It began with a circus act, lyrical and graceful, delightful to the eye, full of outlandishly garbed performers doing things that look unlikely if not downright impossible. Carnivale was the theme, ruled over by a monarch who looked like nothing so much as a man auditioning for a Burger King commercial and his queen.
Tim Burton could only wish he had dreamed up some of the characters in a show that didn’t seem to mean to say anything other than, “We know we invented the Renaissance, but we’ve moved on.”
And it’s a pretty good space that Italy has moved on to, a space filled with fire and fun, with music and spectacle, with pride in its past, joy in its present, and hope for its future.
I’d describe it all, but it would take longer than it will to view it. And, of all the closing ceremonies I’ve seen, I’d put this one up there with the best.
It was absolutely stunning. And even if you paid $600 for a seat, you got your money’s worth.
Don’t ask what any of it has to do with Italy or the Olympics, because I’m not sure there’s an answer. I’m all but positive that there doesn’t need to be one.
Was it fun to watch? Check. Did you see things you never saw before? Check. Did you want to see what they were going to do next? Check.
What more can you ask for?
But the object is just to put on a show, to set a stadium ablaze with lights and flames and fireworks, to fill it with performers and song, to throw one final hurrah into the sky before we go.
One can’t, after all, simply douse the lights and slip out of town, not after 17 days of triumph and tears, of glory and ignominy, of those old standbys, joy and agony. The Olympics are a ritual, just as all great sporting events are, and they need a proper and formal ending.
Many people watch no sporting event other than the Olympics. And many dedicated fans of mainstream sports who sneer at anything that doesn’t involve a ball or a bat or both find themselves suddenly desperate to learn who won the U.S.-Norway curling match.
See images from the closing ceremony of the 2006 Winter Games.