Last night, the world changed forever. I didn’t think I would ever see the like. For the first and only time that I can remember, some outstanding creative achievements and, indeed, creativity itself, was celebrated, in a long overdue, brilliant, witty, funny, subtle, eccentric, bonkers, and irreverent, but wholly confident way. The Olympics opening ceremony, directed by Danny Boyle, was a triumph. What could so easily have been a trite, overblown, bombastic glorification of obedience, militarism and imperialism, instead, became recognition of the spark of genius, that refusal to go the way of all others before that has impacted us all so profoundly. And it was for all. It was for everyone.
Contrast it to the Beijing opening ceremony. The British Olympic opening ceremony celebrated something very different, indeed.
Notable by their absence were odes to financial speculation, tax avoidance, corporations, financial services, private interests and selfishness – all the things that our political classes say are the route to sustained success and which we must have more of. What were put before us and held up for congratulations were community, collaboration, socialised health, genius, creativity, music, art, film, poetry, drama, engineering, science and inventiveness. The hard work of creative people was finally and at long last appreciated.
Love and peace were there, in deeply symbolic ways. Inclusion, cultural diversity, non-judgementalism, kindness and joy were displayed, with a flourish. The only one sour note, for me, was when outstanding people of sincere peace and humanity were required to hand over the Olympic flag to people who, when it is all said and done, are essentially paid by the state for their willingness to administer violence on its behalf. The flag, once hoisted, hung limply, as if in protest.
What was so important about Boyle’s opening ceremony was that it showed a Britain that had worked hard, created outstandingly and embraced all cultures, to come to the place it is today. It portrayed the real Britain that would be immediately recognisable to anybody that actually lived in it, complete with love stories, East end rappers and ironic, self deprecating humour, largely impenetrable to the rest of the world. It was not the Britain portrayed by the main stream media, which we are daily, didactically told is how it truly is, but which it is not at all.
The opening ceremony reminded us that the World Wide Web was created by a boy from East Sheen, for everyone. Not present was the pomp and upper class derision for the lower classes. Here, at last, was the truth. Britain was made great not by its financial wizardry, its aristocrats, its conquests, its violence and the brutal oppression of the poor, lower classes, by privileged elites, but by its iconoclasts, its eccentrics, its geniuses, its inventors, its artists, its writers, its storytellers and its musicians. That’s the truth. Britain succeeded not because of its ability to divide and rule, but by its ability to embrace and include. Applied imagination and pure possibility was what drove us to change the world.
As a blueprint for the future greatness of Britain (and, in fact, the planet), the message could not have been clearer. We were shown, in vivid, lucid detail, what we ought to be concentrating upon to achieve even greater outcomes for all. Compare and contrast this with current government policy and the spin doctoring of the coalition and opposition alike and you see that in one fell swoop, those people were consigned to an obsolete vision of Britain. This morning’s vision of Britain is a very different place, in which they play no significant part. If they thought they had any semblance of a mandate yesterday, they really ought to be pausing for thought and deep introspection this morning. The opening ceremony was an act of significant political subversion, without being confrontational or disrespectful. It was a courageous, revolutionary act.
Some say that the twenty seven million pounds it cost to produce and stage the opening ceremony was money that was urgently and sorely needed elsewhere. Yes, that’s true, but twenty seven million people are estimated to have watched the opening ceremony, in Britain, so that comes out to a quid per person. What did we each get, for our pound? We got hope. We got a succinct, engaging, entertaining, informative and mind changing vision of how and where we should be spending our government’s money. It’s our money. We pay the taxes. The ruling elites don’t even do that.
So, this morning I live in renewed hope of a better future, not one mired in everlasting austerity. My wife was moved to comment that Danny Boyle should be thanked for showing us the way home.
It is informative to read the programme notes; a sentiment so beautiful, noble and simple, that we should all be moved:
For some international reaction to the opening ceremony, read this piece from the New Yorker:
To savour the sublime and beautiful music of the moment when the cauldron was lit, listen to this:
Musical direction for the ceremony was in the hands of the musicians of the band Underworld. Read their reaction piece here:
My favourite quote is this one:
“Music is Britain’s cultural heartbeat; it’s a perpetual act of revolutionary thought. “
The music will be available to buy. I urge you to support it.
The only slightly disappointing part of all of this is that when I woke this morning, wanting to share the opening ceremony with my friends in other countries, via YouTube or the like, I discovered that copyrights got in the way. Surely that is completely antithetical to the main message of the opening ceremony. The New Jerusalem is supposed to be for all. What a pity there isn’t an internet hosted, full length video of the ceremony available, under a creative commons license. If there were, it would be putting the Olympic movement’s money where its mouth was, last night…unless it was all a beautiful aberration. I hope not.