Like most people – 26.9 million of you to be exact – I tuned in to the visual splendour that was the Danny Boyle-helmed spectacle of the Olympic Games opening ceremony and was mightily impressed by the eccentricity of the whole event.
I’m not normally one to get carried away by the razzmatazz and glitz of a ceremony, but there was something unusually beguiling about Boyle’s vision as it walked us through the past couple of centuries of Great Britain’s achievements – inventing the world wide web, our influence on popular music, the industrial revolution – yet still there were some curmudgeonly mean-spirited jibes about what was left out and the political point-scoring went into overdrive.
Spectator columnist Toby Young, or the devil incarnate as he shall be referred to from now on, appeared to completely miss the point of the entire ceremony, tweeting: ‘I feel like I’ve just watched a £27 million Party Political Broadcast for the Labour Party.’
Meanwhile, Louis Mensch, a Conservative zealot if ever there was one (and who straddles the line between hilarious and disturbing) tweeted: ‘The best bit of the opening ceremony was the tribute to the NHS – says so much about PM that he protected and increased its budget :)’ Quite why we should applaud and admire the prime minister for not butchering one particular public service as he has the others is just plain bizarre. Satire is dead, it would appear.
Conservative commentators like to think of Great Britain in abstract terms, yet often deride many of the things that it has now come to represent, an irony few seem aware of. Many tried to claim that the opening ceremony lurched too far to the left in its outlook, but that’s completely missing the point and ethos behind the entire bid in the first place. LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe is said to have protected Danny Boyle from any outside political influences in the build-up to the Games as he formulated his plans for the ceremony and you can see why.
The devil incarnate tweeted his suggestions about what he wished to see included in the ceremony: ‘I would have included more Shakespeare, one of Churchill’s wartime speeches, a tribute to the Commonwealth and the Iron Lady.’
Now what exactly does Margaret Thatcher have to do with the opening ceremony of a sporting event or about Great Britain’s cultural influence and significance across the world? Why even bother paying lip service to the second world war? The frequency with which the war and sport are frequently linked together by the tabloids is truly sickening.
It seems as if a few among us would have preferred a self-aggrandising, militaristic celebration in the mould of Beijing four years ago. Failing to delicately negotiate the small matter of decolonisation would only have led to the sort of chest-pumping, irrationally nostalgic ceremony that made the royal wedding and diamond jubilee such tiresome and dull pastiches.
This wasn’t a ‘Best of British’ ceremony, nor was it in any way meant to be a jingoistic, nationalistic call to arms aimed at driving up any sort of political sentiment. There is a danger with over-thinking an event of this magnitude, instead of simply enjoying the treat for your eyes that it was originally intended to be.
He thou shall not be named finished off with this tweet: ‘Is Danny Boyle a member of the Labour Party?’ I don’t know, and judging by the fact that the majority of people approached it in the right spirit, neither does anyone care.
The lines are often blurred between sport and politics as parties try to ride on the bandwagon of a popular event or person’s success, with the idea behind this being that it somehow makes them look good by association. Every party does it, but why trivialise the occasion by reducing it to talk of what should have been shoehorned into it simply because it fits in with their political ideals?
Celebrating cultural achievement has nothing to do with either a world war or the political spectrum; resorting to such talk only belittles what an astounding event it was and succeeds in completely missing the point. No wonder nobody likes us.
Image by shimelle courtesy of Flickr