As millions of people watched the closing stages of the opening ceremony from the Olympic Stadium in Japan, Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1971 single, which his wife has said is about relinquishing the “divisive control mechanisms of borders, nationalism, warfare, religious constructs or ownership”, received a new rendition on the grandest of stages.
Activists and singers Keith Urban and John Legend – each of whom reportedly have net worths of around $75 million – were among those to melodramatically recite the former Beatles’ lyrics in a supposed show of solidarity.
The song, as some pointed out, made little sense in the context of a stadium that had just been filled by athletes from all 206 nations taking part in the Games.
“‘Imagine there’s no countries’ wouldn’t make for much of an international sporting competition, would it?” asked one, referencing Lennon’s lyrics, which would make the Olympics extremely logistically difficult were they to be realized.
“Imagine there are no countries… after the parade of nations,” boggled another.
Well over a year after the song soundtracked one of the most poorly-received celebrity videos of the pandemic, many viewers demonstrated that they had not forgotten the version published by Gal Gadot, which was widely reviled as “cringe” thanks to the perceived smugness of the individuals involved above a desire to inspire community-mindedness among people.
“Of all the songs they could have chosen, they choose ‘Imagine’,” said one critic, accompanying their response with a photo of the high-profile figures from Gadot’s video, who were accused of showing a painful lack of awareness with their message at a time when many were losing their jobs.
“Have we all just collectively forgot about the worst part of the pandemic?”
Ono, 88, tweeted shortly before the song was played as the athletes congregated at the largely-empty stadium, which will not play host to any fans throughout the Olympics after the International Olympic Committee reached agreement with local and national authoirites amid rising Covid-19 rates in Japan.
“The song ‘Imagine’ embodied what we believed together at the time,” said Ono, whose husband was shot dead in 1980.
“John and I met – he comes from the west and I come from the east – and still we are together.”
A statement from the organizers said that the song invited people to “imagine a peaceful world without illusion in the present moment; without the divisive control mechanisms of borders, nationalism, warfare, religious constructs or ownership, where life and all its riches are shared in peace and harmony worldwide.”
One unimpressed onlooker joked about another crooner who poked fun at Lennon’s wealth.
“It is total dreck, isn’t it?” they pointed out. “And a man [Lennon] who has an entire apartment just to store his fur coats singing about imagining a world with no money is peak hypocrisy.
“Elton John mocked it nicely: ‘Imagine six apartments, it isn’t hard to do. One is full of fur coats, another full of shoes.'”
An apologist hit back: “Don’t be so jaded. Gal’s bad take didn’t ruin an amazing song forever, and world unity is a completely appropriate theme for the Olympics. Try to have some fun.”
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