In the run-up to the 2012 Olympic games, nearly everyone involved in planning and persuading me that this is going to be fantastic has been a certifiable Grade A Twat. This who’s-who list of cuntery was exceptionally well spoofed by the BBC sitcom 2012 (see it, if you haven’t) in which Jessica Hynes stole the show as PR Guru and “Creative Think-Tank Visionary” and for whose performance I want to marry and grow old with and sit on park benches and tell I still love it more than when we met, because there’s no-one else I’d rather share my life’s journey with.
“Yeah, yeah, so this is the thing… Ummm… right. Ok. Cool. So…. Right, here’s where we are guys, yeah… Um.”
There really IS a legacy department. Check out the committee’s website.
And then the security debacle. Hunt’s errant bell. An exhausting and ultimately entirely impractical and non-viable ticket purchasing scheme. Seb Coe. Seb’s not a name. Boris. Travel arrangements. The eBay torches. The list goes on…
So, it’s fair to say that not only was I not looking forward to The Olympic Opening Ceremony; I wasn’t even looking forward to the games. Despite having tickets to several events.
Great Britain has been “treated” to several ostentatious patriotic celebrations within the last 18 months. Between The Royal Wedding and The Jubilee, we know the traditional BBC narrative about “the things the British are proud of.” So I had some idea of what I was sitting down to on Friday night.
Bowler Hats, London Buses, The Beatles, The Queen, Shakespeare, Steve Redgrave… the end.
I was a little disappointed that Danny Boyle had even agreed to direct proceedings, given the narrow parameters he’d obviously have to work in. And what a sell-out cunt, and I don’t give a fuck if David Beckham kicks an enflamed ball into the Cauldron goal.
I was wrong.
It happens so rarely as to be negligible, but there you have it, I was wrong and I hold my hands up.
There was a slight clue as to the nature of events when each British nation’s kids sang different culturally pertinent songs. Even Ireland. Although Danny Boy was written by an Englishman, it has no sectarian connotations and is quintessentially Irish.
The Industrial Revolution (which constituted interpretative dance, by Lincoln-looking youths in Top Hats and a smug-looking Brannagh reading from The Tempest, which is set on a mystical island, from which Boyle is clearly drawing parallels with Britain) formed the basis of the show, which was a diplomatic place to start, given that the right would want to celebrate the birth of Industrial Capitalism, and the left might want to celebrate the birth of reactive Marxism. Either way, best not to focus too acutely on slavery and colonialism.
That being said, the beautiful, if fleeting, model of Windrush and the West Indian community; which represents the way in which Britain has been served and enriched by immigration in the 50’s, was powerful and moving.
The highlight of the night was the NHS montage, which prompted much of America to tweet and wonder just what it is about a nation’s health service that would deserve a half hour tribute to it.
Well, have a little think about that. While you’re watching John Q, or wondering if your insurance covers throat infections.
There’s some idea that it was British eccentricity. It wasn’t. It was about celebrating a health service that is free for all and that is currently under threat by the weak-jawed chap sat in front of the Queen who, in effect, had sanctioned this monumental fuck you to himself. What a dick.
The Queen acted! Oh Em Gee. If only she’d followed through with her dazzling performance by occasionally acting pleased to be there.
How refreshing to have a British musical event that was Gary Barlow-free. The scene with the two kids snogging was excellent, and to incorporate the music of Dizzee, New Order, Happy Mondays, Kinks, Who, Smiths, Specials – NO FUCKING OASIS – was great.
Arctic Monkeys performance was incredibly left field. But despite your musical taste, it was brilliant to see a non-obvious young group. Let’s remember, we could’ve had Cheryl fucking Cole. I really liked the performance. I thought it was energised and positive and interesting.
There were two stand-alone moments that made this Opening Ceremony the greatest there has ever been.
1. The Gay Kiss
The televised Beth Jordache kiss broadcast to 2 billion people in a world where people are being murdered as a consequence of their sexuality. Or live in constant fear, are abused, beaten or tortured. In a world where, in even in the most sexually “tolerant” countries, they are still opposing same-sex marriage and adoption. Incredible.
2. Doreen Lawrence
Allowing a special place for a mother who lost a son as a consequence of a racist attack at a British bus stop, and consequently had to fight for 18 years to see her son’s murderers punished, due to British policing and Crown Prosecution failings, was an incredibly bold message to send to the world. Holding a mirror up to systemic and institutional failure and allowing the bravest in our country their rightful place. Doreen Lawrence is a stunning representative for all mothers everywhere. Along with working to fight for justice for her murdered child for almost two decades, she continues to work hard in Stephen’s name, for her community and the trust.
The only downside to the night was Paul McCartney. Let it be? Let it fucking GO, kidder.
The tirade of right-wing criticism following the ceremony, which included a racist Daily Mail article and an incensed Tory back-bencher outraged by “Multi-culturalism” (It’s the OLYMPICS, you knob.) Or the ever-embarrassing Toby Young who stated that he’d liked to have seen a Churchill WW2 speech involved:
Remember that war we all fought on opposing sides at? Let’s open old wounds.
Tobes X ”
This tirade alleged that the ceremony was left wing. It wasn’t. It wasn’t inciting political activism (if only wishing made it so). It was just NOT the usual jolly fucking hockey sticks agenda.
It was brilliant.
I’ve always has a problem with British patriotism. I feel to be proud of Britain is to be proud of all those elements of Britishness that are either Nazi, or middle class. But – hand on heart – this ceremony has swayed me. I’m proud of Boyle’s vision. (With the exception of Macca of course, it’s not gift week.)