I have been trying to imagine a parallel world where the vote in 2005 went as expected and Paris ended up hosting the 2012 Olympics.
I think it would have gone OK and we would have watched and been relieved that we didn’t get it, thinking we would have made a hash of it – how would we have known that we were capable of getting it all right? Paris does have some fantastic landmarks and brilliant open spaces for events and, arguably it is a better-looking city than London. It also has some really crappy areas that could have done with the sort of makeover that the East End has got.
There would have been iconic images of beach volleyball in the courtyard of Versailles – an area which does get used for large-scale concerts sometimes – and of course the marathon and/or cycle road races ending on the Champs Elysee as well as events in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, but what about the opening ceremony?
I like to think it would have been handed to Luc Besson to write and direct so it would have been narrated by Jean Reno and feature an unprecedented number of car chases and gunfights. Jean-Michel Jarre would have provided the soundtrack and Zidane would have lit the flame by kicking a burning football 50 metres into a giant baguette-shaped cauldron.
Actually I think it would have been a damn good show. The French have a flair for spectacle: just think of the laser, light and fireworks of Jean-Michel Jarre shows, or the giant puppets of the Royale de Luxe theatre company (famous for the Sultan’s Elephant), or the legendary circus Archaos or the Urban Sax collective. It is almost a given that Tambours du Bronx would have featured at some point – they are like Stomp, except they were doing it before Stomp was even thought of.
It would have been terribly arty though, I suspect. Victor Hugo and Jules Verne would have featured heavily. Possibly even thousands of volunteers recreating impressionist masterpieces in the stadium while 400 can can dancers circled them.
I think it would have been a memorable show, but I’m glad it came to London and gave us the chance to be pleasantly surprised by what London acheived. Also there would always have been a danger of the dreaded Michel Sardou singing in one of the ceremonies, the thought of which is enough to make me remember Paul McCartney’s set fondly.
We will never know, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been as much fun as the London games were.