COMMENTARY: High Excitement, Low Bridge
By Ari Pusa
What was the most moving moment of the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London?
For me it was without doubt the instant when perhaps the greatest athlete of all time, Muhammad Ali, grabbed hold of the edge of the Olympic flag with his shaky hands.
Ali had originally been nominated as one of the “bearers” of the Olympic flag, but the American heavyweight boxing legend, who has suffered from Parkinson’s disease for years, was no longer fit to walk.
He sat at the stadium wearing sunglasses and settled for merely touching the flag.
Simultaneously he touched the hearts of the 80,000 spectators at the London Olympic Stadium as well as the hearts of the estimated four billion television viewers around the globe.
What else stood out in the ceremony?
Well, of course Queen Elizabeth II’s supposed parachute jump together with James Bond (as portrayed by the current incarnation Daniel Craig) into the stadium.
British humour at its wackiest. A good move, and very smart PR by the Royals, who have had a packed year or so, what with a wedding in April 2011 and a diamond jubilee celebration last month.
In the Finnish edition of Saturday’s Helsingin Sanomat I may have criticised the theme of the opening ceremony by saying that it was confusing.
After having slept on it, however, I rather reckoned that as a whole the ceremony was well laid-out and stylish.
In fact, I would argue that this was the best Olympic opening ceremony that I have seen.
The journey back, on the other hand, left a good deal of room for improvement and showed less style.
It took me more than four hours in the middle of the night to travel from the stadium to my hotel room, amid scenes very reminiscent of the deliciously satirical BBC mockumentary Twenty Twelve.
The first bus that I took had an accident and the second got lost somewhere on the narrow side-streets of some rather dodgy-looking neighbourhoods.
Luckily nobody was hurt in the accident. The double-decker bus’s top deck crashed into a low bridge. As I recall, low bridges have signs warning against such eventualities.
The large front window of the upper floor bent inwards but did not shatter.
The driver of the replacement bus, in turn, had not the foggiest idea where he was going.
The poor man was sweating buckets while driving around in circles with an increasingly agitated load of passengers behind him.
When leaving the bus I wished the driver “good night”.
Many others wished him good riddance. Or much worse.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 29.7.2012
At the time of publication, Finland has still not got on the medals board in London. The 56-strong team of 28 men and 28 women may be the most gender-equal of all those competing at the Olympics, but they have yet to deliver any hardware. The target set is for three medals and six places in the top eight. Unless the members of the sailing team produce the goods, or unless the javelin-throwing men have a very good day indeed, this looks like being an even more "challenging" target than the team leadership have suggested.
London Olympics 2012: Finland
ARI PUSA / Helsingin Sanomat