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GUEST BLOG: I love a parade

21st June 2012 - David Goldblatt & Johnny Acton

How to Watch the Olympics by David Goldblatt & Johnny ActonFor many Olympic sports, the Games are the one time every four years that we pay them much attention and most viewers remain mystified about the finer points of these little-known disciplines. So David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton have created How to Watch the Olympics, the perfect guide for anyone curious about the origins of synchronised swimming, the rules of water polo or what to look out for in a top-level game of handball.

In the first of a weekly series of blogs, David and Johnny tell us what to look out for in the opening ceremony, the lavish extravaganza with which every Olympiad begins.

There has been a lot of talk over the last week about the London 2012 opening ceremony since Danny Boyle, the artistic director, revealed his plan to turn the stadium into a miniature of the British countryside. While the artistic element of the opening ceremony gets much of the headlines, there is plenty more to the show than that.
Once the song and dance act is done we will have the arrival of the torch, the lighting of the flame, and, of course, before anything else, the parade of nations, in which athletes and officials, preceded by their flags and name boards, do a circuit of the track.

Opening ceremony from 2004 Olympic Games in Athens There are many pleasures here for the Olympic observer. For example, Munich 1972 saw every team accompanied by a specially chosen song arranged in the key of cheese for glockenspiel. The Greeks always head the parade and given the pivotal place of the nation in everyone's economic, if not sporting lives at the moment, it will be interesting to see how they are received. The Greeks certainly made their feelings clear during the parade at Athens in 2004 when the crowd dealt out the silent treatment to the Turks, Israelis and Macedonians, while wildly applauding Afghanistan and Iraq.

Another feature of the parade to look out for is the official kit of each team, which had become a multi-million dollar business and massive advertising opportunity for the world's fashion houses and sports goods manufactures. Amongst the catwalk creations on show this time around will be Stella McCartney blue-period outfits for Team GB and Ralph Lauren's preppy jackets and floppy caps for Team USA. Italy have gone with Giorgio Armani in dramatic white and midnight blue and Jamaica have called upon Cedella Marley, daughter of the late Bob, to put on the style for the national team.

There will of course be some real disasters on show. Amongst the Olympic fashion nightmare in the making is South Korea who have stuck with the tried and tested airline steward/hostess look with very visible diamond pattern golfing socks. The Spanish team's kit aroused huge controversy, after it became apparent that the job had been outsourced to a minor Russian company that made the gear that no one in the team wants to wear.
Nothing however will quite match up to the outfits worn by the name-plate bearers at the LA Games in 1984 - dressed as mini-skirted nurses - or at Seoul 1988, where they were decked out in white leather boots and matching peaked caps.

Yes we have a section of books on the Olympics.


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Photograph © Getty Images, from How To Watch the Olympics

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