Chris Devonshire-Ellis: When Opening Ceremonies Go Bad

Delhi’s spectacular opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games may be passé for the Chinese and the splendor of the Olympics (but let’s not forget the computer stimulated fireworks that were broadcast “in case anything went wrong”) but it does represent a case of a country finally getting its act together and proving it can plan, manage, and pull off a tricky event involving thousands of people and planned for months.

While it’s been relatively easy to knock India when compared with China, the fact remains, that when it came down to it, the Delhi opening ceremony was actually first class. It does represent an image of an India that can get things done and deal with large scale projects. India, indeed, has finally passed the quality and competence test.

But it hasn’t always been so. Impressive as the United States is when hosting events, who remembers the literal balls up when a disgracefully lip-syncing Diana Ross opened the 1994 World Cup soccer finals with this dreadful piece of theater?

Not to be outdone of course, there’s been America’s Superbowl and a “tits out for the lads” moment for Janet Jackson. And much as we would like to, we’re not going to go near the footage of the opening ceremony for the Olympics in Seoul, where upon the Olympic flame being lit, several pigeons sitting on the edge of the cauldron were immediately incinerated and gently wafted to the ground, torched, flaming and smelling of barbecue, all captured on TV for an audience of about 2 billion people. Maybe they should have had a local restaurant sponsoring the torch; so much for the “Flame of Peace.”

Oh, and back to Beijing, remember the little girl singer deemed too “ugly” to perform, whose prettier replacement lip-synced? No, opening ceremonies are not easy to get right, and on this occasion, even India managed to pull it off with greater pizazz, charm and without upsetting nine year old children than Beijing could actually manage. And no computer-aided firework graphics either. There’s rather more honesty about that.

Current Top Five Standings

1. Australia
2. Canada
3. England
4. India
5. South Africa