diamond geezer

 Thursday, August 30, 2012

I went to the Paralympics yesterday.
I went to the Opening Ceremony, no less.
You probably watched it on Channel 4.
But I saw all the bits you missed during the ad breaks.

Did an aerobatic plane really fly over the stadium at the start of the Opening Ceremony last night? I didn't see a thing from where I was sitting because of the roof, and because the entire show was optimised to be watched from the opposite direction where the Royal box was. Before the show started the warm-up man and an associate tried to teach us the sign language for "I am who I am", ready for the finale. That fell flat because half the audience wasn't really watching, and because one of the signs involves flinging your arms out to the side which wasn't possible without hitting someone.

The opening section was visually stunning as brollies twirled, choirs sang and Stephen Hawking narrated. From my seat the legendary Professor was a very long way away, and could have been anybody, so my best chance of seeing him was on an elevated screen part blocked by a large speaker. It's a similar view to that West Ham fans may one day have of their far distant goalkeeper, although the centre of the "pitch" was very clear. Others in the audience seemed to have been given a programme sheet on the way in, but for some reason I hadn't, so with no C4 commentary to guide me some of the underlying themes passed me by.

The parade was brilliantly organised, with volunteers opening and closing human gates to siphon athletes into their correct area of seating. But it went on a bit, didn't it? You lot at home could switch to another channel, or go the fridge for a beer, whereas we were stuck in our seats without a commentary (or going to the food stalls out the back for an expensive beer). I could see the Royal Box from where I was sitting, and someone brought them drinks halfway through. They all watched with a professional interest throughout, especially the Queen, although Prince Edward was the only one who'd thought to bring binoculars.

Eventually, after some final Z's, our British athletes entered the stadium and the crowd erupted in partisan salute. At long last the main section of the ceremony could commence. An inspired choice to focus on books and astronomy, I thought, even if the simultaneous "apple crunch" for Isaac Newton went audibly unnoticed. One particular spotlight appeared to be aimed directly at the seats around where I was sitting, which made squinting to see what was happening on stage unpleasantly awkward. But a most impressive display of imagination and inspiration, even if I suspect it'll make more sense when I watch back the TV recording later.

Even though we all knew what the cauldron would do, it was still a magical moment to watch the flames spread and the arms rise to a blazing crescendo. Then alas, during the firework finale, half the audience were on their feet attempting to leave the stadium before their last train. Extremely disrespectful, given that the entire show was coming to a celebratory peak, and we were about to have to put our sign language "skills" into practice. But I guess that's what happens when a late-starting show runs late, and when nobody's bothered to inform the audience that the last trains are running well after 1am.

Here are 14 photos taken from the cheap seats.

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