After years of preparation and months of anticipation, the London 2012 Olympics finally got underway with a spectacular and quintessentially English ceremony.
Danny Boyle’s ‘vision’ was a four hour extravaganza that had just about everything – fireworks, dancers, a tribute to the NHS, music, Mr Bean, James Bond escorting the Queen to the venue, sheep, chimneys, industrial revolution, a giant Voldermort and, of course, Olympians past, present and future.
And whether you loved it or hated it we were glued to the screen – according to the Daily Mail, 20 million people across the UK were still watching at midnight.
Roger Mosley, director of the BBC’s Olympic coverage, told the Daily Mail: “We expected our London 2012 coverage to be very popular, but the viewing of the Opening Ceremony suggests the nation is going to be gripped by these Olympics as never before.”
I have to admit, I was out on Friday night, and saw sections of the ceremony via public TVs, but I did watch the ceremony in its entirety on Sunday afternoon and my overall impression was one of pride and amusement.
It was, as Dizzee Rascal aptly sang, ‘Bonkers’ but it was also brilliantly British. It was a proud declaration of all that we are and how our history has shaped the country we live in today and the rest of the world.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, credited with inventing the Internet, rubbed shoulders with the Arctic Monkeys as the Olympic rings were forged against a backdrop of ‘this green and pleasant land’.
This kind of blowing our own trumpets it not usually something the British do well – we are usually downplaying success as it’s not ‘seemly’ to boast. So I was pleased to see lots of English ‘in-jokes’ such as Michael Fish’s infamous ‘no hurricane’ weather forecasting, which will no doubt have baffled some of the foreign press.
Because while it was meant to entertain a worldwide audience, it was also a personal celebration of what’s ‘Great’ about Britain- and our eccentricity is high on that agenda.
Despite Danny Boyle including thousands of volunteers, musicans and NHS staff, this kind of spectacle comes at a price and the question of whether the £27 million the ceremony cost could have been better spent in a country still struggling with a social and economic crisis has been raised but really, was there any other choice?
I would argue that it’s been a long time since the country has had reason to really celebrate just being us, and – with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics finally coming to London- 2012 is that year.
Often social media is the acid test and on Friday night, Facebook and Twitter were awash with messages along the lines of ‘Watching the opening ceremony, proud to be British’ and that’s before any medals had been won – in terms of building the excitement and getting the country behind the team, the ceremony was a resounding success.