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Celebrities keeping a low profile at the Olympic Games

McCartney celebrates Britain’s gold medal wins alongside his daughter Stella.

LONDON: Now that’s more like it. Mick Jagger has dropped by Olympic Stadium to watch some track and field, providing relief to celebrity-watchers who worried that the world’s biggest sporting event has been a little lacking in star power – off the field, that is.

The Rolling Stones singer, who was photographed Monday chatting with London organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe at the stadium, is not the only A-lister to take in the Games. But most are keeping a low profile.

It’s as if they know that for this brief period, they’re not the stars – the athletes are.

“My advice would be, go on holiday for two or three weeks,” PR guru Max Clifford advised celebrities. “I think the danger is that they could be seen to be cashing in, and the public would find that offensive. And it would remind people how empty most of them are.”

The London Games have played to huge crowds, dozens of dignitaries and a healthy sprinkling of royalty, with Prince William, his wife Kate and Prince Harry popping up at everything from swimming to sailing to gymnastics to cheer on the British team.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was spotted at the Olympic Stadium Tuesday, and actress Susan Sarandon watched men’s water polo alongside gold medalist Carl Lewis Monday. Billionaire Bill Gates has attended events including table tennis and beach volleyball.

But megastars have been few and far between. Nicole Kidman went to the opening ceremony – “Wow!” was the reaction posted on her official Facebook page – and attended a party at the Omega House hospitality venue as a face of the watch brand.

Paul McCartney, who closed the opening ceremony with “Hey Jude,” has shown up several times at the Olympic Stadium and the Velodrome.

But Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, both filming in Britain this summer, have so far gone undetected both at the Games and in London nightspots – to the regret of the world’s paparazzi.

One deterrent to an Olympic visit could be the concentration in one spot of thousands of the world’s media.

While it’s fairly easy for the rich and famous to blend in amid the hordes visiting Olympic Park, there’s no skipping Olympic security – even if you’re a star, or the fastest man on Earth. Sprinter Usain Bolt complained about being told to stand in a straight line and not being allowed to take his jump rope and iPad through security.

No surprise, then, that many stars have chosen to enjoy the Olympics from afar, and offer virtual support to their favorite athletes on Twitter.

Samuel L. Jackson has been the most prolific, live-tweeting nearly every event and cheering on competitors from around the world in a riot of capital letters and creative language.

Jackson was among the many stars who congratulated Venus and Serena Williams on their gold medal in doubles tennis, tweeting: “Gotta give Late Props to VENUS & Serena! TREYPEATING GOLD!!! Midas ain’t got Nothing on Y’all!! Go USA!!”

Swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Gabby Douglas were hailed by everyone from Lil Wayne to Michelle Obama, while 17-year-old American gold medal swimmer Missy Franklin received a special tweet from her celebrity crush, Justin Bieber.

“Heard (at)FranklinMissy is a fan of mine. now im a fan of hers too. CONGRATS on winning GOLD! (hash)muchlove,” the pop star posted.

Franklin was impressed. “I just died!” she tweeted back. “Thankyou!”

It’s a sign of the times to see celebrities praising athletes, even those largely unknown outside their own disciplines just weeks ago.

The Games have brought an Olympian round of soul-searching about the nature of fame. A mood has swelled that – never mind professional athletes and overpaid actors – Olympic champions should be the real celebrities.

In the Independent newspaper, columnist Grace Dent gave notice to the assorted “spare Kardashians” and other reality TV mini-stars: “Your time is up.

“Or maybe this will all end and we’ll go back to round-the-clock monitoring of Cheryl Cole again. You decide.”

Clifford predicted that the status quo would soon return once the Games end Sunday. Editors “can’t fill the papers with stories of Olympians every week, because Olympians aren’t publicity conscious,” he said. “Most of them are quite shy and retiring.”

Celebrity, he added, requires a certain shamelessness. “Respect is not a word you tend to think of” with many celebs, Clifford said. “But with Olympians you do.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 09, 2012, on page 13.

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