Saturday, 28 July 2012

Olympics 2012

What a great start to the games. Apart from the unfortunately prolonged but totally traditional parade by the athletes (next time: perhaps enforce a sprinters-only policy?), and a misjudged end from the Queen Mother of Pop (why, why, why?), it was a surprising triumph. I say "surprising" because I'd already played out doomed scenarios in my head that focused on stodgy "favourites" such as our regal history, Shakespeare, Victoriana, WW2 or cheesy glam-rock. However, while all of these made brief appearances in Boyle's ceremony, it wasn't in thrall to any one of them, or, indeed, any of the other themes that it touched on.

Interestingly, while it started off with a chocolate box version of pre-industrial rural life in Britain, it quickly supplanted this with a rather subversive segment about the industrial revolution. This was both an ambivalent endorsement / critique but also an excellent spectacle, finishing brilliantly with the forging of an Olympic ring. Another unexpected highlight was the prominent positioning of our socialised healthcare system, the NHS, in the ceremony - not at all what I was expecting, and a bit of a provocative inclusion in what are otherwise quite privatised Games. I wonder how that'll play in the US, more mouth-foaming outrage from the New Right hopefully.

And while a medley of British pop hits is usually pretty crass, it seemed to work here. It might have been that it combined it with an entertaining modern tale (such as it was) of life and love in multicultural Britain, but it might also have been that we do, as a nation, have an impressive back catalogue to draw on (good to hear FGTH get a few seconds - and a T-shirt - there). Either way, it wasn't even in the same universe as what I'd jadedly imagined such a medley would turn out like.

But there was more to come, of which the torch ceremony was definitely the highlight. We've been trying to guess who'd be lighting the torch all week, and we were kept guessing right to the end, what with appearances from Beckham and Redgrave. So it was particularly pleasing that the organisers played a blinder by making it the responsibility of a suite of young up-and-coming athletes, each picked by the same former stars of the athletics firmament that we thought might have been doing the lighting. And then, just when that seemed a brilliant touch, the torch itself turned into the star of the show. It's a fantastic piece, and its gradual lighting, then evolution into the Olympic Standard, was pretty breathtaking.

Obviously we then had an unwelcome performance from Paul McCartney - of whom, less really would be more - but it wasn't nearly enough to take the shine off of an excellent opening to the games. Of which, Boyle is now a total shoe-in for a Knighthood, and it's wholly deserved. Now all we (the Nation, that is) have to do is win some medals (48+ apparently), and the whole thing will have been a triumph. Go GB, etc.

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