How do the Closing Ceremonies in the Beijing 2008, the Athens 2004, and the Atlanta 1996 rate?
Beijing 2008. A viewer would be hard pressed not to like the Beijing Closing Ceremony, especially if they were a fan of fireworks. When the Olympic athletes wave goodbyes to the audience, it is always jubilant and often free-form -- a favorite was two middle-easterners in their formal white robes standing stark-still and modestly waving their country flags, whilst all around them, athletes from other countries cavorted with abandon. The "tower of Babel" idea was interesting and was, at least, easier to view than other performances on the flat arena floor. Again, though the detail of what was happening on the tower was easily lost. The lengths of fabric that were first pulled up to the top of the tower and then raised like petals on an opening Chrysanthemum were the right scope for the audience to appreciate, but the effort lacked a definitive finish. The most spectacular performance, in this writer's opinion was that of the synchronized drummers. Although this was not part of the closing ceremony, it had all the best features of what one could reasonably expect in closing ceremonies; and it capitalized on China's strengths: vast numbers of people, disciplined and perfect timing of group performance, and the chanting of an ancient saying by Confucius. The glowing drumsticks in the intermittent darkened stadium were an unbeatable bonus. Alas, the closing ceremony was more denouement than glorious finish.
Athens 2004. The Athens Closing Ceremony seemed designed to present a chronology of sorts that showcased traditional dress, traditional dance, and local customs featuring costumes. A rhythmical parade of people in costume partly danced and proceeded into an enormous spiral in the center of the arena. Close-up, the staging was interesting and highly varied. From far away -- practically anywhere in the stadium -- the effect of the costumes and even the dancing was lost. It looked more as though a Broadway musical performance had been dropped into the arena with instructions to cluster somewhere in the middle. It was like watching a street-parade, but being too far away to see the faces of the performers -- yet that type of connection is what it would have taken for audience engagement.
The very solemn interlude with the enormous "match stick" lighting the torch held by the young girl was properly ceremonious, it was agonizingly long. The whole thing seemed sort of other-worldly, but in a B-grade sci-fi movie sort of way.
Atlanta 1996. The most memorable part of the closing ceremonies in Atlanta was when 600 children from Atlanta gathered in the arena to sing the song The Power of the Dream. A charming soon-to-be 6th grader with a perfect voice and an angelic face led the singing. Large choruses tend to be moving, particularly when the chorus is made up of children. But it did not seem too different from the Coca-Cola commercial I Like to Teach the World to Sing. Charming, heart-warming, yes, but not quite Olympic Game quality entertainment. Best part -- ending with "Y'all come back, now!"
It seems like Gavin is shooting from the hip with the expression "a typically British closing ceremony." Given that the United Kingdom has a very diverse population and has been multicultural for as long as anyone alive today can remember -- consider the influences of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland -- it is difficult to identify what would be typical and would still reflect not only what is "British" but what is multicultural and represents all that the United Kingdom has become -- culturally. Culture is all-inclusive, making brief discussions difficult at best, and always inadequate. Such an analysis is made easier by isolating one aspect of culture and using it a touchstone for the nine-tenths of the iceberg that is hidden underwater, so to speak. That said, taking a look at the multicultural aspects of cuisine in a country is a window into the multicultural society. PostEurop issued a series of stamps in 2005 on gastronomy entitled Changing Tastes in Britain. Although the people depicted on the stamps are ethnic stereotypes, the stamps are intended to illustrate "the diversity of British cuisine in today's multicultural society." The foods represented on the stamps are rice, tea, sushi, pasta, chips (fried potatoes), and apples. Stamp designs may seem far afield from Olympic Games choreographed events -- but really, they are not. The same level of stereotypical representation of multiculturalism is evident in many Olympic Games events. It is not intended to be pejorative; rather, it is the synthesis of many variables presented in a manner that facilitates recognition and distinction by viewers.
Figure 1. The design firm is Rose Design and the illustrations are by Catell Ronca. The stamp images are courtesy of Royal Mail, Copyright 2005.
A commission established in 1997 by Runnymede considered the political and cultural implications of growing diversity in Britain -- its guidelines are applicable to event planning. Five areas were studied: Democratic institutions, culture, families, employment, and safety & justice (Runnymede, 1998). Over the course of the three-year project, 23 expert opinions were solicited, considered, and analyzed regarding multiculturalism, particularly the formation of ethnic minority communities, in Britain (Runnymede, 1998). At the conclusion of the study, policy recommendations were made to national government, local government, and local leadership (Runnymede, 1998). Though ancillary to its purposes, one of the contributions of the commission was to set aside language that is conventionally used to "describe and define race relations in Britain" (Runnymede, 1998). The commissioners agreed that words like minority and majority obscure the heterogeneity and fluid nature of quotidian life in Britain (Runnymede, 1998). Reference to an ethnic group, concluded the commissioners, "suppresses both its multiple identity and its freedom of self-determination" (Runnymede, 1998). The commission also chose to reject the term integration as "it implies a one-way process in which 'minorities' are to be absorbed into the non-existent homogeneous cultural structure of the 'majority.' (Runnymede, 1998).
For the purpose of conducting event planning for the London 2012 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony, a SWOT analysis is applied below as a tool used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved when beginning the event planning process. A SWOT analysis extracts information from an environmental scan which enables planners to consider perspectives different from their own. The Strengths are those attributes which are considered to have positive influence on preparation for the event, its staging, and its management. Weaknesses are those attributes that are considered as impediments to achieving the objectives. Opportunities are the external conditions which are supportive of objectives and goals identified for event planning, staging, and management. And, finally, Threats are those external conditions that are considered capable of undermining the accomplishment of the event planning goals and objectives. The SWOT analysis as applied to this context is as follows:
Internal factors (Strengths, Weaknesses). Internal factors are key sources that are available for future development in pursuit of the goals and objectives of the event planning. Internal factors illustrate the potential strong and weak points of the venue, the social context, the economic context, the infrastructure, and tourism.
External factors (Opportunities, Threats). External factors are outside the structures of the internal factors, and can include political and legislative changes, international economic shocks and national economic changes, construction of new infrastructure which might be of national or international value or importance.
"The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games must be held in strict compliance with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Protocol Guide. Further, the contents and details of all scenarios, schedules, and programs of all ceremonies must be submitted to the IOC for its prior approval" (Olympic Charter, 2011). Given the strictness of the ceremonies protocol guide and the enormous potential influence of the Olympic Games on the host country -- both short-term and long-term -- Gavin's planning must be explicit, deep, and extremely well articulated.
Figure 2. SWOT Analysis for the Closing Ceremony
How Can Strengths Be Used?
How Can Weaknesses Be Avoided?
Multicultural organizations are available as resources
People representing different ethnic communities are interesting in participating on the planning commission
The UK has distinct cultures that can be well represented in the ceremony
Some ethnic communities are more vocal and participatory than others
Through evaluation of what worked and what didn't in other closing ceremonies can ensure balance and the best possible use of the venue and available talent
How Can Opportunities Be Exploited?
How Can Threats Be Defended Against?
Create a medley of traditional "British" and multicultural United Kingdom performance
The UK has a large number of internationally famous musicians, bands, and entertainers
The UK has an established theatre industry with international followers and fans
All aspects of planning must be culturally inclusive and culturally diverse
Social media can be utilized to create positive multicultural buzz and fans
Cultivation of European participation in the ceremonies can potentially reduce any resentment…