In the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for this summer’s Olympics Games, Britain stayed local, presenting series of performers who were inextricably linked to British culture. For the Closing Ceremonies of the Paralympics, though, the games’ organizers took a different approach, calling up a trio of global pop heavyweights: Rihanna, Jay-Z and token Brits Coldplay (and they, of all the British rockers to come out of the ’90s, always seemed least interested with the U.K. as a place). That a former drug dealer from Brooklyn, a dancehall queen from Barbados and a group of art school boys from London could not only perform together at the Olympics, but also have a solid catalogue of prior collaborations to draw from? If you’re looking for things in pop to be happy about, you can start right there.
The night started as Coldplay strummed the dulcet tones of “Princess of China,” as Rihanna sailed around the arena in a boat. Chris Martin and Ri-Ri may have set the record for largest physical distance between two duet partners, but Rihanna eventually did dock onstage:
Next up, Coldplay’s “Strawberry Swing” morphed into “We Found Love,” the performance of which was mostly dancers rocking out to Calvin Harris as a pitchy Rihanna swayed above the fray in a gigantic swing—a fine metaphor for the song itself, if you think about it:
Then Jay came onstage and everyone teamed up for “Run This Town,” with Rihanna adding a touch more Caribbean patois to the hook:
Finally, a remix of “Paradise” complete with a new Jay verse:
Yes, the global focus of the ceremony meant that the whole thing could have been taking place anywhere. But where it did take place was London, and wasn’t that the message of this summer’s Games? It may not be beautiful and it may not be glamorous, but the London is where the world comes.
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