Despite the first glimpses of the Olympic opening ceremony looking like the cause of a nationwide blush, the full course of events blossomed into something uncommonly good: a magnificent celebration of British unconventionality and socialist politics.
Sneak previews of the ceremony seemed to promise a cringe-worthy dollop of jingoistic nostalgia coupled with an outdated view of the British countryside as an untroubled idyll. However, after the initial scenes of pre-Industrial Revolution peasants tending the land, then morphing gradually into Dickensian toilers, the ceremony awakened to the truly British ability to be unapologetically odd and eccentric.
Considering the amount of neo-Red Scare hysteria that permeates America at any mention of state regulated health care, and Mitt Romney’s generally snarky attitude towards the games, it was damn right fabulous to see the entire arena lit up with the letters ‘NHS’. I say this not only as someone who would be considerably worse off were it not for the NHS, but also as a citizen who often feels the British are too quick to be repressively polite to morons. The war cry of NHS was an appreciation of historic post-war government policies, a handclap to the fantastic people who work for the service and a warning to the current government in light of recent detrimental budget reforms.
This punk spirit also permeated through into the music selection. Most obviously, of course, this was with the inclusion of The Sex Pistols – the joke being that they didn’t play God Save the Queen –, but also with brief blast of Amy Winehouse. That Britain can still find time to see that, despite all the drama and all the drugs, Winehouse was above all a marvelously talented woman and her death a tragedy is something to feel rather glowing about.
Similarly, beaming out to the world a clip of a film Trainspotting, felt like a genuine appreciation of Irvine Welsh and British films, rather than gratuitously subversive. Additionally, there was something brutally honest about it for, whilst being excited about hosting an event dedicated to health, the majority of Britain move their muscles most doing drunken dancing among chip paper trash. So why not start the 16 days as we plan to go on?
Self-deprecation is integral to the British psyche and the inclusion of Mr. Bean in the orchestra and her majesty jumping from a helicopter with James Bond were both well executed and a unique contribution to the history of this kind of ceremony. No other country to have recently staged a major sporting event has been willing to give humor a staring role in it and we can only hope that this now becomes a more common feature. Synchronized flag waving? Yawn. Mr. Bean? Hell Yes.
All in all the ceremony had a lot in common with London Fashion week, an event which is known for being more creative and unique than its counterparts in other cities. As with LFW, the trick will now be to prove that underneath this creativity and fun, lies the sturdy and well-organized infrastructure needed for the next few weeks to run smoothly and professionally.
Danny Boyle’s Olympic ceremony was no communal show of strength; it was a politicized demonstration of diversity, individualism, humor and the right to be a strange, island-dwelling creature, misunderstood by many other nationalities. As Dizzee Rascal said:
‘Some people think I’m bonkers, but I just think I’m free.’
Available on: http://www.kettlemag.com/node/465