Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Opening Ceremony London 2012: wit and charm on a midsummer's night

The opening ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympics offered China – and the world – a lesson. And yes, it crackled with British music, literature, and humor.

(Page 2 of 2)



Then the show started, and the world changed. Piece by piece, the village was dismantled as top-hatted men chewed cigars and smiled. Smokestacks rose and forges glowed red hot as smoke filled the stadium – a picture of the grime and glory of Victorian England.

Skip to next paragraph

It was both tragedy and spectacle, and from it (probably to the International Olympic Committee’s dismay) came the five Olympic rings. As they joined overhead, a shower of sparks rained down on the soot-faced workers below, and London had its Beijing moment – but one far more poignant, because it told a narrative that binds the entire world, and did not shrink in the telling of it.

Be British for a day

Throughout the rest of opening ceremony, Boyle did not seek to wow – or even cow – the world. Instead, he invited us all to be British for a day.

And it was rather enjoyable.

A fleet of flying Mary Poppinses scared off Lord Voldemort with a little help from J.K. Rowling. Mr. Bean played Chariots of Fire (badly), while dreaming of outpacing Olympic runners on the beach. And we learned that we all like to head bang to "Bohemian Rhapsody."

As the ceremonies went on, the show became more perfunctory, with Paul McCartney making what seemed to be an obligatory appearance. David Beckham got to drive a boat carrying the flame. But the flame-lighting, too, had a sense of anticlimax to it, as seven young athletes – chosen by living British Olympic medalists and embodying the Games’ motto of “inspire a generation” – lit scores of long-necked pipes, that rose to form a caldron of sorts in the middle of the stadium. (Where that caldron will go when the javelin starts, we have no idea.)

As in the opening sequence, the latter portions of the ceremony were at their best when they were raw and unapologetic, such as the decision to serenade the Olympians at the end of the parade of nations with the shrieking guitars of the Arctic Monkeys.

This was not the Olympics as they have been sold to us, and there was a freshness in that. 

So, too, when Boyle made the rather bold decision to greet the arrival of the British team with David Bowie’s “Heroes.” In another time and another context, perhaps, it would have seemed crass nationalism.

But by then, Boyle had brought us all along, and we, too, wanted them all to be heroes. 

Permissions

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!