x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Musicians vie for Olympic position

Whoever plays the 2012 Olympic Games will reap the benefit of performing before a Live Aid-sized audience.

Paul McCartney has confirmed he’s in talks to play at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. Victor R Caivano / AP Photo
Paul McCartney has confirmed he’s in talks to play at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. Victor R Caivano / AP Photo

The musicians fortunate enough to play at the London Olympic Games' opening ceremony this year will enjoy a prestigious gig with a Live Aid-like global-reach: not only is their honour at stake, but those who seize the day will likely enjoy a concomitant surge in album sales.

"Coverage of the 2012 Olympic Games represents the biggest single broadcast event in the BBC's history," predicts the corporation's director-general Mark Thompson. Lord Coe, chairman of the 2012 Olympics Committee, says Britain will embrace a Halley's Comet-like moment.

In terms of sheer scale and spectacle, the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing 2008 Games set the bar high. Only the British "hand-over" segment of the closing ceremony was somewhat underwhelming. Who could forget Leona Lewis and Jimmy Page awkwardly miming Whole Lotta Love atop a double-decker London bus? Who could forget the decidedly amateur-theatre-like cast of "commuters" who looked on?

Keen to erase that memory, perhaps, the prime minister David Cameron is sparing no expense on the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. Indeed, when the event's artistic director Danny Boyle visited Downing Street recently to show two six-minute films previewing his plans, he was able to persuade the prime minister to increase funding from £40 million (Dh225m) to £80m.

Boyle - the Oscar-winning auteur behind the films Slumdog Millionaire and Shallow Grave - is working closely with the event's musical directors, Underworld, and he and the electronic act led by Karl Hyde and Rick Smith go back a long way. Underworld's Born Slippy NUXX featured on the soundtrack of the Boyle-directed Trainspotting, while last year, he and the band collaborated on a stage production of Mary Shelley's gothic tale, Frankenstein.

"It's a great honour and one we're taking very seriously," Hyde told the BBC regarding Underworld's Olympic duties. "It's certainly not something we'll get the chance to do again."

Exactly who will be billed alongside Underworld on July 27 is still the topic of much speculation. "Olympic flame tempts Pink Floyd," wrote the Daily Express on January 3, but a representative of the band's guitarist soon refuted the claim, stating: "Dave Gilmour can confirm that there is no truth in media speculation that Pink Floyd are reuniting to perform at the 2012 Olympics."

Another obvious choice, and a name that keeps popping up, is Paul McCartney. The epic strains of Live and Let Die would certainly be appropriate for the cut and thrust of the Olympic arena, and Macca has confirmed that he's in talks to play at the opening ceremony. Ringo Starr, by contrast, has long-since quashed hopes that the Games might prompt something of a Beatles reunion.

"I'll be touring America, so I won't be doing it," he told the press assembled at last year's Mojo Awards.

Elsewhere, over at Newnownext.com, editors are all aflutter about The Spice Girls, claiming that Posh, Baby, Scary, Sporty and Ginger may be reuniting for an Olympic performance.

"[It's] enough to cause a zig-a-zig-ah of excitement," says reporter Chris Spargo.

Given that The Spice Girls and comedian Jennifer Saunders are currently hatching Viva Forever, a West End musical based on the group's songs, an appearance at the Games doesn't seem so far-fetched.

More prosaically, one of the most heartwarming stories about bands who may or may not play the opening ceremony centres around Britpop also-rans Shed Seven. Galvanised by the title of 1996 single Going for Gold, fans of the York-formed group have launched a Facebook page that aims to have the song adopted as Team GB's unofficial anthem.

Though the Guy Garvey-led Elbow have been commissioned to compose the BBC's official Olympics theme, Shed Seven guitarist Paul Banks told York newspaper The Press that his band, too, has much to offer: "... Shed Seven have always been the underdogs [of] the British music scene, but we are still fighting and working hard. That probably sums up the Great Britain team quite well, really."

The theme song of the Moscow 1980 Olympics was Moscow Gives the Start, while the Barcelona 1992 Games featured Barcelona by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe. Literal song titles are the norm, then, but what should the instrumental music at an Olympic Games opening ceremony convey? Nobility, conviction and a sense of excellence seem apposite, and mindful of that, perhaps, those preview films Boyle screened at Downing Street reportedly featured excerpts from Edward Elgar's Nimrod.

It's Britain's pop cultural capital that translates best, though, and that's why I'd like to see The Rolling Stones top the bill when the London Olympics kick off on July 27. Jagger, Richards and company are true rock champions, and in Start Me Up, they have the perfect song for the occasion.

As for who actually will play on the day, don't expect an official announcement just yet: Björk's August 13 appearance at the Athens 2004 Games was only confirmed three weeks before lift-off. The London 2012 opening ceremony will likely have a trick or two up its sleeve, too.

artslife@thenational.ae