"..a bardy view!"

Brilliant, Bonkers and British.

They said they could never top the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony. They said that the Brits should not even consider trying. The Chinese had more money than sense, and threw it all into a precision regimental display of human mass, with more fireworks to tilt the world on her axis, and enough drums to cause  a quake. The Earth moved in 2008.

No don’t try to better it, just make it different! Well, the London 2012 opening ceremony was different, and it was better. How does a nation, with so much history, that has had so much influence in the world, tell her story in 3 hours?

From the moving opening with the playing of Nimrod amidst a green and pleasant recreation of the British countryside it was clear that something very special was about to happen.

From the agricultural landscape to the upheaval of the industrial revolution to the engineers like Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Milton’s dark satanic mills which catapulted Great Britain to become the greatest power of the age ruling one third of the world.

Then through social upheaval and world war, through to the suffragette movement, the Jarrow March and major cultural change, with popular culture, art, music, literature and even the National Health Service, intermingled with dark characters from children’s stories – the child snatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Voldemart from Harry Potter. And then the reassuring presence of Mary Poppins flying down to the rescue.

Here, broadcast to a global audience of billions, was the history, vibrancy, confidence and vision of a nation that still stands proud.

Yes it was brilliant, bonkers and very British. Stunning, eccentric, funny and sentimental. Moments of brilliance, too many to list – the forging of the Olympic Rings, the Queen jumping out of a helicopter with James Bond, the lighting of the torch – all so innovative.

It would be churlish to criticise or find fault. You can’t please all the people all the time, especially when the audience is global and diverse.

Quite what some would have thought of it I know not, but I suspect it left many baffled unless they were familiar with British history and culture.  I was particularly impressed with the James Bond spoof.

Some would argue that it was demeaning to the monarch, but the Queen is 86 years old, has lived a life of utmost protocol, dedicated service, where her every move is scrutinized. Perhaps she has reached that time in her life when she wants to present her fun loving nature, and where and when better to do it than at the London Olympics? After all, it wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t agreed.  

She knows she has to connect with the nation, and she does not wish to be remembered like Victoria, stuffy and aloof. She has done her service, and only recently that demonstration of joy and appreciation was amply demonstrated with her jubilee. The British love their Queen, and the fact that she can let her hair down just once in a lifetime says as much about her as her subjects who are comfortable with it.

We don’t want a Queen who is remote and attends ceremonies just to open them. She has moved with the times and is respected because of it. Britain is no longer the stuffed shirt mired in the past. It is a country comfortable and content to have a constitutional monarch as head of state. That is a remarkable achievement in a world of flux. It implies continuity and stability. A thousand years of it.  

A nation that can embrace the past but have confidence in the future, whose baggage is under constant criticism and once afraid of bestowing it’s achievements, has just risen like a phoenix, and inspires millions.

It has to be seen again, for it was pure theatre. Few have viewed it negatively and the overall consensus is that it was a resounding success.

Indeed it was the greatest opening Olympic ceremony ever – intelligent, humorous, patriotic, visually stunning and above all a lesson to countries that this was a display of pride, with 15,000 volunteers all willing and proud to participate, by people with no previous artistic or dramatic skills, but encouraged and guided by professional choreographers and artists, and directed by one man, Danny Boyle, who had the knowledge and vision to understand that these are the games which should involve everyone.

It’s not about privilege, the ruling classes, or the very wealthy, commercial exploitation and corporate branding, but about the common man, and his place in the world. It was about legacy. For the first time a group of unknown athletes lit the cauldron. The flame passed from Olympians to the young aspiring athletes – even before the games began. That was sheer willing consent by great sportsmen not seeking limelight. Pass the flame and inspire! Very British!

In his speech, Jacques Rogge the President of the IOC, said that the modern Olympic Games had come home, in recognition that it was the British who were the first to acknowledge the importance of sport and understood its value to include in the educational curriculum.

It was the British ethos of fair play and not about winning but the taking part which influenced Pierre de Coubertin to found the modern Olympic Games, and the man who created the Olympic motto Citius, Altius, Fortius ("Swifter, Higher, Stronger").

The London Olympics has set a benchmark for the future. It says that money alone is not sufficient to produce a spectacular event, but that heart is equally important, and with heart, then half the battle is won.

I was enthralled by it. It made me proud of my flag. The English – the British – are not renowned for wearing their emotions on their sleeve, and tend to play down their achievements. But on one day July 27th, 2012, we momentarily forgot our inhibitions and reserve. We showed the world that for all our faults, for all our problems we can and do rise to the occasion.

Britain is still regarded as the mother country. Like all mothers she embraces her children.

The children of Empire are here, and have created the multicultural society she is today. Those whose heritage and ancestors lie elsewhere are no less British. Their pride is self-evident and Britain is not a nation which insists that they should abandon their roots.

It’s about being comfortable in one’s own skin, regardless of colour or creed, and knowing that it is home – a place unlike any other, where freedom is paramount, protected and safe.

The world is a better place with Great Britain in it.

Britannia may have lost her empire, but unlike great empires gone before, she still stands, bruised, battered, bewildered and browbeat, but above all still standing, reinvigorating, still a force for good, and still influencing a world of momentous and volatile change.



July 28, 2012 - Posted by | Arts, Books, Boxing, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, General, History, Humour, London, Music, Olympic Games, Politics, Science, Sport, Travel, United Kingdom | , , , , , , ,


  1. Excellent. No more need be added.


    Comment by Spook Moor | July 28, 2012 | Reply

  2. It would have been a major disservice to everyone if Britain had tried to ‘outdo the Chinese’ or anyone else when designing and constructing the Olympics. Every country has their own culture and history, especially Britain, and they did exactly the right thing, make it British! As you mention, its a matter of the heart, and that’s where everything outstanding and dear come into play, and where everything shines. Delightful to know that it has come off so beautifully. We all knew it would.


    Comment by Margaret Schaut | July 28, 2012 | Reply

  3. The British know the Chinese better than anyone – they’ve never forgiven us for the sacking of the Summer Palace in Peking during the Opium Wars. Actually it was the French who did most of the damage, but they prefer to blame the Brits!


    Comment by Bar De Ness | July 28, 2012 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: