Though it has slipped under many people’s radar, there is some sort of World Cup due to be held. Soccer City, Johannesburg is the venue for the start of this summer (winter)’s festivities. South Africa and Mexico wait in the wings to entertain us with some actual – wait for it – football. But first, of course, comes the dubious pleasure of the opening ceremony.
There are many people amongst you, I know, who are keen fans of sports opening and closing ceremonies. Your regular correspondent on this site is one of them. I, however, remain resolutely not of their number. Will the offering from the biggest sporting event ever to be hosted on the African continent change my mind? The world waits with somethingapproximating baited breath, no doubt. Or that could just be excited anticipation for the World Cup, it’s hard to say for sure. Actually, it’s not.
Keep tuned to twohundredpercent this afternoon, then, for the sceptic’s guide to the opening ceremony, LIVE! This will be followed by my report on the opening game, and later on Gavin Saxton will be offering his take on Group A’s meeting between France and Uruguay.
12:52 Meridian News here in Southern England informs me that Florence and the Machine are due to arrive at the Isle of Wight Festival imminently for this weekend’s performance. This is good news for all us World Cup watchers, as it means they will not be performing at the opening ceremony.
12:58 There’s a free England flag in The Sun this Saturday. That soundyou heard was the last vestiges of my wanting England to win deserting me, a mere 2 minutes before the tournment begins.
13:00 And we’re off. ITV’s opening titles are grotesquely predictable in both music and images. But the appearance of Adrian Chiles after it died down was oddly soothing. And doesn’t Kaka look like Donny Osmond?
13:03 ITV’s World Cup studio is absolutely vast. It’s like a cross between the TARDIS and a recently-vacated off licence premises.
13:04 Jim Rosenthal, Lucas Radebe and Francois Pienaar are inside the stadium, barely even pretending they can make themselves heard over the military jet flypasts and vuvuzelas. Happily, Jim Rosenthal has asked Lucas Radebe to demonstrate the latter. Compelling television.
13:10 The opening ceremony begins with a Eurovision Song Contest-style video. Our commentator on the journey will be Peter Drury. Hardly a promising start to my conversion to loving opening ceremonies.
13:12 ‘The Poet of Africa’ is calling the family of World Nations home. The overarching theme to the ceremony is that human civilisation began in Africa, and now to Africa it returns. On the red button interactive service, meanwhile, is a creationist-friendly version of events instead. Narrated by Aled Jones.
13:14 People have formed nine lines across the pitch, in the direction of the other stadia, to which we are now introduced. Cape Town, Rustenburg, Polokwane, Nelspruit, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, Bloemfontain and Johnannesburg’s Ellis Park. This has excited the vuvuzelas inside Johannesburg’s other stadium, the tenth.
13:17 A singer and choir are now singing the praises of the Dung Beetle, a vast example of which is marching across the field. Now the dung beetle is wheeling a giant football away. But will he be able to keep the flighty new Jabulani under control? Yes, seemingly. This business is growing on me, I confess.
13:20 Nelson Mandela’s first contribution to the World Cup comes in recorded form. The picture which appears on the screen is greeted by excited blasts on vuvuzelas.
13:22 My heart sinks as, with crushing inevitability, I realise that the opening ceremony has commercial break gaps built-into it. A good time to note that the stadium is barely half-full at the moment. I believe traffic snarl-ups are responsible. However, the people in place spreading out and the colouring of the seats makes this appear less obvious. Plus, there’s a bloody great dung beetle about the gaff, what more do you want?
13:26 The theme now becomes Africa United. A pleasing amount of tribal dancing in rainbow colours, animal skins and feathery headgear ensues. Now we start to meet the competing countries, with the CAF qualifiers first. Each one looks set to be represented by a singer from that country. Thank god for the Isle of Wight Festival claiming Florence and the Machine first. The African continent is also represented by a big baobab tree which has been built on the centre podium. For Europe, they will make a financial black hole from paper mache and interpretive dance.
13:33 All 208 competing countries are now saluted by R.Kelly. For the 176 sides not to make it, you may have thought that your pain and humiliation was over, but in fact it’s just beginning. Trust this to be the one time no-one parps their sodding vuvuzela.
13:37 Opening ceremonies were better when the teams paraded around. Now we have to make to with flags and a group of schoolhildren spelling the names of the countries out with orange footballs. For clarity and the colour-blind, they also shout out the name of the competing nation, which renders this part of affairs sounding not dissimilar to Black Man by Stevie Wonder from the seminal 1976 work, Songs in the Key of Life.
13:41 Another break. This allows me to wonder how good a show this business would be for the people inside Soccer City: the entire affair seems to have been designed to work best from the helicopter camera high above the stadium. Nothing a few phat beats can’t take care of, seemingly.
13:46 I never thought I’d say this, but now the ceremony is over, I kind of miss it. Particularly as all that remains to fill the void is ITV’s pre-World Cup punditry. Help me.
13:49 Right, that’s your lot for now. I’ll be back later this afternoon with my look at what happened when some football broke out at this World Cup. Thanks for joining us. I, although perhaps biased, recommend doing so all through the forthcoming month.