*Your unofficial guide to "everything" that's "important" for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.
1. David Beckham Is Cool Again
Who knew that all it would take for Becks to be Becks again was for him to kick himself out of England, get banished from England, make nice with Tom Cruise, go on Ellen, drop out of (relevant) soccer, stop shaving, and start jumping into photo booths?
Adidas sponsored something a couple days ago, where Becks surprised a bunch of English folks while they had their Team GB photos snapped -- including Hugh Grant's sister from Notting Hill and Hugh Grant's adopted son from About a Boy. It was heartwarming to say the least, and Beckham returned to the world's good books.
For a while, all we could really identify with -- culturally -- when it came to that tiny island above France was Harry Potter, The Beatles, and Becks. The last one had fallen off a bit, but we're glad to see he's found a home off the pitch.
2. The English Are Begging You To Make Fun Of Them
In 2010, English commentators and columnists had their way with Vancouver, blasting the city for its (damn) nice weather and its (damn) poor Opening Ceremonies. The countdown began in earnest for Vancouverites (and Canadians before they collectively hated the Canucks) who couldn't wait the full two years before they would get to blast Londoners for their showing, which promised plenty of sayings like, "Oh, good stuff, ol' sport!" and "Good Heavens, Sir!"
Now, it seems the English are just doing that for us. It's kind of like how Eminem started off the final rap battle in 8 Mile. Hey, if you can say it about yourself, what can they say about you, right?
London's Opening Ceremonies will feature 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens, nine geese, and an onslaught of "quirky" humour from director Danny Boyle, the English filmmaker whose only commercial success has come in directing movies about India (there was another film, too). You know, India... the country that loves England.
Okay, wait, 70 sheep? Where is John Cleese? This has to be a Monty Python sketch...
3. London Is Actually Awesome
Regardless of all the fun we'll have mocking their accents (you invented the language but you can't speak it?), England is a fantastic country and London is the world's capital. No, really, it's true. If you don't agree, you haven't been there. The beer tastes good, even if you don't like beer. Their teeth seem less yellow because the sky is always grey. The buildings are tall but historic, and you always feel like you're walking somewhere uniquely special but still adaptable, which is important if you're North American. It's Canada's home away from home.
4. Speaking Of That...
This is surely to be (that sounded English, right?) an incredible Olympics for visiting Canadians. Unless anyone in England reads this column, the two countries and their people have a terrific relationship, buoyed by some classic, traditional ribbing of the Americans. You know, things like their fat people, their bad sitcoms, their South, etc.
Luckily for Canada and GB, they'll have plenty of material to work with there.
5. We're Not Very Good At the Summer Olympics
This is very important. Any Olympics can be enjoyable if you're realistic about your expectations.
If you're Canadian and you're planning on watching the Games so you can see our record medal haul or some fantastic Wheaties box moments like Alex Bilodeau's moguls win or Sidney Crosby's overtime goal, it won't happen. We have, like, one or two athletes with an actual shot at gold, and the rest are just the rest. And, often, those one or two athletes don't win when they're supposed to.
It's actually comforting to know that we won't be anywhere near the podium on most days. In Vancouver, we watched in agony when we didn't medal in something, or when the Americans, the Germans, or the Norwegians did. Now, we can just sit back with a bag of popcorn and enjoy it all.
And, we can cheer on Team USA, which is actually kind of fun because they make a way bigger deal of this stuff.
6. Yes, The Olympics Has Already Started
On Wednesday, the Games actually started with six soccer games. (Canada lost 2-1 to Japan, by the way.) There's more soccer -- sorry, football -- on Thursday, and the Opening Ceremonies go Friday night.
Call it a soft opening, but without Danny Ocean.
7. CTV Kind Of Sucks At This Stuff
CBC wasn't that much better during its final years, but expect CTV to unleash its full barrage of sports personalities and interns on you, complete with continuing examples of shameless self-promotion and plenty of awkward moments where Jay Onrait tries to sit on a soft couch.
Oh yeah, and then expect a two-hour special one year later where CTV explains how great they are.
8. (Canada's) Brian Williams Likes To Talk
Never tell a news guy he's good at poetry. "It was as if a river of red and white had swept across our country." Ah yes, I believe it was Yeats who said that...
9. The English Are Really, Really Good At This Stuff
You know the usual players in Canada: Brian Williams (oy), James Duthie, Chris Cuthbert, Lisa Laflamme, and Peter Mansbridge, if CBC can get accreditation. And, in the States, you have Bob Costas, Brian Williams (the real one), and (hopefully) Al Michaels. Jon Stewart? Stephen Colbert? Maybe.
But, in England, they churn out on-air quality and well-spoken words like it's one of their well-aged mixes of hops and barley, and they do it with folks whose names you've never heard of. The BBC crushes this stuff. Their talent is impeccable, and their coverage is genuine. They're spoiled by proper newsmen and newswomen over there, while we try to cobble together as many familiar faces as we can find and then preach to you about how proud you should be about yourself.
In England, they don't worry about things like pride or poetry. They know they're good. They just don't want you to know they know it.
10. Have fun.
(*This was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.)