The logo was a fail, the intestinal Orbit tower was a puzzle, the security was a bit of a mess but the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony was just right: fun, exciting, uplifting, eccentric and quintessentially British.
On Friday night, Danny Boyle was king of the world and deservedly so. What a wonderful job he did of defining Britishness when Britons themselves have been wondering recently what that meant. Often mistaken for stuffy, phlegmatic, dour, reserved, self-deprecating, under-stated, class-conscious, tea-swilling, monarchist fox hunters, the Olympic Brits surprised the world (and occasionally, themselves) with their colorful exuberance and multi-cultural enthusiasm. Even the Queen got into the Olympic swing of it. “Good evening Mr. Bond,” she said in that unmistakable and un-contradictable voice. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there when they pitched her the idea? And how breath-taking and travel-inducing was that beautifully photographed panorama of London during the James Bond helicopter flight? The IOC owns and jealously guards that footage, but look at this “making of” video shot in May 2012.
Didn’t you feel comfortably enveloped by the familiar sights and sounds in the opening ceremony soup? No need to be British to know JK Rowling, Voldemort, Shakespeare, Hugh Grant, Mary Poppins, Mr. Bean, the Beatles, Queen, Muse and the delicacy of Thomas Heatherwick’s work, so beautifully represented in the Olympic cauldron, a flame sculpture, not just another ”bowl on a stick," as he put it. British culture has influenced and entertained the world for centuries.
By the way, did you notice SHREK in the movie clips? Shrek? A DreamWorks film franchise, based on a character created by an American cartoonist. Was he included because he has a sort of Scottish accent? Because he’s voiced by Mike Myers whose parents were English? Or just because Danny Boyle likes him?
The only down side of the opening ceremony was NBC’s atrocious decision to ignore the live ceremony and delay broadcast six hours for New York and nine for Los Angeles. By the time we could see it, I had already “watched” the ceremonies on Twitter via the witty live tweets from London and New York so the surprise factor was gone and NBC's Matt and Meredith’s what-me-be-be-interested-in-something-that’s-not-American dumbed-down commentary was shamefully shabby and ignorant.
Excuse me NBC, do you not know the world is now connected by social media, not to mention the Tim Berners-Lee’s world wide web and we all know who JK Rowling is and what she wrote, no need to provide condescending explanations for the ignorant peasants. Endless interviews exclusively with American athletes and coverage of American events and medals only is very pre-digital, not to mention jingoistic. Please broaden your horizons and stop with the delayed broadcasts and showing only the US gold medal winners on the podium without even mentioning the silver and bronze medal winners. The Olympic Games is an international event and all events and awards should be covered live or you insult the spirit of the Olympics as well as your viewers.