Sport World Cup

Sunday 31 August 2014

Opening ceremony in Brazil pushes ITV's Clive Tyldesley over the edge

Alan Tyers

Published 13/06/2014 | 09:55

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United States singer Jennifer Lopez, rapper Pitbull, and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte perform during the opening ceremony ahead of the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia
United States singer Jennifer Lopez, rapper Pitbull, and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte perform during the opening ceremony ahead of the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia
A spectator cheers before the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament
A spectator cheers before the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament
A fan poses before the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Cup at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
A fan poses before the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Cup at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo

It was about 11 minutes into the World Cup opening ceremony that Clive Tyldesley finally cracked.

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The array of twirling performers, purple men on stilts and people dressed up as trees was already bewildering, but after a particularly confusing segment, seemingly about the different dances indigenous to Brazil, Clive escaped from his moorings and begun just barking out Brazilian things.

Carmen Miranda! The Girl from Ipanema”” yelped Clive, clearly overrun, as dozens and dozens more brightly coloured people joined the fray, gyrating and dancing around the pitch in a fashion that former commentary sidekick Big Ron Atkinson would no doubt have noted as that of “an amusement arcade”. Clive, it seemed, was Patient Zero in a World Cup fever outbreak.

And who can blame him? This was an especially bonkers ceremony. There is no tougher gig for the sports broadcaster than trying to illuminate these opening festivities, designed as they are by flamboyant foreign types with scant regard for narrative, taste, logic or even basic understanding of the triggers of migraine.

In addition to trying to make sense of the spectacle unfolding in front of him, Clive was also charged with trying to add some gravitas to the action, leading to some wonderfully ‘sourced from Wikipedia’ asides, such as the pub quiz-tastic “we’ll be getting some insights into Brazil, the world’s fifth largest country” and possibly the least interesting fact ever broadcast on terrestrial TV, something about the exact weight distribution allowed on a stilt.

One can only wonder at how difficult it must be to do these commentaries live, while keeping the correct tone of respectful reverence even when the action is sometimes of school production quality, as parts of this were. Brazil, in addition, seems to present extra difficulties for media: the temptation to lapse into cliches about samba, the beautiful game, football on the beach et al sometimes feels irresistible. ITV’s pre-ceremony montage and chat may have hit all the right notes, but overly familiar notes they are too: let’s just hope that we don’t have to watch Ian Wright interviewing people on the Rio beach every night on TV, or we might start hoping that the Brazil government just get it over and done with and declare martial law.

The ceremony began pleasingly, peacefully, with ambient music and smiley young people who had painted themselves green to reflect the unparalleled biodiversity of Brazil, or the unparalleled amount of green paint that the organisers had managed to get their hands on.

Clive, one should note, was having to yak about all of this without his rock, Andy Townsend. Andy gets quite the kicking from football fans for his co-commentary style, but his “say what you see” approach would have been ideal for this sort of event: “Well Clive, there’s a bloke on a canoe. For me, representing the Amazonian peoples, but for me, Clive, the giant woman dancer will have wanted to do better as her embodiment of the country’s plethora of different races.”

Still, it was all harmless fun, in a lashings-of-neon-paint-and-papier-mâché sort of way, but proceedings took a major downturn after 20 minutes. A giant ball in the centre of the pitch opened to reveal no less a personage than J-Lo, alongside a Brazilian singing lady called Claudia Leitte, and a man called Pitbull, a rap star from Miami whose work, I am sure, needs no introduction to any Telegraph reader. He has won a Latin Grammy, it says here, so well done to Pitbull.

This trio performed the official World Cup single which was, to these middle-aged ears at least, officially awful, although this may in part have owed to the sound quality and it appeared that J-Lo’s microphone might have been turned off, presumably as the result of a technical error rather than a Linda McCartney-style tactical muting. Pitbull, though, was having a grand old time.

Suddenly, without warning, it all came to an end and we were back with Adrian Chiles in the TV studio. It seemed scarcely credible that the Dark Lord had chosen not to make a speech, but the festivities came and went without so much as a “Welcome, minions,” from Sepp Blatter, and for that at least, we should all be absolutely delighted.

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