According to the BBC last night they had an audience share of 82%, with ratings soaring to 27 million during the three and a half hour spectacle. Despite the extortionate viewing figures, we can all admit that the level of hype and the highest level of secrecy surrounding the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony sparked our curiosity and drove the majority of us to tune in last night to what was undoubtedly at times one of the most atypical ceremonies ever witnessed.
£27million for the creation of Danny Boyle’s highly anticipated spectacle, but was it worth it?
As most adoring Olypmic fans and Brits praised the creative showpiece, I for one am not in total agreement that the Olympic Opening Ceremony truly was magnificent.
As the titles rolled and we sat in anticipation for what was definitely a memorable beginning to any Olympic Games, and as Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins rang the Olympic Bell I wondered what would lie in store. Was I the only one who thought school was out for the summer, only to feel like I’d been summoned to my living room chair for a British history lesson courtesy of Danny Boyle. However, despite this busy showcase, I urged myself to keep watching if only to see Katie Taylor lead the Irish Team into the Olympic Stadium. As my knowledge on the industrial revolution was restored and the inclusion of Sir Kenneth Branagh reading from Shakespeare’s The Tempest , I firmly believed that that opening ceremony could only get better, not so, as a rather bizarre tribute to the NHS ensued. I wondered what befit its place in this show, as they celebrated the NHS, up popped Harry Potter characters, and down came an influx of Mary Poppins. Was I dreaming? Unfortunately, I wasn’t, as the peculiarities were set to continue.
Just as we began to come to terms with what we were visualising, Daniel Craig appeared on the big screen as his 007 character with Britain’s latest, and possibly oldest bond girl to date, the Queen herself. She made a cameo appearance in a comical sketch filmed at Buckingham Palace culminated by her arrival into the Olympic Stadium seemingly parachuting from an overhead helicopter with the James Bond star. As stuntsman Gary Connery makes his landing wearing a similar dress to her majesty, and the camera quickly turns on the Queen who walks into the Stadium. Yes, Danny you fooled the world there with a stunt like that!
The ceremony moved to celebrate music and social media with dance performances which included the appearance of Dizzee Rascal. Chariots of Fire was announced as the next musical composition to be played by the orchestra, only to see Rowan Akinson’s infamous character Mr Bean, take part in the composition in a satirical manner. Confused? Yes, me too, not quite sure why his presence was required. Apparently his comedy is well received across the globe, well if that’s the case; why not throw him into the opening ceremony too.
Next David Beckham appeared on a speedboat travelling on the final leg of the journey with the Olympic torch. Perhaps this move a little more comprehendible as he himself is a globally renowned sporting figure.
Was I the only one who thought that the antics of the Opening Ceremony were a little bizarre? Perhaps I’m one of the few honest enough to admit that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, and perhaps putting on view Britain’s well known faces for comedy sketches doesn’t exactly go hand in hand with this sporting event. Was it all a mere ploy to showcase some of Britain’s most beloved celebrities? In truth, I’m not sure. Nor am I sure what Danny Boyle’s logic was in the creation of this spectacle. One thing’s for sure it did make the global headlines.
The Guardian hailed Boyle’s ‘masterpiece’ as ‘the biggest, maddest, weirdest, most heartfelt and lovable dream sequence in British cinema history’. The Mirror did notice that ‘it was hard to think of any British icon it didn’t reference’, whilst the New York Times described it as ‘visually stunning’.
For me however, it wasn’t the spectacle and the famous faces that made the night quite stunning. Instead for me, it was seeing each country enter the Olympic Stadium with the flag holder leading their country and their country’s athletes following behind. The sense of pride which lit their eyes, and the happiness that filled their faces was no comedy sketch; it was a natural reaction to the honour bestowed on them to represent their country in the 2012 Olympic Games. It was a culmination of their talent; hard work and dedication that had resulted in each one of them walking into that stadium last night.
Watching on and reading the reviews today, it felt that the most salient part of the Opening Ceremony, the introduction of the countries and their athletes to the Olympic Stadium, had been overlooked as all eyes were on some mad spectacle set to honour celebrities and not the true heroes that were present to represent us all. Whilst Daniel Craig may be the most handsome Bond we’ve had in long time, and whilst David Beckham gets better looking with age, they were not what our eyes should have been fixated on last night, it was the athletes. The fact that the media are heralding the involvement of British celebrities in the ceremony saddens me.
What saddens me even more, is the criticism the unknown young athletes who received the Olympic torch from Sir Steve Redgrave and brought it on it’s final journey to light the cauldron was deemed an ‘anti-climax’ by many across various media outlets.
John Cherwa from the LA Times wrote ‘Hated the flame lighting. Just make a decision and pick someone’. Some went so far as to say letting seven people light the cauldron was a cop out, and that it should have been lit by a person ‘people have heard of’. Again a reminder that we live in a celebrity crazed world that wanted a ‘famous face’ taking the torch on it’s final hurdle. The point missed by so many is that it was seven young people who had been nominated by renowned sporting figures and athletes, who wanted to inspire the new generation. Sport is a wonderful thing; it is something comprehendible no matter your race, religion or background. It brings people together, it requires real dedication, personal commitment, motivation, ambition and passion; characteristics that can inspire us all. The lightening of the cauldron was an act to inspire the next generation, the folk that sat in their living room tuning into the Opening Ceremony with similar dreams as those, that the athletes possessed, that were presented to us tonight. Reminding us that we can dream big, and that one day we too could inspire another generation.
The ceremony concluded with the Queen officially declaring them open ‘I declare open the Games of London, celebrating the 30th Olympiad of the modern era’ and Sir Paul Mc Cartney singing Hey Jude, as a scene of breathtaking fireworks lit the London sky line, Danny Boyle tweeted ‘Proud to be British’, I tweeted ‘Proud to be Irish’. Seeing Katie Taylor wave our flag, followed by the Irish contingent filled me with pride…for me, they were the true heroes of last night, alas, I can watch Daniel Craig on the big screen any day!