Chris Maume: Aboard the round-the-bendy bus
View From The Sofa: Building The Olympic Dream: London Calling, BBC 2, Wednesday
Monday 09 March 2009
It's now a cherished Olympic tradition that the next hosts' short segments at closing ceremonies should be notable only for their naffness, so in one sense the London bus we sent to Beijing, complete with queue, did not disappoint. I liked the line in the Chinese paper Titan Sports Daily the next day: "When the bus pulled over, all the passengers waiting rushed into the door at the same time, which truly damaged the British image."
They may have been slightly missing the point, but they also observed that "the British seem to like to laugh about their stupidity in a funny way", which seems spot on (and a good thing, too). There was plenty of opportunity for that in Building the Olympic Dream, the first in a three-part series, which followed the Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant-style characters given the keys to the brewery and told to organise the piss-up.
Stephen Powell, a TV and live events producer who came up with the bus idea is David Brent (were the film-makers having a laugh when they referred to him as the "creative genius" in the voice-over?), while Britain's head of Olympic ceremonies, Martin Green, is the camp Merchant figure overseeing it all. The closing ceremony segment was basically their audition tape for 2012 – mess it up and they could kiss the big gig goodbye.
Powell presented his ideas. This was what was supposed to happen: the bus rolls into the stadium and peels open to reveal what appears to be a busby but is actually a black woman's afro. Which then explodes into dreadlocks. Then a Queen impersonator comes on (Her Majesty, not the Bohemian Rhapsodists) pushing a hostess trolley and serving tea.
A wave of pain washed over Green's face, resolving into the look that always came over Clint Eastwood just before he killed six men in three seconds in the spaghetti westerns. Oblivious, Powell pressed on.
"There are biscuits of course, we have to have biscuits – people dressed as biscuits – the ones we know and love, like malted milk." He held up a board with biscuits nailed to it.
Then the Olympic logo would turn into a lion and the zebra crossing into a unicorn holding a Belisha beacon. Men in white coats burst into the meeting room and sedated Powell. Or should have.
Drastically toned down, it somehow passed muster with Lord Coe and Co. At which Powell was much relieved: "I only have one idea a year. They were never going to get another one."
As you'll be aware, the bus got built, a routine devised, the celebs brought on board, and the whole operation moved to China – cue Green and Powell watching the opening ceremony with dropping jaws and grimaces of envy. From which point on, whatever you think of the artistic merits of our bit, whether you think we made ourselves a world laughing stock or not, you have to admire their British pluck in getting into the "Bird's Nest" stadium at all.
I don't know if the Chinese authorities wanted us to suffer global humiliation but the obstructiveness seemed wilful. It's certainly implausible, given the all-hands-to-the-pump slickness of their own operation, that they were simply disorganised about it.
First there was the surface. The Chinese insisted on carpet – which is, it seems, about as useful to dancers as a bed of nails. Then there was physically getting the bus and all their equipment from their camp outside Beijing into the city – until a couple of days before the ceremony there was simply no transport. There was no chance to rehearse in the stadium, not even any proper accreditation. In the end, they simply barged their way through into the arena. After all, as any motorist in the capital knows, you don't argue with a London bus.
Give no quarter on the sixth round of the Cup
Call me anal, but in every knockout competition in every sport in the world the round of eight is known as the quarter-finals. Except one. The FA Cup. It's always been the sixth round, and still is, if you look on the FA website. So will somebody please tell Manish Bhasin, Jim Rosenthal and everyone else at the BBC and ITV?
Latest in Sport
Manchester United vs Chelsea: Louis van Gaal - I could have axed Ryan Giggs and I could have sacked Jose Mourinho, too!
Manchester United vs Chelsea: Radamel Falcao a doubt for Premier League clash
Real Madrid vs Barcelona player ratings: Luis Suarez rated on his debut
Gus Poyet future: Sunderland manager on brink after Arsenal pile misery on top of 8-0 defeat
Manchester United vs Chelsea analysis: Simplest errors at the back are leaving United very vulnerable, writes Danny Higginbotham
- 1 Stem cells that can kill cancer have been engineered by scientists
- 2 Ricky Gervais and Dame Judi Dench back campaign to stop Thailand dog meat trade
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 5 Queen's first tweet: Reply telling Her Majesty to 'f*** off' broadcast on BBC News
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...