Frivolous Monsters

A Foreigner’s Guide To The Paralympic Opening Ceremony

After the exuberance and the wonder of the Olympic Opening Ceremony directed by Danny Boyle, and the stodgy final demise of the Olympic Closing Ceremony that went on and on and on, I felt a little bilious to discover that the Paralympics would be having a three hour Opening Ceremony too.

Emulating its parent by being directed by the director of Billy Elliot I felt like Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote being offered just one small wafer-thin mint.

There are two famous British disabled people I could think of who are known throughout the world and I was looking forward to seeing their involvement in the opening ceremony. The first was Professor Stephen Hawking: the theoretical physicist, author of A Brief History of Time, and bit-part character on The Simpsons.

And there he was opening the ceremony by starting off a physical theatre recreation of the big bang which, as in any science lesson, segued in with a rendition of Rihanna’s Umbrella.

Stephen Hawking making a big bang… Or pouring too much brandy on the Christmas pudding.

I have to say I was confused by the reference to Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach until it was pointed out that it was a reference to Isaac Newton and his discovery of… Large mechanised apples?

The appearance of the Higgs boson particle (left below) must have raised eyebrows as rather than it being the discovery of the modern age it looked more like it’d been stolen from the Brazilians as they paraded something very similar (right below) in their brief Olympic handover presentation.

Before descending into some hellish opera the appearance of Sir Ian McKellen in long flowing robes called repeatedly for Miranda had me stumped. My reference to Miranda was the series of comics I invested in, in 2003, which betrayed that trust by abruptly ceasing publication halfway through.

Yet it turned out that Miranda was yet another scene from Shakespeare’s The Tempest which has infiltrated all three ceremonies so far. Although old Gandalf’s instruction to Miranda to watch the performance led to limited acting seeing she was incarcerated in a fixed wheelchair that was suspended from the rafters. And the repeated cutting to her “watching” made me think of a BBC concept drawing from 2004 about what the first proper flying Dalek would look like.


Intermission: The Ballad of Jonathan Edwards

In the UK the ceremony was covered by Channel 4 with commentators of stolid News presenter John Snow and Jonathan Edwards who was the golden boy of British athletics when he hopped, skipped, and jumped further than anyone else had in 1995 and he thanked God for all he had, who saw that all was good.

Jonathan Edwards then used this time in this media spotlight to become known as the prominent go-to Christian and was able to use this to get a position presenting Songs of Praise and he thanked God for all he had, who saw that all was good.

When Jonathan Edwards had got all he wanted, in the form of sporting prowess and a foot in the world of media, he turned on God and shook his fist at the sky declaring that he didn’t really believe in him and so what was he going to do about it? God was angered and saw to it that Jonathan Edwards never hoped, skipped, or jumped further than anyone else ever again and he struck the young man grey.

All sounds a bit Old Testament. And off the back of God’s love Jonathan Edwards still whores himself to whatever media career he can lay his hands on to this very day. And so ends the ballad of Jonathan Edwards: The God hater.


Meanwhile Back With The Ceremony

After less than half an hour it was quite a surprise when they started bringing on the athletes, in a parade that took two whole hours, and I imagined all the fun was over as it’s not like you can just point and laugh at the different national teams and what they’re wearing, can you?


The Top Five Funniest International Teams

Now we all know the British team looked ridiculous, with shiny patches ironed on by Paul McCartney’s daughter in the name of fashion, but that can’t stop us poking fun at the rest of the world you know.

5. Finland

For some reason the Finish team came dressed in snow camouflage and seal clubbing clobber.

4. Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico stuck with the same colour, but with a little more finesse, and they seemed to have based their outfits on the man from Del Monte.

The man from Del Monte, he say yes!

3. Uganda

Now, I couldn’t tell, but the Ugandan athlete seemed to have been trailed by giant Emperor Penguins.

2. Mexico

Mexico looked like they were dressed in charity-shop chic, seen here with the whole team kitted out for under twenty-five pounds.

And the man at the back gave me Western flashbacks and I kept expecting Clint Eastwood to draw…

Still we all know rambling old Clint is too busy these days having conversations with the ghosts in his own mind.

1. Belarus

But the funniest team of them all, and my personal favourite, as to a man they all came on dressed as Sylvester McCoy circa 1987. Somewhere there’s a science fiction convention missing an audience of geeks.


Meanwhile Back With The Ceremony… Again

So it’s now three hours in, gone 11.30 pm, and the tele-visual entertainment is only just beginning again and so you see why it’s no wonder that so many people missed the end. It was a school night after all.

And, after all that, we’re back with Miranda down from the rafters which saw her get up and walk into a giant umbrella boat and get whisked away on a nightmarish voyage of Alice proportions where at every step she’s accompanied by a lecture from Stephen Hawking’s booming robot voice and had Sir Ian popping up all over like Gandalf… which culminated in Miranda doing a flying waltz.

I don’t know what it all meant, but I reckon it was probably enough to trigger a review of Miranda’s disability allowance.

It then all finished with a music collaboration that the industry has been calling out for: Orbital and Stephen Hawking.

So I think we all learnt from that that, like Miranda, we too should all go out into the World and be ourselves… To be who we truly are… To help to change the World… That and that all disabled people can secretly fly.

And also that Sir Ian McKellen is game for anything.

And so just one of the two British prominent disabled made an appearance. Good on Stephen Hawking, way out of his comfort zone, but the other’s been around since the seventies and has massive international branding…

He’s disabled enough as he’s blind, in a wheel chair, and has only got one arm, and not much of a hand on that one arm… I guess Davros must’ve turned them down…

Now please, for the love of God, tell me there’s not going to be a Paralympic Closing Ceremony too…


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20 thoughts on “A Foreigner’s Guide To The Paralympic Opening Ceremony

  1. “…which, as in any science lesson, segued in with a rendition of Rihanna’s Umbrella”

    As it should, as it should. Can’t wait until you have to commit to the Closing Ceremony, too!

    • Exactly “have to” as I feel like I’m on a ride I foolishly got onto myself that I can’t get off. Like a drunk.

      This was more fun than the Olympic Closing Ceremony but I do feel, like Mr. Creosote above, that I’m going to explode from over-consumption. I’m not even watching the sport!

  2. Super recap. I didn’t see it, so this is priceless. Love the Dalek concept drawing (and all the Dalek references of course) and the youth turned grey made me laugh out loud.

    • Thanks… To do that I had to watch it so many times… And then getting screen-grabs was hard as this wasn’t broadcast by the BBC. It was an act of suffering by the end. Can’t wait for it to finish… Except I guess I have to do all this again.

      I didn’t know if comparing a flying disabled lady to a Dalek was too much… But I hope I’m on the right side of offensive. There’s a long list of people that refused to perform at the Olympics (David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, Noel Gallagher, Kate Bush) so I’m just adding Davros to the list of those with egos too big.

      Although I would like to imagine if they had Davros, instead of Stephen Hawking, who was narrating all the science and cosmology bits… And then performing with Orbital… I would’ve liked to have seen that.

  3. Maybe they are saving Davros for the closing ceremony. Perhaps the climax of the event will be a battle between him and Stephen Hawkings for control of mankind?

    • That would be epic… And yet somehow deeply inappropriate! Over here we’ve found a new benchmark for how we view our greedy sports players (Kevin Pietersen and most footballers) through contrasting them with the Olympians and their struggle and achievement. Also Stephen Hawking wasn’t looking too good, but I guess he is very old now. How he’s achieved the career he has is amazing.

      • I often wonder if Stephen Hawking would have achieved such amazing things if he had been able bodied. That he has lived so long with that condition just testifies to his strength of mind I think.
        I find the paralympics much more interesting than the other olympics. The able bodied athletes have had every advantage (although I know that it is not the case in every country) but the paralympians have overcome so many challenges before they even started the sports side of things. Much more to be admired there.

  4. Jonathon Edwards really gets my goat.

  5. I’m not sure if you were referencing when Stephen Hawking cameoed on The Big Bang Theory when you wrote, “Stephen Hawking making a big bang.” But it made me laugh.

  6. It seems I’ve missed yet another world-wide sporting event. Thanks for posting otherwise I’d have no clue. Hilarious….as usual!

    • Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed. It was more of a show than the pop music extravaganza that was the Olympic Closing Ceremony where most of the artists were mouthing to recorded music badly. These world-wide events just don’t seem to stop these days…

  7. I have managed to avoid seeing all the ceremonies so far, and having just discovered your blog I realise that I can miss the final closing one and just read your thoughts on it – thank you!
    Shame none of the teams came as John Pertwee’s Dr Who – velvet jackets are so stylish!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the read. Having covered all three, so far, I do feel doomed to cover the Paralympic Closing Ceremony too. Not happy, not happy at all.

      And an army of velvet smoking jackets, Inverness capes, and Mr. Fish frilly shirts would have been quite a sight.

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