Spotting Trains With Olympic Slumdogs

July 28, 2012


I don’t usually watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, but it worked out rather conveniently this time around, and even if it hadn’t, Danny Boyle – the director of the ceremony – is one of my favorite directors and I was really, really curious to see what he’d do with it.  Something loud and weird and thumping and intense and funny and gigantic and personal, I hoped.  He did not let me down.  When Boyle – director of films like Trainspotting, 127 Hours, 28 Days Later, and Slumdog Millionaire – dies they should open up his skull, because I’m confident a 9-story steampunk rave will come exploding out of there.  If you get a chance to see a broadcast of his stage production of Frankenstein, with Benedict Cumberpatch and Johnny Lee Miller you’ll be blown away.

A few thoughts on the ceremonies, as televised here:

Jeez, look at all those places that aren’t The United States. I wonder if anything ever happens there?

Before the ceremony began, Bob Costas was talking about security concerns in London and mentioned the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and then general security concerns after 9/11.  Tom Brokaw, next to him, then mentioned that, you know, I think there was a horrific terrorist attack in London, too!  Yes, yes I think something did happen in a country that isn’t the US!  In fact, they happened right around the time London was awarded the games! What an amazingly relevant and important example you didn’t mention, Costas!  (Brokaw didn’t actually phrase it that way).  Sometimes… sometimes it’s just embarrassing.

Also, before hand, a short interview with 2 American gymnasts with Ryan Seacrest.  They gave the standard teenager stuff about the American gymnastics team being like a family.  Seacrest asked one of the girls if she still loved Justin Beiber.  She does.  It was so interesting.

Say, I wonder how many people took the “lift” to the upper levels of the stadium?

“Over 1 billion people will be watching the ceremony on television.  Or, as they call it here: The telly!”  Seriously.  Seriously, sometimes it’s just so embarrassing. Seriously.  Maybe they talked about going to the “loo” and having a “spot of tea” next, I don’t know.  I was covering my head.

James Bond escorting the queen to the ceremony.  Nice.

I love that Danny Boyle really emphasized that there are 4 nations involved in the UK.  I would have expected no less from him.

The transformation from agrarian to industrial on stage was fascinating.   Maybe a little long, but beautiful.  The forging of the ring – which I choose to see as a Tolkien allusion – was very cool.

This man is funny.

God damn it, Rowan Atkinson is funny.  He’s just so great.

The commentators also mentioned how, truly, a lot of great literature has come from the UK.  Huh.  Really? Like what?

Okay, I’m calling it: David Beckham is a sexy man.  It’s official.

I also really loved that this was a big, musical, explosion-filled way to remind the world, “In case you forgot, the UK kind of kicks ass.”

Man, we could really use an army of Mary Poppins’ about now.

Oh, hello young woman in the digital-age dance number.  How do you feel about enigmatic humor bloggers?

During the progression through rock n roll, they cut to commercial during the Sex Pistols.  Booooo!!!

I try to watch the procession of nations.  I really do.  I made it to Brazil.

So… if you watched it, what did you think?

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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64 Comments on “Spotting Trains With Olympic Slumdogs”

  1. She's a Maineiac Says:

    My thoughts as I was watching: shut up….just shut up Matt Lauer…for ONE second! Can you do that for me, huh? Can you let us watch without your nonstop blabbing? Also, I loved when David Beckham zipped in on his boat. He had this look on his face like, “I am the greatest man to ever live.” like he’s used to having exploding fireworks over his head while carrying the Olympic torch in a speedboat. “Oh, this happens to me ALL the time, just a typical average day for me…”

    But, yeah, I thought that overall it was good.


    • joehoover Says:

      Hah! He did have that smug grin on his face. I was prepared to make fun of it all but I was impressed, there were just expected little references that would flash up that probably other nations wouldn’t get, but it made me nostalgic, and proud and everyone watching was feeling the same, we all hugged and cheered a lot. Then again we were also all steaming drunk,


      • She's a Maineiac Says:

        How close to the action were you, Joe? Or was this in the comfort of your living room? Are you attending any of the events? Should I look for you in the table tennis crowd?


        • joehoover Says:

          I was in the pub, though my friend was by Tower Bridge in a pub and saw him hurtling by in the flesh!

          Nah, no events for me, I’ve a phobia of mass crowds, though judging by the empty seats I’d probably be alright!

          It was too much hassle and expense for tickets, I was looking for my boss but that was such a headache, it was such a convoluted process that I gave up.

          Maybe I should get on camera at one of the free road events, then get everyone to play Where’s Wally


          • She's a Maineiac Says:

            That must have been quite the surreal moment for your friend–David Beckham zipping by on a speedboat. haha!

            I’m not keen on large crowds, either. I did notice all the empty seats at certain events. You should score some tickets, then slap on a giant rainbow wig, paint your face and hold up a huge sign so I can spot you.


            • joehoover Says:

              Go as a clown? That would scare everyone!

              I think they are releasing more tickets, I may have another look at it, it’s only 20 minutes to the main site on the train from my house, wonder if anything is in Regents Park, that’s a pleasant 15 minute stroll


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I really hoped to find a broadcast that was either uncommentated, or English, but didn’t spend enough time looking.


  2. on thehomefrontandbeyond Says:

    Like your byronic humour – the States are not educated to know things outside of the States –I am their neighbour and love them, but this is true. I went to university with a lot of kids from the States and they bemoan this fact. Brokaw though does do his homework, but he is also a gentleman.


    • Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson Says:

      The States are barely educated to know things inside of the States. Sad, but true.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      In the ’90’s American news networks closed most of their foreign offices because it was less profitable – Americans weren’t as interested in foreign news as they were in domestic. As a result, very very little foreign news got reported. Then the attacks of 9/11 happened and there were a lot of people who genuinely, sincerely didn’t have any frame of reference for why someone would attack us. Not that anyone should have “seen that coming,” but really having zero concept of foreign conflicts. That’s why when Bush said, “they did it because they hate our freedom” that was good enough for a lot of people.


  3. paulaacton Says:

    I am bias living here in the UK but being far enough away from London to not have to worry about traffic my only complaint was that we didn’t get to see any clips from the huge concert going on in Hyde Park at the same time. Shame you didn’t make it to the end the cauldren was amazing and the final fire works were spectacular


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I DVR’d it. I tried to go do something else during the procession and come back, but when I thought I’d waited long enough I don’t even think they were to France yet. So I went to bed.


  4. pithypants Says:

    Agree 100%. Only thing you omitted? How much Meredith Viera (sp?) bobbed her microphone when on-air with Matt. I felt like there should be follow-along song lyrics at the bottom of the screen. She was the bouncing dot.


  5. Chris Biscuits Says:

    You’re quite right that there was a terrorist attack in London; we were awarded the Olympic Games and not 24 hours later there were four co-ordinated suicide bombings, three on the underground and one on a bus in Tavistock Square.

    It seems a little offensive of your reporters to be ignorant of how intrinsically those tragedies are linked to our Games, but what is far more insulting is that NBC apparently cut a five-minute tribute to those that died in the attacks, instead giving Ryan Seacrest some more screen time. Whilst I don’t wish to speak ill of 9/11, imagine the rage if the BBC were to cut a similar tribute if the Games were held in New York.

    That said, the ceremony went down very well over here – it was a love letter to Britain. God knows what the reporters in other countries would have made of it. In the immortal words of Sanka from Cool Runnings, ‘I am feeling very Olympic today.’


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      That’s horrible. Costas’ 9/11 reference I was willing to roll my eyes, be grateful Brokaw was there, and write it off as a brain blip. Like in his head he was thinking, “Oh, right. 7/7. Duh.”

      But cutting away from a tribute to victims of 7/7 to a Ryan Seacrest interview with two 15-year-old girls is genuinely offensive. It’s offensive to the British, and to Americans, because it had to be based in the assumption that either it’s too much of a downer, or too many Americans wouldn’t know that 7/7 was. Either way…


  6. Valentine Logar Says:

    I only saw parts, I grew bored and annoyed with the American voice over. Wanted to throw something at the screen once to often and scream ‘Shut the F’ up would you please’ (I have manners). Loved the Bond and the Queen! Transitions were quite nice also.

    My personal favorite though, came before the opening. Mayor of London had a bit off with Mittens, loved that!


  7. speaker7 Says:

    I missed the whole thing. What is London? I’m glad that teenager loves Justin Bieber. I feel like I won the gold medal by learning that.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      It really puts the glory of the games, and British pride, in perspective, doesn’t it? It’s disappointing that they couldn’t devote more of the evening to who the athletes think is cute.


  8. musingsoftheamusingmuse Says:

    I was yelling at Costas and Lauer… Viera was just annoying. I’m sure they were all told how to pronounce the various countries names, but seriously… America, for the love of Pete, it’s PAH-kistan, EE-rock and EE-ron. Not PACK-istan, EYE-rack or Eye-ran… (I could go off about the pronounciation of Ikea, and how all my Swedish friends made fun of it… but I’ll let that one pass this time.)

    I missed the very start (not realizing that NBCs schedule was on LONDON time – thanks for that NBC – could you have made that fact any smaller or obscure?) and made it in time to see Rowan Atkinson (LOVE him), Mr. Bond escorting the Queen (awesome), David Beckham with the grin from ear-to-ear on the boat – classically cool and the forging of the rings, the musical numbers… I think the opening ceremonies were distinctly British and quite enjoyed them.

    NBC – this isn’t just about the US Olympians (shocker I know) – it’d be great if the commentators would just shut up…


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I agree about the “distinctly British” part – it was accessible to the world, but there was no real holding back from making it for & about the British. Well, I guess they refrained from having a big tribute to HP Sauce, but otherwise…


  9. Don't Quote Lily Says:

    Did not watch but feel quite fulfilled (that word doesn’t look right) just reading this. So thank you. 😉


  10. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson Says:

    The “witty banter” was like death. I wished you were on Twitter so we could make fun of this stuff in real time.


  11. Go Jules Go Says:

    I saw some of it, which was more than I thought I would, and I was totally impressed once I got past certain creepy elements. None more creepy than the commentary, as you say. I was aghast. Especially when I caught that comment about ‘them durn good readin’ things from this…what’s this place called again?’

    Danny Boyle is FAB! (How good is “127 Hours”?!?! Oh! Aron Ralston just participated in a spoof on “Tosh.0” this week that was…awe-inspiring.) And Rowan Atkinson. But you can have David Beckham.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I loved when the female commentator was talking about how much she loves the music that was playing during the 60’s rock tribute, and the only band she could name was the Rolling Stones. She said it like she was going to rattle them off. “This is like the soundtrack to my life! The stones…” And? And? The Who? Is that who you’re trying to think of?


  12. Life With The Top Down Says:

    Didn’t watch but must say the recap of Paul McCarty singing “Hey Jude” along with the entire stadium was amazing.


  13. Michelle Gillies Says:

    I was fortunate that I did not have to watch the US version of this (no offence to the country just the commentators) and am able to choose the Canadian version. There will be a rerun of it on CBC (there always is) and I will compare to your notes. I do often flip between the US & Canadian coverage of things to see who is blowing it worse. It’s a crapshoot.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      In a lot of ways, no area has been more damaged that news by our system here. By subjecting news to a pure profit motive it has degraded to appalling levels. There’s no shortage of bad reporting in the world, and tabloids, and ignorance, and vapid commenting… but American news is a travesty right now. I really hope Canada isn’t as bad, and you’re just being polite.


  14. earthriderjudyberman Says:

    I didn’t watch the opening. After reading your post, Byronic, I realize I’ll have to catch up on the highlights from the Olympics on the internet or news. I loved Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire.” (I read “Trainspotting,” didn’t see the movie.)

    The commentators you mentioned apparently forget that the world is connected via TV, movies, books and the Internet. We’ve heard many of those expressions. How about some that are less familiar – like “way out” for exit; “mind the gap” for getting on the Underground, or tube (subway).


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      The film for Trainspotting is exceptional. Really fantastic. I recommend basically all of his films (okay, not The Beach), but Shallow Grave is terrific, 127 Hrs. is 100 times better than you think it possibly could be.


      • KOKAY Says:

        Love Trainspotting, for a very grim topic he made me feel good (not about drugs) but about choosing life..hehe (I’m tempted to type in the whole “choose life” quote) , I dont know if you’ve seen Millions by Danny Boyle too, that one’s fine too.

        Overall, I think the Opening Ceremony was feel good and “relaxed” unlike the uniform and en masse production of Beijing. It was honest, but no “Doctor Who” reference? (their longest running sci fi show, their pop culture show thing).

        I think they chose James Bond instead because it was more familiar to the world.


  15. Anne W Says:

    I watched it and loved it! It was soo British. I did think some non-Brits might find it a little confusing at times, there seemed to be so much going on at once, but overall it was brill. I watched on BBC telly, so didn’t have any worries about the commentary!


  16. susielindau Says:

    I was watching as I ran through the house preparing for a trip so I caught most of it. I loved the parts you did except the internet fell a little short for me.I think you were seduced by the hot young babe who lost her cell phone, but then used one to call him? I didn’t get it; may have been watering plants at that time.
    Now I am stuck in a car driving across Nebraska! I would rather be in a traffic jam in London.


  17. thesinglecell Says:

    I didn’t see much of it – actually got home from a road trip just in time for the N – Z nations to arrive. Couldn’t help but wonder if the queen just kept watching former empires traipse by while thinking, “You were mine. And you. Yes, you as well. Owned you. Mine. Mi– ALL OF YOU WERE MINE. Harrumph. Where are my scones?” But then, I tend to turn the queen into a cartoon character at every opportunity despite the grave injustice of doing so. That being said, I’m terribly sorry I missed the Mary Poppinses. Poppi? I had heard they’d be drifting in and wanted to see that particular part.


  18. atothewr Says:

    I enjoyed what I saw of it. I especially like the queen and Bond parachuting in together.


  19. Kate Says:

    I had to wake up ridiculously early on a Saturday to watch i think this influenced my overall opinion. It’s lucky they had Kenneth Branaugh in the first bit. In a top hat no less. Think we missed the 7/7 tribute here too? I thought the commentary was scripted by the organizers and shipped out to the world until ours mentioned that EL Travers (Mary Poppins) is actually from Australia.
    I either need a bigger tv or there was something missing in it for me…where was the big uplifting song about flames and dreams etc? Or was I just spoiled by the man from snowy river number in Sydney 2000 (where are the ponies? There aren’t enough ponies!) ooh arctic monkeys! David Bowie. I wonder if paul McCartney misses the other Beatles when they make him perform their songs all on his lonesome all these years later. Why are children lighting the flame? Give it back to the dude who’s competed in 5 games!

    Maybe it was the tv thing. It was definitely cool. Particularly Rowan Atkinson. Do you think the queen was enthusiastic about doing the film? Or more like, if I have to…I like to think she’s a cool little ninja trapped in her responsibilities most of the time. Maybe she wanted to jump out of the helicopter, but boyle’s insurance wouldn’t cover it. Why is everything so small?

    30″ on an analogue tv is insufficient for opening ceremonies. I’ve been all “when I have money to spare I’ll upgrade from this free dinosaur” but I’m on the bandwagon now. Bigger. Flat screen. Surround sound. All better.


  20. mj monaghan Says:

    I enjoyed it. It made me miss England so much – we lived there when I was in the USAF. Wife and I will have to go back and visit sometime in the future.

    One thing that surprised me – and this is not a political statement one way or the other – is that they called attention to the National Health Service. Many of the people we knew in England, and who immigrated here, are not happy with NHS. I’m not sure if that was a purposeful political move, or something the government takes pride in. Just surprised me.


  21. Doris Says:

    I did not watch in a us channel, I think that’s why I liked it so much (and it was live, the us broadcast was not). I thought it was artsy and learned so much from the ceremony, like Ireland is part of Great Britain, ha! I agree they have such good music, it is crazy!


  22. carolofthebells Says:

    I did not see the opening ceremony. I’d like to say it wasn’t because I was waiting for it to happen on my schedule.. but I can’t. I’d like to say it’s because I was knocked unconscious by a cool little Ninja.of some sort landing on my head (TY, Kate — I roared).. but I can’t. I’d like to say it was because I myself was parachuting just then.. tch. What I CAN say is that I know other countries besides America exist — Mr. Ireland Saved Civilization told me so and made me repeat it after him. But from all of you, it sounds like the ceremony was very much worth beholding, and a genuine tribute. It’ll be on YouTube, I hope!


  23. Angie Z. Says:

    I am such a loser for not watching! I always kick myself for not watching the Olympics. I have every intention of watching — and for some reason I forget each time around that it doesn’t actually last the entire summer/winter like it seemed to back when I was a kid. Whaaa? It’s over already? I was totally going to watch and now it’s over? Crappola.

    I most especially loved the Danny Boyle movie Millions. I own it and watch it until my eyeballs bleed from weeping.


  24. travellingmo Says:

    I didn’t watch it, but you’ve just reminded me about how idiotic american commentators are. So now I don’t feel so bad!


  25. becomingcliche Says:

    I voted “awesome,” even though it was too flippin’ long. TOO LONG! I was asleep before the first athlete even entered the stadium.


  26. pegoleg Says:

    I missed the opening part about the evolution, but watched the whole rest all the way through Zaire. I think it was a bit long. But I still loved it.

    I was ambivalent about Rowan Atkinson. On the one hand, I agree that he is a genius- I LOVED him in The Black Adder. On the other hand, the symphony musicians are ALSO geniuses and I wonder how they liked all their talent and effort being nothing more than a background to HIS comedy?


  27. Rob Says:

    You stopped watching the parade at Brazil…I didn’t start until somewhere between the ‘R’ and ‘T’ nations…and even then thought I’d tuned in too early.

    David Beckham was on that boat? Hummm…guess I was looking at the wrong part of sexy – cuz that boat was “bitchen” as they used to say.

    Also, you share my 6 and 9 year old daughters’ opinion of Rowan Atkinson (Kudos to you or them??? Not sure.)…they wanted that part replayed multiple times.


  28. angeliquejamail Says:

    I was glad Boyle distanced his ceremony completely from anything Beijing offered; I was sort of tired of hearing people say, “How are the Brits going to follow THAT?” And don’t get me wrong, I LOVED the spectacle of the Beijing ceremony. But you just couldn’t possibly expect these two different cultures to produce anything the same way. For example, the British might not think (in this century) to put a thousand people in boxes. For my part, I enjoyed the London spectacle as well, and didn’t enjoy the campy and ignorant commentary. But the tributes to literature and to the best James Bond ever and to the queen’s sense of humor were all highlights.


  29. The World Is My Cuttlefish Says:

    Still trying to chase down Rowan Atkinson’s segment.


  30. Richard Wiseman Says:

    The Olympic opening ceremony was everything that made Britain a terrible place for the working classes, the world a bad place for millions during the British Empire’s height, and all that is terrible about English culture; Aristocracy, Celebrity, Rich Comedians with private school backgrounds, hundreds of unpaid volunteers paying to help the rich, hypocrites like McCartney sucking up to aristocracy and a lot of preening pop stars. The opening ceremony for London 2012 was full of pagan imagery,which was appropriate because the Olympics is a pagan festival and celebration anyway. That opening ceremony celebrated nothing of what I love about my country. Sport sucks anyway. Blake and Shakespeare would have been really pissed off with being linked to that load of bollocks.


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