On Friday I said I couldn’t wait to see what Danny Boyle had come up with. Turned out I did have to wait, as I went out on Friday night to my cousin’s engagement party (congrats Alan and Lisa)!
Fortunately, we have the technology, and tonight I was able to cue up my Freeview+ box to enjoy the Opening Ceremony – all four hours of it.
I’m late to the party, so I will spare you all a detailed analysis – suffice to say it lived up to the Isle of Wonder title. In stark contrast to the dreary Jubilee celebrations a couple of months ago, this was a celebration of the real Britain that the rest of us actually live in – modern, diverse, Britain, with all its flaws and beauty. It’s no surprise that the Daily Mail hated it.
That’s not to say it was tradition-free: Morris Dancers, Jerusalem and members of the armed forces (actually involved with the show, not just filling in for G4S staff). But we also got references to EastEnders and Trainspotting, plus a brief glimpse of the Brookside lesbian kiss (bet that went down well in Saudi Arabia). A potted history of pop Music, from the Beatles to Dizzee Rascal via Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Then, to top it all off: an unashamed celebration of the National Health Service which David Cameron had to sit through.
The Queen “jumping out” of a helicopter with James Bond was a highlight. It seemed to be an attempt to show the Monarch as a individual with a sense of humour and it worked – a shame, then, that she spent the rest of the ceremony looking so bored. The camera cut to her as the Team GB athletes walked in – she was looking away and picking her fingernails!
The absolute best moment, however, had to be the appearance of Tim Berners-Lee. As he waved awkwardly at the crowd, I wondered how many people in the stadium actually appreciated the contribution he has made – not only did he invent the World Wide Web, but he gave it away for free to everyone to use and enjoy as they saw fit.
For overseas viewers, used to the plastic pomp and pageantry that we usually project at national events, it must have been slightly bewildering. For me, it worked. I have never been overly patriotic, mainly because a lot of aspects of British life (hereditary privilege, football, reality TV) annoy me. But Mr Bean? Shami Chakrabarti? A multiracial choir from East London singing the national anthem? Yeah, I can go along with that.
Praise is rightly being heaped on the show’s director, Danny Boyle, but let’s not forget who has the writing credit: a Scouser, Frank Cotrell Boyce. He has written a first-hand account of his experience putting the show together.
Boyce deserves special praise for this: The Dangerous Conversation, a letter which he sent to various parties regarding Dow Chemical’s involvement in the Games.
There’s still lots to be cynical about with these Games (the empty seats, the heavy-handed policing, the fact that the men’s beach volleyball players are wearing vests), but the Opening Ceremony has gone some way to compensate for that for me.