I didn’t really care much for the London Olympics before it started. Never being very sporty myself (although I’ll happily watch a sport, given I understand the rules and so on), it just didn’t really mean much to me. The years between the bid being won, and the event starting, I really couldn’t see the fuss, and couldn’t bring myself either to be enthused or enraged by the thing. Let’s not get into the debate over whether the economics and so on of the Olympics is a good or bad thing now, though.
The night of the opening ceremony, though, something magical happened. Danny Boyle’s show has been praised to the skies, quite rightly. I was sorely disappointed when I discovered that the Closing Ceremony wasn’t going to be directed by him too. I adored the ceremony for celebrating a part of Britain’s history that most wouldn’t put front and centre, and by the hero’s welcome, at last, for Sir Tim Berners-Lee (one of only two times in my life I can remember literally punching the air in delight).
I’m not known for being overly emotional, I guess, but there’s something about a big event, and the art of a good sporting montage and soundtrack, that can just set me off. Listening to …And I Will Kiss still brings shivers down my spine, but, aside from TimBL’s appearance, the moment that hooked me was hearing the opening refrain of Map of the Problematique. It threw me completely.
Here’s the montage – the song comes in at about 2:17, but even the use of The Sex Pistols & The Clash were good omens.
Up until that moment, I’d been convinced that the Olympics wasn’t something for me – that it’d be fun to watch the Opening Ceremony, but it would be strictly a mainstream, typical postcard version of Britain. But that song changed everything. That song, being played on BBC One, when pretty much the whole nation, if not the world, was watching – that song, a single which barely registered in my consciousness around the time of its release.
We’ll come on to a song by my favourite band soon enough (it’s not Muse), but that moment was like hearing something you thought was only important to you, only had special meaning to you, being affirmed, nationally – this music, it said, represents us. This wasn’t the pale, mainstream, UK music by numbers mediocrity of the Closing Ceremony – this was a clear statement that that night was going to be different, alternative, inclusive.
The rhythm, beat and drama hooks you in on a rollercoaster very similar to the effect my imagination goes on when I hear the Doctor Who theme – insistently pulling you down the rabbit hole, tumbling unavoidably towards adventure, risk and danger. The repeated chorus line has an emotional resonance for me, too, alas.
That moment, hearing those notes, being shocked and delighted, getting completely onboard the drama of the evening – made me well up, made me feel proud. The scene was set – and for that one night, at least, the nation was defined by adventure, in my book at least.