SBD/July 26, 2012/Olympics

Half Of Great Britain, Australian Delegations Planning To Skip Opening Ceremony

Only about half of the Australian team will participate in Opening Ceremony
Great Britain swimmers have confirmed that they will join team “athletes, track cyclists and rowers in missing Friday night's opening ceremony at the Olympic stadium in east London,” according to Booth & Gibson of the GUARDIAN. Team Great Britain has previously estimated that around “half of the 541-strong team will not attend.” The British team is the last to enter the Olympic Stadium, at “what is expected to be close to midnight, and that was a factor in the decision.” British swimmer James Goddard said, "It's a long day, there's a lot of walking involved, a party atmosphere I suppose.” The British Olympic Association yesterday said that sporting performance “must come first.” BOA Dir of Communications & Olympic Media Strategy Darryl Seibel said, "Some of the largest teams in our delegation won't be participating. It is up to each team, and within each team, it is up to each athlete to make the choice. We are not going to compel anyone” (GUARDIAN, 7/26). In Sydney, Tim Barrow reports almost half of Australia's Olympians are expected to skip the Opening Ceremony “to focus on their preparations.” Australian field hockey player Casey Eastham said that the team “had decided not to attend because of an early morning training session the following day.” Barrow notes only a “handful of sailors will make the three-hour trek from the official competition venue to London, while the Australian swimming team have a general rule in place where those competing in the first three days of the Olympics will not attend.” The rowing squad will also “not join the parade” (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 7/26).

BOYLE-ING POINT: London Games Creative Dir Danny Boyle, who is directing the Opening Ceremony, said of the show, "Nothing can prepare you for the scale.” NBC's Meredith Vieira notes there will be an estimated global audience of more than 1 billion "tuning in for a show that has been two years in the making." The world “watched in awe at the spectacle China created” four years ago in Beijing, and to say the Opening Ceremony "bar has been set high is an understatement.” Vieira said to Boyle when the Beijing Opening Ceremony "was over, I thought to myself, ‘You’d have to be crazy to try to follow this.’" Boyle: "If you view it a different way, it’s a wonderful way to start again. Beijing was beyond compare. It was on a scale that is unimaginable I think almost anywhere else in the world at the moment. So you go, ‘Fine. All hail Beijing. That’s the peak.’ We're very grateful to Beijing that it brought to an absolute climax the scale of these Opening Ceremonies.” Vieira notes  that is not to say Boyle "doesn't have a few tricks up his sleeve." He said, "We're trying to do a live film. ... The way you experience it on television will feel -- I hope -- much more immediate and visceral than you normally get. They’ll be more close-ups, for instance, which is a way of conveying emotion" (“Today,” NBC, 7/26). CBS' Jim Rome said Boyle is "going to push the envelope” with the event. Rome: "Normally the highlight of any Opening Ceremonies is seeing the NBA players walk in, but not this time. In fact, I might have to watch this with a kidney pie and tankard of ale” (“Rome,” CBS Sports Network, 7/25).

GETTING READY FOR THE SHOW: The AFP’s Robin Millard cited “thrilled audience members," who got a sneak peek at the final rehearsal for tomorrow's Opening Ceremony that said that the event will be “a spine-tingling extravaganza that exceeds expectations.” The “60,000-odd crowd seemed filled with enthusiasm as they flooded out of the Olympic Stadium late Wednesday” (AFP, 7/25). NBC's Ryan Seacrest said he attended the rehearsal and “to see what they put together -- the choreography -- I’m anxious to get going” ("Today," NBC, 7/26). However, SI’s Michael Farber writes athletes “used to be the centerpiece” of the Opening Ceremony, but now they serve as “extras in their own show, time fillers until the host nation marches in.” The Olympians “endure an hour or more of extravagance as the ceremony reduces the host country to stereotype in a showy infomercial that often veers into self-parody.” The original Games had “cultural and artistic components, but now we have one night of culture and art on steroids” (SI, 7/30 issue). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said the Opening Ceremony “is longer than the Oscars” and it is “longer than it should be” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 7/25).
 
MOMENT OF SILENCE: REUTERS’ Keith Weir noted President Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney have “both backed calls for a moment of silence” to honor the 11 Israeli team members killed at the ‘72 Munich Games (REUTERS, 7/25). U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also wrote to IOC President Jacques Rogge to ask the organization to hold an "appropriate memorial event" in London for the victims (AP, 7/25). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes during the Opening Ceremony there will be “shame that will surround Rogge as he speaks of the Olympic spirit while clearly violating it.” Plaschke: “Why can't the IOC just give them that one minute? It's politics, of course.” He continues, “The IOC's arrogance is tone-deaf to the point of being laughable” (L.A. TIMES, 7/26). YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote, “Perhaps Rogge just doesn’t want to dampen the mood. Perhaps, as the Israelis contend, he’s too scared of offending Arab countries. Maybe he’s just an aristocrat who takes himself and his role in the world far too seriously. None of it makes it right” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/25). In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes under the header, “IOC Is Stubbornly Offensive On Opening Ceremonies.” If ever there was “a reason for the often overused moment of silence, this is it.” Hamilton: “What an opportunity to send a message to the world about tolerance instead of hate. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?” By “refusing” to honor the athletes, the IOC “dishonors them” (WASHINGTON POST, 7/26). In Newark, Dave D’Alessandro wrote it is “time to stop treating this like a political statement, and call it for what it is: a solemn observance of the loss of 11 men” (NJ.com, 7/25). FOXSPORTS.com's Reid Forgrave wrotes the Opening Ceremony is a "time for joy and celebration, yet that did not keep the IOC from using that event to honor a luger from Georgia who was killed during a practice run before the 2010 Winter Games" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/25).
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