Olympic show: Variations on a theme

Just as important as the opening and closing ceremonies, but not often considered, is the way the Games are presented. Nor is this something that can be judged all at once, but rather is the result of a continual effort renewed daily, in every venue, within every sport, every step of the way, from the time the spectators arrive at the stadium gates to the end of the awards ceremony. This is not as simple or obvious as it might seem. There are conflicting opinions in international sporting circles as to how this presentation should be made. If the tendency of recent years prevails, then very soon sporting events will be turned into shows, with dancers in the stadiums, video walls, laser shows, smoke, colors and lights, comperes and rousing music that will push the sporting event and exhausted athletes out of the limelight. So it will be very interesting to see what we will be shown during the next two weeks, what the setting for the Games will be and the aesthetic approach. Video walls Some of the questions being asked concern broadcasts on the video walls in the stadium, the kind of music to be played before, even during, and after each event, which nations’ music will be played, and the appropriate commentary. Then there are decisions regarding the awards ceremonies, because besides the standard procedures, there is a considerable margin for variations to the accompanying imagery, sound and movement. National anthems can also be played in different ways, as is happening in Athens, where a symphony orchestra is to be used for all the countries’ anthems, instead of bands, with a one-minute limit for all. The Athens 2004 Organizing Committee has set up an entire department to deal with these issues, with 1,000 people (one-fifth of them volunteers) led by Antonis Zaglakoutis. «I think the need to present the Games as a show emerged when the victor’s wreath was no longer enough, either for the athlete or for the spectators. They all wanted something more,» explained Zaglakoutis. «The people who go to the stadiums naturally want to see the athletes compete, but they also want it to be well presented, with image and sound. I believe that this is an issue that future Games organizers will be dealing with in some depth, because the international trend is for the Games to be a spectacle, a show.» Technology This is not, however, what the Greeks have decided to do. «Our decision, in line with the Organizing Committee’s general policy, is that the spectacle is above all the Games themselves,» emphasized Zaglakoutis. «Of course we will vary the framework, but we will not add anything more than what is necessary to make everything comprehensible and pleasant. Of course we will use whatever means are dictated by the times and offered by modern technology – videoboards, music and so on – but the important thing is how one uses it. The way it is used and the balance achieved between the different media is what makes the difference. You will use the video screen to show something about the event before it starts, its history, development, techniques, its greatest athletes, but not, for example, to show a volcano exploding when a goal is scored or to bombard the audience with ‘explosive’ music.»