Last week myself and the Dear Lady Wife were invited to the Olympic opening ceremony. Actually, that is not completely accurate; we were invited to a pub/bar which showed the opening ceremony on a big screen and we had a reserved table. Come Friday (yesterday as I write this) we were very excited indeed, as it appears was most of rest of the nation.
The World gets a Summer Olympics opening ceremony once every four years, no matter where you are, geographically. To have one in your own country is something special. This was, without doubt going to be an occasion, up there with the Jubilee, a Royal Wedding, a soap opera wedding where nobody dies, an egg with two yolks, you get the idea.
|The last time this happened was 1948...|
The city that housed the venue for our evening out was eerily quiet. There was a good reason for this, (apparently everyone watched it on the telly.) We arrive at the pub/bar. It also is quiet, but not ghostly quiet, just quieter than normal. Every table is occupied, all attention focused on the big screen. There is not however the normal nine-deep throng trying to get god-awful cocktails at the bar. This is all fine, I will not have to fight when it is my turn to order some god-awful cocktail from the bar.
|Two of my five a day!|
I join my compatriots and purchase my first god-awful cocktail. It is at this point I realise something is wrong. There is an irritating buzzing sound, right on the edge of the audible range which won't stop. Am I getting tinnitus? Combined with this observation is another (they're coming thick and fast, must be the god-awful cocktail), I can not only clearly hear the conversations of my compatriots, I can join in without screaming.
The god-awful cocktail and my brain work together to make the connection. The barely audible buzzing isn't tinnitus, it is the speaker system. The reason I can hear every conversation is because there is nothing competing. The reason every face in this bar is looking so intently at the screen is because they are trying to learn how to lip-read (in itself not easy after a god-awful cocktail or three), they are trying to lip-read without any lips as a point of reference. They are trying to lip-read the commentary.
I am a little annoyed. This venue and table was booked in good faith, it was booked because of the big screen. I do not believe there was explicit mention of sound being provided, but this is sort of implied. We live in the 21st Century and the Olympic opening ceremony is not a silent movie. If it was I would have requested the sub-titles to be in bold and perhaps a larger font, but we have moved on a bit. Ah, digressing, sorry.
I discuss this with the early arivals, they say they have asked and nothing appears to have changed. I scratch my chin whilst formulating a plan. I will not harass passing waiting people who are delivering food, I will accost a man or woman bearing the badge of responsibility. The badge shall be engraved in gold and shall be inscribed with the following... Manager.
This proves to be slightly more difficult and certainly a little more painful than I had anticipated. The bar is ill-lit for this sort of pursuit, which means I have to stare at the chests of numerous staff members before I find the one called Manager. Peering myopically at bar people's chests can produce mixed results. Having been called a perve, told to piss off, provided an explanation of working hours, (I only do that on Tuesdays... which confused me a little as it was clearly a Friday and she was working,) I eventually found the manager.
Having accosted the gentleman, I felt we should have a little chat, the good new was I didn't need to shout. It sort of went like this.
Manager: How can I help you?
Me: Well, I can't help thinking that you should turn up the Olympic opening ceremony just a tiny amount. It is after all a celebration of many things, but I suspect the silent movie industry was not high on their agenda.
Manager: (appraising me with a glare), You're not the first person to ask, but we can't turn it up.
Me: (reverting to playground argument mode) Why?
Manager: This is as far as it goes.
Me: Really? Are you sure? Have you actually tried? I came here a few months ago and my ears bled, partly because the music was terrible, but also because the music was quite loud. I didn't imagine it. I have fantasies, they involve cats, there were no cats in this bar, this is how I know it was real. (I use the cat thing to confuse authority).
Manager: We wouldn't want to upset our other punters.
Me: (Being quite close to the front, I look behind me, moving my arm out in a sweeping gesture, so as to encompass those sitting at the tables, rapt, they do not notice me, I would be a distraction to their new discipline, commentary reading. One enterprising couple in their twenties have found ear-trumpets from somewhere). This lot you mean? (I am perhaps not doing justice to my gesture).
Manager: No, there are people outside as well.
Me: (Sensing my pray is on the verge of defeat). The outside people? One, they cannot see the screen and two, THEY CANNOT SEE THE SCREEN. What does it matter what comes out of the speakers. Also, they are mostly smokers, so they don't count and will probably lose the right to vote shortly. (I don't mention at this point that I am about to have a cigarette, I have him where I want him).
Manager: Anyhow, this conversation is pointless, the amplifier only goes up to 10.
Me: Is it on 10? Are you sure it does not have an 11? (Spinal Tap references may not help at this point, but you have to try).
|These ones go to eleven...|
Manager: (has wandered off)
Either the god-awful cocktails helped or my hearing got better. Maybe my race-memory kicked in and I became a pre-historic hunter, stalking an Olympic opening ceremony sound-track for hours on end. It seemed to get slightly louder, but not enough to inject a proper atmosphere into the occasion. The rest of the bar was so busy commentary-reading they were no help.
As if our cordial hosts could not do enough to please, they managed to switch off Paul McCartney five minutes before the official end of the broadcast.
If using the Olympics as a cunning ploy to get people into your bar and then ripping off every person that attended was an Olympic demonstration sport, we may have been congratulating this entrant and celebrating TeamGB's first Gold medal. Sadly, it was a ploy, but not a demonstration sport.
I watched it all the next day from the comfort of my own hangover, when I am at my most critical. It was hard to find much wrong with the whole affair. I hoped you enjoyed it too, Dear Reader. I will be back soon, when the sport stops, or I can't take any more.