I think it’s safe to say now that Britain’s Olympic party has well and truly begun. A spectacular opening ceremony, parade of nations and global singalong – the brainchild of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle – clocked in at over 3½ hours. It left British viewers almost universally exultant and provided several memorable moments to get the Games under way in typically irreverent style. At its peak, an astonishing 26.9 million people in the UK were watching – that compares with 5.4 million for Beijing four years ago – with hundreds of millions more watching worldwide.
With the benefit of a night’s sleep and reflection, here are ten personal thoughts looking back on the opening ceremony of the 30th Olympiad.
1. Before it started, the pessimists and cynics – which, let’s face it, is 99.7% of the British population – feared that the opening ceremony would turn out to be (a) embarrassing, (b) a bit crap or (c) both. The view of 99.7% of the British population – at least those I interact with on Facebook and Twitter (see my tweets post from last night for more detail) after the event was one of resounding pride and satisfaction.
2. General consensus appears to be that the Happy and Glorious segment featuring Daniel Craig‘s James Bond and the Queen was the comic highlight of the show (closely followed by Mr Bean and Simon Rattle‘s Chariots of Fire skit). But did we really need the TV caption identifying her as ‘Her Majesty the Queen’? Surely anyone with a working brain cell knows who she is. (And for those who don’t fall into that category, let me just clarify that she didn’t really parachute out of that helicopter …) I mean, surely she’s more recognisable worldwide than even Kim Kardashian? Right? (Please let me be right on that one.)
3. Wasn’t the diversity on show wonderful? Not just the multicultural elements, but also Dame Evelyn Glennie and the deaf kids in the choir. I’m also glad they reminded us up front that this is a Games for Britain’s four constituent nations, and not just all about London.
4. Only in a democracy as open as Britain’s could Danny Boyle have got away with including so many political elements in the show – from the Suffragettes to what amounted to a love letter to the NHS. I bet David Cameron was shifting uncomfortably in his seat, though. And only in Britain could an opening ceremony have spanned such a spectrum from the distinctly dark – the Child-Catcher, Voldermort, dancing ghouls – to the utterly whimsical – Mr Bean, Happy and Glorious.
5. I know I’m biased, but overall I thought London’s opening ceremony utterly squashed Beijing’s effort. China’s show was pyrotechnically stunning and practically perfect in every way (but, hey, we actually had Mary Poppins in our show), but it was too serious, too earnest, too desperate to make a statement to the world. Britain’s riposte was one of a nation comfortable with its place in the world, and with a willingness to have a bit of a laugh at our own expense too. London did not so much put on a spectacle last night as a party – it was a show as human as Beijing’s was corporate – and if some elements of it ended up bemusing the watching world, then so what? It’s our party and we’ll cry/laugh/send ourselves up if we want to. Deal with it, world.
6. Yes, the parade of nations takes a long time. What were people expecting? It features thousands of athletes from basically every country in the world. It’s not exactly going to take five minutes – but equally it takes almost as long to deliver the results from the Eurovision Song Contest, which only has to cover 40-odd nations.
7. Every Olympics I watch the parade of nations and wish I had a better grasp of geography and could more precisely locate every country and recognise their flags more reliably. With Isaac 4½ and now asking those sorts of questions, it has become a source of some embarrassment. Must try harder. Now where’s that atlas?
8. As pretty much the entire universe has already stated, the way that (a) the Olympic cauldron came together and (b) the fact it was lit by seven of the next generation of Olympic hopefuls rather than an Olympic legend was wonderful. (I bet the bookies were rubbing their hands with glee too – they cleaned up as a result.) I wonder how many of those seven will develop into Olympic athletes and medal winners. No pressure, guys.
9. Paul McCartney really can’t sing any more. To be fair, he is 70, so it’s no surprise his voice is going (arguably, gone completely). But you know what? It didn’t matter one bit. The end of the opening ceremony was basically one big karaoke party, with the entire world invited. And Hey Jude is the ultimate karaoke song. All together now: nah nah nah na na na naaaaaah, na na na naaaaaah, Hey Jude … I wonder if he’ll be back to do All You Need Is Love for the closing ceremony?
10. My summary of the opening ceremony in three words: Sir Danny Boyle. You know it’s going to happen in the New Year Honours List, and deservedly so.