I heard someone describe the Olympics as a “regular but misdirected orgy of nationalism and navel gazing”*. This seems, in equal measure, absolutely true and untrue. I agree that some of the flag waving, some of the bias, some of the support is unsavoury. On the other hand, I loved to hear how a friend of mine was made to feel physically ill at the defeat of his beloved Icelandic Handball team – whom he hoped could get gold this time – to Hungary. Not that I wanted Iceland to lose, mind, or that I enjoyed his pain, but rather that he was so invested! It was exciting!
Another aspect I love is that once every four years obscure sports (Women’s 10 metre air rifle, for example) get a chance for some major attention.
For these Olympics, it is the Velodrome that has really caught my attention. Cycling as a sport really eludes me. I’ve watched the Keirin, Sprints, Pursuits, Time trials; and the Omnium, which seems to gather these things together. It doesn’t make any sense at all as a spectator sport, and yet, enthralled I was. First, just have a look at the Velodrome itself:
It’s like some kind of alien spacecraft. It’s beautiful. They keep the inside something like 28°C, which is just the optimum Velodrome temperature I guess**. Now, the only problem I have experienced with my Velodrome-based viewing was that Australia wasn’t winning very much. I’m not super-patriotic, really, but somehow when I am in Europe I feel more inclined to support my compatriots than I ever would at home.
So imagine how happy I was to find this gem:
It combines everything there is to like about the Olympics into three-and-a-bit minutes of awesome. The Chemical Brothers are always interesting, and frequently excellent. I didn’t know this was the Velodrome’s theme song, and I love that the Velodrome has*** a theme song. It completely makes me forget Australia’s lack of cycling success (don’t even mention the swimming).
The video was played before every Velodrome session, and was created by Crystal CG. In their own words:
“We’ve created sweeping contours and sleek surfaces as the backdrop for an intense, futuristic cycling ‘duel’ as two animated riders power round the track,” said Darren Groucutt, creative director at Crystal. “It truly brings the Velodrome to life.”
I completely agree. The pseudo-futuristic animation matches the slightly-weird Olympic font. It builds with the music, and generates a sense of excitement. The only downside is that I completely wish I had been in the Velodrome itself.
What I like best of all, however, is the combination of design, creativity, music, craft and other intellectual activity and its prominence on the set otherwise dominated by sporting excellence. This kind of multi-dimensional media experience can so often go horribly wrong, but this judicious application of cultural capital amongst the quadriceps and flying wheels really helps to make the London Games stand out for me from what might otherwise be a bland international event.
Picture borrowed from London 2012 website; sorry London 2012 website, I hope you don’t mind!
*This was on Q&A, which I watch most weeks through iTunes. The ABC might just be the best public broadcaster ever; if there was a gold medal of public broadcasting, I think it would get it.
**I have no source for this factoid, but I probably heard it from the BBC commentary.
***Fun PJD fact: my English teacher from high school would be ill if he knew I used italics to stress my point, but as this is a blog and not a piece of formal writing, I break the rules.