Charles Krupa/Associated Press
Charles Krupa/Associated Press
LONDON – Watching the greatest athletes on Earth compete in a quadrennial bonanza of sport is nice, but it’s evidently not enough to satisfy the goldfish-like attention span of 21st-century spectators.
At least that’s what Olympic organizers seem to think.
A dazzling array of loud, exuberant entertainment is on display at venues all over London, enough to ensure there’s never a dull moment between archery sets, tennis serves, vaults, slams, dunks and clean and jerks.
Sports purists may shudder at the tackiness and overproduction. The games, after all, are meant to be about Olympic ideals such as courage, perseverance and fair play, not how loud crowds can cheer for a troupe of jump-rope performers, or a brass band belting out the theme from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.”
But most fans seem to love it.
“It’s absolutely marvelous,” said Rebecca Hester, a British spectator pushing her way slowly out of a sloped field at Olympic Park, where fans gather to watch sports from nearby venues on a huge screen, listen to live music and be entertained by a fast-talking emcee. “I love the whole atmosphere. Not just the sports, but everything.”
And let’s face it, the Olympics have always encompassed more than just competition, with host countries outdoing each other to put on the most extravagant opening and closing ceremonies. A seat at Olympic Stadium for Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle’s rollicking, $42 million kickoff show July 27 went for as much as $3,100, the hottest ticket of the games.
And it hasn’t stopped there. London organizers have arranged entertainment at every Olympic venue for all 26 sports, with each act tailored to the competition on display. There are Eastern European cheerleaders, English ballet dancers, U.S. pop singers, British marching bands, and acrobatic acts from around the world.
There’s a game show-style soundtrack and countdown clock that ticks as competitors take their turn in weightlifting, and a video presentation explaining the somewhat mystifying sport of judo. A military brass band in crisp blue uniforms breaks into songs from James Bond movies at Lord’s Cricket Ground between archery competitions.
At basketball, Ukrainian cheerleaders known as the Red Foxes dance and gyrate, and music blasts at every dead ball, much like at an NBA game. An emcee with apparently limited knowledge of hoops exclaims somewhat amusingly: “That was some excellent jumping and good shooting!”
“It’s an American game, so that’s to be expected,” Mark Chivers, an English fan, said Saturday of the onslaught of entertainment. “Just a little bit too loud.”
Even London Mayor Boris Johnson has been brought in to amuse the crowds, although it hasn’t always worked out as planned.
The portly politician got stuck on a zip line Wednesday high above Victoria Park as thousands who had turned out to watch the Olympics on large screens gaped up at him. Fans laughed and took photos of the cord-bound mayor in a helmet and scrunched-up suit as workers endeavored to pull him to safety.
A spokeswoman for the mayor later quipped that “the judges are likely to mark him down for artistic interpretation,” but the crowd went home convinced they had witnessed one of the highlights of the games.