Of the many moving moments in the Olympic opening ceremonies this evening, one of the most poignant for me was the “Chariots of Fire” sequence. Yes, Mr. Bean was hilarious. But on the screen, running along the beach, was Ian Charleson, the beautiful Scottish actor, who was my friend at LAMDA in 1971-72. Unlike the rest of us, Ian left drama school before graduating – so talented, he didn’t need further training. He went on to a stellar career of brilliance and grace, and died of AIDS in 1990, at the age of 40.
And then, after all that, after pastoral England, the industrial revolution and giant rings of fire, the British health service, Becks in a speedboat, J.K. Rowling reading “Peter Pan” and Voldemort and Mary Poppins flying about, after the Queen and James Bond jumping out of a helicopter, children singing and teens dancing and stunning fireworks, a tribute to the world wars and moving portraits of dead loved ones, after the endless parade of athletes, thousands of gorgeous young people, some from countries I’ve never heard of, and the spectacle of the flame – after all that, who but my boy to finish the night? Sir Paul at the piano, 70 years old and 22, leading the crowd in “Hey Jude,” an anthem of our time and all time. What a guy. What a night.
And what joy for me to watch it at my daughter’s place with Eli on my lap. I wanted him to see Paul McCartney for the first time. Okay, he was asleep, but for sure, that music entered his consciousness. Anna invited me over to watch, and it was such a perfect summer day, I decided to try for the first time to ride my bike along the lake, from east to west. It took me 48 minutes door to door. I dandled the baby through the ceremony, though he slept in his baby swing part of the time, and afterwards we ate a shishkebab dinner Anna had prepared. And then my bike and I took the streetcar home. I won’t watch much of the Games themselves, not caring that much who wins at beach volleyball (really? an Olympic sport?) or badminton or weightlifting. But it was a wonderful thing to watch the young athletes of Iran enter the stadium, followed by Iraq, followed by Ireland, then Israel, then Italy. What a confluence. Lock those 5 countries in a room with a lot of good food, and see if something good happens, no?
I hope the games are a triumph for England, my mother’s homeland. I hope Eli gets to hear Paul many more times. Ian – you are remembered, and you are missed.