Saturday, July 28, 2012, 8:26 AM [General]
Whispers had hinted that the start of the London Olympics might be a little eccentric, a touch more tongue-in-cheek than others we have witnessed. What no-one expected was that it would be quite so gloriously daft, so cynicism-squashingly charming and - well, so much pinch-yourself fun. From the moment the Red Arrows roared overhead to paint the town red, white and blue at 20:12 to Bradley Wiggins's unheralded yellow-shirted parade and the appearance of dancing NHS nurses - actual, real nurses - this was a constant swooping rollercoaster of noise, searing colour and what on earth was that? Save the surprise? They barely stopped coming. There was Mr Bean playing Chariots of Fire, on a keyboard,Billiga Beats, with one finger. There were skipping suffragettes and an army of Isambard Kingdom Brunels. There was a 60ft Voldemort, flying half-bird-half-bikes, flash-mob house parties and David Beckham driving a speedboat through a firework waterfall on Tower Bridge. In the first three minutes alone we had Radio Four's shipping forecast, The Wind in the Willows's Mole and Ratty, Pink Floyd's flying pig and the EastEnders drum intro. Did the rest of the world understand it? You barely had time to worry before another cultural reference hit you. Hold on - that's the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! There's 40 Sergeant Peppers! Was that a two-second clip from Kes I just spotted? Opening ceremonies, traditionally big on pretension and po-faced, usually require a little mickey-taking to be endured. This one did it for you. Four years ago Beijing had produced a night aiming to shock and awe the watching world with an unforgettable display of pyrotechnics and ostentatious expense. London could never hope to match it, and so was set free to do something entirely original. Watching it as a native was a strange and, for many, an increasingly emotional experience. Unfurling in front of us was a whirlwind series of collective historical, cultural and social memories - the NHS, ska and rave, the Industrial Revolution, the Windrush, Great Ormond Street, the invention of the internet - which had Britons looking at each other and saying, hold on - that was us too,Billiga Monster, wasn't it? It should have been jingoistic, or cliched, or obvious. Maybe to foreign eyes it was. But to those lucky 80,000 in the stadium and millions watching on television, there was something else, something not always felt: genuine pride in the little pieces of all of us that were being shown to the world. It can feel too grandiose when people claim that sport can help shape new national identities. It's only a sideshow to the real stuff, no? Not always. The multicultural France team that won the World Cup they hosted in 1998 changed that country's self-image for good. Beijing was China announcing that it was not only the present but the future. We may have to wait a while longer to see if the London Olympics do the same for this host nation. But this was a Britain as never seen before - no simple Merchant Ivory fantasy, but a 21st century land of status updates, soap operas and a suburban red brick house with a single sulphur street light outside. At one point Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Relax' was booming out. Banned from national radio within memory, here it was at the heart of a global showcase. If you wanted to leave all that big stuff alone and just enjoy the party, the kaleidoscopic soundtrack carried you there. The Pistols and the Who, Dizzee Rascal, Born Slippy, the Specials and the Jam, New Order and then Macca. Get your ears round that, alternative-world Paris opening ceremony. There were neat, sensitive little touches - Stephen Lawrence's mother Doreen helping to carry the Olympic flag into the arena; Muhammad Ali, held upright by his wife Lonnie,Billiga Beats By Dr Dre, being there to receive it; 500 workers who had helped build the stadium forming a guard of honour as Sir Steve Redgrave jogged in with the flaming torch.
Thursday, July 26, 2012, 8:35 PM [General]
Usain Bolt says he has overcome back and hamstring problems and is ready to defend his Olympic titles in London. The reigning 100m and 200m champion was beaten in both events at the Jamaican trials by training partner Yohan Blake. "I think I am probably 95% fit but I am in great shape," Bolt told BBC sports editor David Bond. "This is the moment that is going to define my entire life. A lot of people say I am a legend, but this is going to define me as a legend." He added: "It's a big occasion,Beats By Dr Dre, I strive on challenges so I'm really looking forward to it and I am just going out there to get it done." Bolt, who will be Jamaica's flag bearer at the opening ceremony,Beats Sverige, also hinted he may go for four golds by running in the 4x400m relay, as well as the 4x100m. "If I feel like I'm up to it after the 200m, then why not? For my country, I would do it, if it was necessary," he said. Bolt's fitness has been a source of speculation following his defeats by Blake. But the 25-year-old says he is fully focused on the Olympics. "It's always a wake-up call to get beaten. It opened my eyes and I sat down to rethink a few things," he said. Bolt was speaking four years to the day since he smashed the 100m world record at the 2008 Beijing Games with a time of 9.69 seconds, despite slowing to celebrate yards from the finish line. He broke his own record a year later with a time of 9.58 secs at the World Championships in Berlin, before losing the world title to Blake in 2011 when he was disqualified after a false start. Bolt also spoke to the media at an event in east London, which featured countryman and fellow sprinter Asafa Powell. He said: "The vibe is good and I am happy. I am always ready. For me, I keep telling you guys it's always about the championships, it's never about one run, never about the trials." The smile was back on the face of the sprinter, as he entertained the world's media, but he admitted it has not always been easy to keep it there. "I've been through so much,Billiga Beats By Dr Dre, with niggles and problems, and I have to do a lot of sponsorship stuff as well," he said. "There are so many different things that I have to do and I have got to keep focused on going out there and competing and training every day. "It's getting harder and harder just to smile because there is so much on my mind, worrying if everything is going to come together and a few other things. "But I think I am more confident now that everything is feeling better, so I can smile more now and I am looking forward to it."