Sport on TV / Luge suits, togas and Georgie on the ivories

There are few more certain facts of life than that opening ceremonies are living laboratories of naffness. So why should the beano for the start of the World Athletics Championships (Eurosport) have been any different?

With 100,000 spectators holding candles it was like a stadium gig from the 1970s, when all those burning matches meant there was enough sulphur in a confined space to form an entirely new and unique ecosystem.

Beautiful though it was, this wasn't the stadium where the real thing is being held - it was obvious from its long, thin shape that the only sport it can ever have housed is drag racing. A Greek dignitary, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Magnum, spoke of his hope for - as the subtitles put it - "a magnificent sight of a people excited and thrilled to the point of drunkenness". I hadn't realised there was going to be a large British contingent there.

Things warmed up when a phalanx of mock-peasants with big drums joined forces with a bunch of masked dancers. A squadron of little purple people came on to assist. Tim Hutchings and his co-presenter, Steve Cram, confessed that they must be getting old because they were finding it all rather moving.

Everything went horribly wrong, though. A sort of masked Riverdance routine ensued, performed by men in luge suits. It was less Oresteia, more Michael Flatley, though in fact it was meant to represent Old Father Chronos eating his children.

The ones he hadn't consumed trooped on hand in hand in togas to do the hokey-cokey round an out-of-control barbecue. I saw it, I did.

As we reached an anti-climax, on came George Best in a white tux. He was looking pretty dreadful, even for him, though his piano-playing, never one of his strong points as a footballer, has come on a treat. Georgie did the old Vangelis number from Chariots Of Fire, then a couple of TV ad theme tunes, and wound up with some unspeakably dreary original Vangelis material. It was never explained why Georgie was doing Big Van's job - there had obviously been some booking mix-up. The accompanying pageant, by the way, brought to mind the old dictum about bewaring Greeks wearing flares and bearing flags.

Even wider than Georgie was Montserrat Caballe, looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger's woman disguise in Total Recall. She sang her little heart out, though by that time it was 10.30 Athens time, and you'd have thought everyone would have been itching to get to the pub.

It was a slightly bizarre experience watching This Sporting Life (Channel 4) and a tape of Wigan's World Club Championship win over Canterbury (Sky) back to back. There have been about as many European victories in the competition so far as Richard Harris's Frank Machin has teeth after being laid out with a forearm smash at the beginning of the film, so the match, scrappy though it was, had novelty value at least.

I entered a strange crossover world where time had no meaning. Was that Harris and Colin Blakely drinking from an isotonic Lucozade container? Nah, they would never drink from a bottle with a teat.

The gritty, grainy quality of Lindsay Anderson's 1963 film meant that I kept expecting Don Fox to step up and miss a sitter, while the action sequences (intercut with real-life footage) were solemnly slow compared to today's beefed-up Keystone Cops buzzing round the ball. In Frank's day you would never have had players called Craig Polla-Mounter, even if he did nearly behead Wigan's Darryl Cardiss. Future timewarp back- to-backs include Jaws and the World Angling Championships, and Raging Bull and the next Henry Akinwande fight.

And finally... my holidaying colleague Andrew Baker has already written about Match of the Eighties (BBC1), but Danny Baker (Andrew assures me they are not, as far as he is aware, related) must not be allowed to get away with something he said last week. Having taken us through the 1981-82 season, he devoted the last 2.7 seconds of the programme to the World Cup in Spain. Baker and his mates call it "the World Cup that never happened". What? Because England were crap? Among many pleasures, there was one of the most intense matches I've ever seen, the France v Germany semi-final - that fabulous goal by Little Alain Giresse (that was his name, Little Alain Giresse), the sense of schadenfreude as the dirty Uli Stielike sank into the turf on missing in the penalty shoot-out, then Horst Hrubesch (as in what a load of) pogoing on the penalty spot as his winner nestled in the net.

But Baker and his mates were probably not watching. Too many men with strange names. Spare us the New Den Old Laddishness. You were great when you wrote about pop music 20 years ago; you were a class apart on Six- O-Six; the chat show was dire, but this programme is mostly good stuff. Just don't tread on my memories, all right?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker