As the Paralympics enter their final week, the whole London 2012 team can be congratulated for many things: excellent venues, great game makers (the army of volunteers), fabulous venues and amazing atmospheres. One thing that they might not be applauded for by many was the amazing variety of music that both games have utilised.
Having been lucky enough to attend both the Football and Boxing in the Olympics and the Athletics in the Paralympics, I was blown away by how great the use of incidental music was. Watching on the TV, you saw snippets of tracks being used between natural pauses in all sorts of games. In Hockey for example, artists such as New Order, Blur, Kasabian, The Sex Pistols and The Clash were played whenever goals were scored. Even walking to and from the venues, music was everywhere. Be it from piped public address systems or (in the case of the Olympic park itself) a plethora of live musicians performing their own original music to eager crowds.
The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics were a smorgasbord of British talent from the past 50 years with live performances from The Who, Paul McCartney, Kasabian, Spice Girls, Beady Eye (Liam Gallagher), Mike Oldfield and even The London Symphony Orchestra. It was an excellent mix of the new and old with something for everyone, and given the high speed of the show if you didn’t like one track chances were it was quickly replaced by one you did. There was real mixture of genres with Rock, Alternative, Grime, Classical and Dance music all seamlessly rolling into one. The comedic element of Eric Idle performing “Always Look on the Bright Side Of Life” in the Closing Ceremony fit excellently into what had been quite a fun two weeks. Even the choice of using Vangelis “Chariots Of Fire” for the medal ceremonies added an uniquely British touch to the proceedings.
The Paralympics’ Opening Ceremony threw less emphasis on live music with fewer performances but instead used both Classical and more modern music to enhance a story set around Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” Orbital and the Graeae Theatre Company performing Ian Drury’s “Spasticus Autisticus” was a particular highlight. At the Athletics event I attended this past Saturday, I was amazed at what great music was being played in and around the stadium and even in the park itself. Whomever was DJ-ing that evening was playing a great mixture of British Music — Primal Scream and New Order being played more than once. The sheer number of events being held in one place at the same time meant the use of music was far less than at the Olympic events a couple of weeks earlier, but when it was used it was well placed and showed a real breadth of great British music with more than just top Pop chart releases and a real emphasis on the less mainstream artists — and even then not their most famous releases.
The Opening Ceremony compilation, named Isles of Wonder, is #1 in the iTunes store album chart in the UK, France, Belgium and Spain, and has reached #5 in the United States. Even some U.S. artists managed to crash the party! After Channel 4 (the channel broadcasting the Paralympics in the U.K.) used Public Enemy’s “Harder Than You Think” as a sound bed on all the TV ad trailers, it charted last week at #4 in the UK Singles charts.
The final crowning glory of it all was using David Bowie’s “Heroes” to play as both GB teams came in the arena on the opening ceremonies — an absolute stroke of genius that really summed up the pride that the whole country has felt and still feels about our teams. Don’t be surprised if you see a re-release of this song at some stage with Olympic/Paralympic branding.
It’s doubtful that any future Olympics will be able to draw on such a diverse selection of musical talent to compete, but I for one will watch out with keen interest!
And so you can attempt to relive it all, here are a few playlists from the two games: