly had a budget of over $100 million (USD). By many accounts it was the “greatest ever”. Today’s performance certainly won’t be as much of a spectacle as the most recent Olympic Summer Games Ceremony, but I am still excited to see what transpires from the center of Olympic Village London.
One thing that will be noticeably absent from this Opening Ceremony is a tribute to the victims of the 1972 “Munich Massacre”. For the people who don’t know about that horrific event, during the 1972 Games, 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were taken hostage by the Palestinian group Black September, and eventually all were killed by that group after a botched rescue attempt by German police. This event was the most tragic event in Olympic history (and probably all of sports history), yet it doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. Over the course of these Olympic Games, I will spend some quality time researching the matter more, as this tragedy is one of the most powerful events ever, and hopefully by then the International Olympic Committee will reconsider their stance about pushing this historical incident under the rug. The families of some of the victims of this tragedy asked for a simple moment of silence as the Israel athletes walk into the stadium, yet Olympic organizers vetoed any remembrance or memorial for that event during this 40th anniversary. This is the 10th Summer Olympics since that event, and while it may not be official, Bob Costas of NBC Sports plans to take the IOC to task over their refusal to honor these fallen athletes and coaches. I’ll be watching this ceremony with a few of my Jewish brothers, and with Costas’ incredible ability to handle these sensitive issues with class and dignity, and I’m sure this will be an emotional time for all fans of Israeli athletics.
The Opening Ceremony is the last “official” start to these Games, and one final symbol that the best in the world are about to duke it out over the next three weeks. Let the Games begin!