A ceremony that won over even the most stubborn of sceptics – myself included.
With the negative publicity around the run-up to the Olympics, Danny Boyle had his work cut out. Given that context – and the wider global and economic political contexts, this was a challenge that few would not have been found wanting. Yet Boyle managed to achieve what everyone else at the top of the Olympics’ tree failed to do: Unite the nation around something to do with the Olympics. (Well…most of it anyway!) If you want to watch the full four hours again, it’s here.
I’m not going to say everything about it was perfect. These things never are – whether it was the sound engineering failure at the very end with Paul McCartney or issues with Liberty’s Shami Chakrabarti appearing at the same time protesters in London were being kettled and arrested. Others complained about some of the political overtones around praising the NHS. But the Olympics were always going to be political. Spending that amount of public money and passing what has turned out to be controversial pieces of legislation to get the games going meant politics was never going to be avoided.
As far as opening ceremonies go, the sheer numbers of people and the manner in which they performed made it feel like a much more humanised performance than some of their technically superb predecessors. The fusing of art, music, performance, new media, technology, science and engineering was astounding as it was brilliant. Yet at the same time, there was something wonderfully anarchic about a whole series of features – whether it was the lesbian kiss streamed live into regimes (whose representatives were in the stadium – where was that camera shot?) where people can be executed for their sexuality to the inclusion of acts such as The Sex Pistols and The Prodigy.
A military pageant this is not. For me this was not a bad thing – because if the opening ceremony was about all things military, it would have ended up repeating the Jubilee. The Olympics Opening Ceremony had to be different. And it was. London is the host city. Therefore it was not unreasonable to have London ‘as is’ to be a core feature of proceedings. Aidan Burley MP may not have liked this, but then he’s got to live with himself – lucky man.
The two things that stood out for me were Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s feature – and the message that the internet was for everyone, and the way the Olympic flame was brilliantly formed. Rather than having one person lighting one flame, it a previous generation of Olympians handing over the flames to a future generation, lighting individual flames that together formed a greater flame when put together.
For me, those two messages alone – that the internet (and by extension the world) is for all of us, and that when we come together and co-operate we are greater than the sum of our parts – are beautiful messages. That’s what I took away from the opening ceremony.
Thank you Danny. (& All who took part & helped make this amazing show).