It is not clear who first suggested that any publicity is good publicity but we can assume the phrase is derived from the Oscar Wilde aphorism “There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about”. Mayor of London Boris Johnson is clearly familiar with the works of Wilde.
There is a certain amount of skill involved in playing the fool and this country enjoys a long tradition of clever people pretending to be idiots. Along with Feste, Malvolio and Bottom, the performance of the Mayor of London would grace a comedy worthy of Shakespeare or, more appropriately, in the role of Algernon Moncrieff in The Importance of Being Earnest. As an upper class twit blessed with the arrogance that only privilege can provide, Boris plays the part rather well.
It would be a mistake to dismiss the studied buffoonery of appearances on Have I Got News for You and countless toe-curling photo opportunities as the actions of an imbecile; Boris is a very shrewd politician. Mercifully, the closing ceremony of the recent sports fest only required the Mayor to do some Dad dancing to the Spice Girls, wave a flag and then pass it on. The thought of him actually being allowed to speak to a global television audience must have sent a shudder down the spines of those that believe Britain`s reputation has been enhanced during the last two weeks and it was left to the closing ceremony organisers to offer a suitably embarrassing counterpoint to the opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony offered the delicious prospect of an unmitigated disaster but instead delivered a triumph, much the chagrin of curmudgeon cynics including your humble correspondent. The closing ceremony offered the prospect of a triumph but instead delivered not so much a disaster, more of a celebration of the bland and the inconsequential. As life imitates art, gone were the NHS volunteers who danced the demons and child catchers off the stage, only to be replaced by fashion models, huge egos and manufactured celebrities devoid of any actual talent. It is certain that the world will cherish the image of the Spice Girls, Take That and a group of young men apparently called One Direction lip syncing to formula pop. A scantily clad item kept turning up to deliver some annoying urban yodelling and claimed it was not about the money as she was driven around in the back of a very expensive motor car.
A self-confessed recovering drug addict celebrated the noble British tradition of substance abuse and a man who resembled a bloke who works at a builders` merchant attempted to recreate something called a rave. Russell Brand`s long awaited rehabilitation into civilised society suffered a setback after his rather good trouncing of a barking mad bigot earlier in the week on Newsnight and the fact that Fat Boy Slim is not fat, slim or a boy sums up the message that Britain was sending to the world. Whoever decided that booking Muse for the gig really needs a good talking to. They were reminiscent of a bunch of fourteen year olds who, after two weeks of practice in Dad`s garage, were unleashed in the upstairs room of a back street pub on a Monday night and allowed to turn the amps up to five.
Sadly, the two best performances of the night came from people who are dead. Freddie Mercury rose from the grave and led an audience response. By the end of the evening he probably rose again to strangle the scantily clad urban yodeller who destroyed We Will Rock You. After 32 years, the ghost of John Lennon was evoked to ask us to imagine no countries, no religion and no possessions. That would make staging the next Olympics difficult, might upset the athletes who thanked God for their performances and try prying the medals out of the grasp of the winners.
Perhaps the most subversive act of the evening, apart from Del Boy dressed as Batman confusing the living daylights out of overseas commentators, was Eric Idle. You must remember him, he`s the Python that wanted to be a rock star and make lots of money. The performance of Always Look On the Bright Side of Life was layered with more irony than a Conservative Liberal Democrat lasagne served up with partisan cheese. The anthem that encourages us to be cheerful in the face of a brutal, oppressive regime in the act of crucifying dissenters and the innocent was absolute gold dust. As a bonus, we had “Indian dancing” and Idle proclaiming that “life`s a piece of shit”.
Two days earlier, when asked about sport in schools, the oaf Cameron got suckered into one almighty blunder by suggesting that competitive sport in schools had been replaced with “Indian dancing” without offering any evidence of this ludicrous claim. Boris the spider was making his move. Clearly, someone in the Prime Minister`s communications teams had knowledge of the content of the closing ceremony and would like to help Boris become Prime Minister. The briefing that Cameron received would have focused on competitiveness, ambition and dedication. Mentioning “Indian dancing” would appeal to the racist underbelly of Daily Mail readers and the fossils that inhabit the Tory back benches. Dave obviously did not know that “Indian dancing” would feature in the closing ceremony and was totally stitched up by Tory apparatchiks who see a popular Boris as a better bet for survival than a hopeless, doomed Cameron. The gloves, as they say, are now off.
The Mayor of London, addicted to the cult of personality, has seen his big chance. He has already exploited the success of the games for his own political ambition and has conveniently forgotten that the whole extravaganza was secured and financed by a former Mayor and a former government. His role was an easy one; evict the poor, militarise London, pay the bribes and invite Rupert Murdoch to support him in his bid to take over the world. Perhaps the majority of British people would prefer to see Murdoch returned to these shores handcuffed and in an orange boiler suit, but Boris decided to invite the dirty digger to the games as his personal VIP guest. He justified this largesse by saying:
“There`s a sort of demonisation of Rupert Murdoch who, as far as I understand it, is not a proscribed character, he`s not a convicted criminal. He`s not even under any criminal investigation.”
Boris Johnson, who once described allegations of phone hacking at News International as “codswallop”, has a role overseeing the Metropolitan Police. When the Met, clearly on the back foot, wished to press charges of “corporate offences” against the Murdoch Empire, quiet words were had and such a ridiculous affront to a respected greedy bastard went the way of a medal prospect for the Libyan ice hockey team. Rupert now likes Boris and Rupert does not like Dave. Sport is a great leveller and who can forget this wonderful quote from Boris Johnson when advocating the appeal of the games:
“There are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters.”
That is disturbing on so many levels.
The closing ceremony was concluded by The Who, arguably one of the best live bands ever (I`ve seen them six times since 1971) and a firework display. Even that was a disappointment worthy of a bronze medallist weeping at “letting everybody down”. Townshend and Daltrey, now approaching their respective seventieth years, sang of hoping to die before they get old and, for some reason, decided to change the “only teenage wasteland” lyric to “more than teenage wasteland”. The Who, in happier times, have sold out once before with their wonderfully ironic 1967 album The Who Sell Out and this particular fan of Mr Townshend was willing him to conclude the spectacle with Won`t Get Fooled Again. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Sadly, this was not to be.
On reflection, perhaps they should have ended the gig with this: