Rio 2016 TV View: Babs Keating squeezes into Parade of Nations

The theory of women forgetting the pain of childbirth could apply to George Hamilton and Olympic opening ceremonies

Brazil unfurled a vast canvas celebrating its rainforest and the creative energy of its wildly diverse population in welcoming the world on Friday (August 5) to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Video: Reuters


The Parade of Nations, 2.43am and in waltzed Turkmenistan. “A central Asian country,” said George Hamilton, and that’s pretty much all he was prepared to share with us, having Wikipediaed us in to submission earlier in the night. By Turkmenistan, tough, he sounded like a man - and this is not to impugn his professional integrity - who’d lost the will to live.

Actually, he’d sounded a bit that way 43 minutes earlier when Kiribati ambled in to the stadium, the realisation that there were still in or around 100 nations to come making George pine for the days when despots ruled the world, quashed independence efforts and kept Olympic Opening Ceremony Parade of Nations down to a watchable 30ish flag-waving ensembles.

You know that theory about women forgetting the pain of childbirth so that they’ll go through it all over again? That might have been Opening Ceremony-veteran George. When Greece kicked off the Parade of Nations he had all the enthusiasm of a first-time mother-to-be, high on emotion over bringing a new life in to the world, but not since those Nazis found refuge in that south American country was anyone so happy to see Brazil. True, the speeches and torch thing were were still to come, but at least he knew there were no more nations left to parade.

The BBC had, at least, a duo on duty, so if, say, Hazel Irvine nodded off, Andrew Cotter could take over. But George had no company at all in his commentary box, not even a Ronnie Whelan to plug a gap with, say, ‘ah Jaysus George, what’s with the Serbians’ skirts?’

(If you didn’t see them, they were the kind that would play havoc with your telly’s horizontal hold).

Before then, George had defied the bookies’ odds on ‘Will Babs Keating get a mention during the 20016 Olympic Games’ Opening Ceremony’s Parade of Nations? (1,000,000,000,000,000,000-1), recalling his barefoot days when some nation or other passed through featuring an athlete who once ran without shoes and survived to live the tale, but might not have done if it was Kilkenny he was facing in a 1971 All-Ireland final.

Come Turkmenistan, though, there was still Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, Uganda, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Zambia, the Refugee Olympic Team and Brazil to arrive, the Greeks ruing the day they ever kicked off the Olympics, having to wait centre-field on a couple of hundred nations, feeling as antiquated as the Acropolis by the time they all turned up.

It was the 1980 Opening Ceremony when Jimmy Magee, very famously, dissed the planet’s dove population by describing pigeons as ‘the international symbol of peace’, and while George avoided any such faux pas, he totally failed to address the night’s burning question:

Why did most nations have a bicycle laden with flowerpots lead them in to the stadium, but some didn’t?

Not that we’ll ever know if China was awarded the Flower Bike honour because RTE went on an ad break once they appeared, making us vow never again to slag TV3 whey they give us a break from their live rugby coverage.

The opening ceremony? Rather lovely, actually, apart from that bit where they informed us that we have so buggered up the planet we’re essentially doomed. But, that aside, it was pretty, especially because of that oldie plane flying over Rio, and because it all cost 10 per cent of London 2012’s extravaganza. And because Paulinho Da Viola just strummed the Brazilian national anthem on his guitar, which was divine, almost as perfect as that time Slim Dusty plucked Waltzing Matilda on his geetar at the Sydney Games’ closing ceremony. There still isn’t a dry eye in the house.

Parade of Nations done, time for a speech or two, Carlos Nuzman, the head of the Rio 2016 committee, doffing his cap to IOC president Thomas Bach because “he always believe in the sex”.

That might have woken George up, especially after the news that a record 450,000 condoms have been made available to athletes in the Olympic Village this year, but Carlos corrected himself and noted that it’s “success’ Thomas always believes in, children with wings nodding behind him, because children with wings always nod behind Olympic big-wigs at opening ceremonies.

Opening Ceremony survived, let the Games commence. At least George and ourselves know it’ll be another four years before we have to sandwich a barefooted Babs Keating between Kiribati and Turkmenistan. And that’s a very good thing.

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