Review: Building the Olympic Dream – London Calling

Martin Green and Stephen Powell

Martin Green and Stephen Powell

Last night’s first episode on BBC2 of this three-part documentary series began charting the ‘journey’ towards the much longed for – by some anyway – London 2012 Olympics.

This first film followed the activities of the ‘Ceremonies Team’ as they prepared for an eight-minute show to mark the official handover of responsibility for the Olympic Games from Beijing to London… and let’s face it, Beijing’s going to be a hard act to follow! Especially given that the economic climate in this country is on its knees, I don’t see how we’re going to pull it off in anything like the style of Beijing…

And sadly, the much prepped eight-minute ‘show’ was universally panned – and justifiably so – with adjectives such as “tacky” and “embarrassing”  freely bandied about. The press had a field day with the lame handover ‘show’ that initially promised something spectacular but actually delivered something akin to an amateur dramatics society’s reenactment of a scene from Willy Wonka or The Wizard of Oz, with a few celebrities chucked in for good measure.

The ‘show’ – and I must keep using inverted commas because to call it a ‘show’ without them is simply overstating the actuality – featured the joke that is Boris Johnson being his usual bumbling inept self, and a magically morphing London bus as well as Leona Lewis, Jimmy Page and David Beckham along with dancers, trippy coloured umbrellas and fake topiary… and that was it. The highlight of it was when it was over and Icould stop watching from watching between my fingers…

Olympic 2012 bus

Not that the organizers didn’t have to face some adversity to get this public transport based effort into Beijing; there was red tape aplenty and doggedly jobsworth Chinese officials on their case at every turn as well as inaccessible roads, ill-placed carpets and a really lot of rain.

One of the organizers, Martin, put forward an excellent argument against all this by saying firmly, “It’s not fair!” And by golly, he jolly well meant it. We’re British don’t you know and this was simply not cricket…

The stars on the bus faced adversities all of their own too – not least of which was having to be around moron/clown Boris Johnson – but primarily I felt it was Leona who took most of the Risk Factor as she rose, wobbling scarily, from the magically opening bus atop what could best be described as something akin to a pole dancer’s pole.

As she and Jimmy did their combined thing with Whole Lotta Love, Leona was eventually helped down from her perch to join Jimmy in his Astroturf pen. Yes, he was in a pen. For reasons best known to the organisers, they’d roped Jimmy off in a little rectangular pen more befitting a sheep or two than a music legend.

Perhaps they were worried that, like a skittish sheep, he’d leg it if not suitably restrained but worse than seeing singers on sticks and guitar legends in pens was watching as Jimmy made what I can only assume is his ‘sex’ face while playing. It really made me cringe and despite the fact I’m a big fan of Jimmy’s – his music accompanied some of my finest exploits as a teenager – sadly, I felt this was not his finest hour. Frankly, it wasn’t anybody’s finest hour… or more precisely, finest eight minutes.

david beckham olympic bus

And next to appear in his very own pen was David Beckham who was given a football by a sweet little Chinese girl and who stood next to a barely dressed lady violinist and a cellist dressed in tight lycra sportswear before hefting said ball above his head – as the sweet little girl ducked – and then he kicked the ball into the crowd.

The overall effect of the entire thing was in a department somewhere about fifty floors down from impressive.

While trying to explain the symbolism of fake topiary, Astroturf and dancers with umbrellas crawling all over the morphed bus while Leona and Jimmy tried to rock out in their sheep pen and Goldenballs tried to turn around without injuring a child, Martin Green said, “It’s not about money or dividends or palpable stuff” which is handy because the entire thing screamed cheap-as-chips but was not as easily swallowed.

That said, it was of course not as cheap as chips and actually cost in the region of £2 million.

“It’s about intangible things like pride and inspiration.” Martin added with true passion…

But seriously now, £2 mil to drive a bus to China then have it spew forth singers on sticks, guitarists in pens, and a world class footballer who was only called upon to hold a ball aloft before launching into the crowd…?

This was a big price tag for an eight minute long show that to call mediocre would be insulting to mediocrity. Mind you, the person who entered into a scrum for possession of the ball would probably have paid the £2 million personally just for the joy of proudly clutching David Beckham’s ball.

However, I have to add that, Martin and event producer Stephen Powell did their best and boyhowdy how they tried; truly and wholeheartedly tried… it just didn’t go very well. It went to plan for sure, but the plan wasn’t very good, despite Martin and Stephen’s hard work and months of planning.

“I do not want to have some mediocre gang show in front of everybody in the world” said Stephen, but I’m afraid that’s what he got, despite Martin’s many reassurances and then Stephen reciprocating them when Martin got the jitters about the whole thing…

Their don’t-fret-buddy conferences consisted of phrases such as “They look fantastic” and “It’s going to be fabulous” as well as, “It’s really good”

It was also rather sweet to hear about how as a child, Martin had built whole Olympic stadiums out of Lego; he must’ve had a really lot of Lego…

“When I was six years old, I used to build Olympic stadiums out of my Lego” he confirmed, adding, “and with the little people, I used to re-create ceremonies for Olympic games, so there’s something psychopathic about me being here.”

Psychopathic?? Unless I misheard – and please feel free to inform me if I did – I think possibly he meant to find a word or two that expressed his belief it was his destiny or his fate rather than imply he could start killing randomly now his dream had been achieved.

Or maybe he meant ‘psychotropic’ which would explain the LSD like effects applied to the multitude of umbrellas as the whole thing drew to a close and bus began to drive out of the stadium.

In case you didn’t see the show, here’s a YouTube film of the magic mushroom like bus and the star performers…

This was without question an entertaining show – the documentary I mean, not THE ‘show’ – and I’ll definitely be tuning in next Wednesday for the second episode, ‘The Last Stand at Stratford’

What did you think of both the documentary and the £2 million worth of eight minute vehicular display? Let us know…

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.