Every now and then an event comes along that is such a surprise, so counter-cultural and so unusually risk-taking that you are left almost speechless. One by one the surprises came. Frank Turner? He of the ranty acoustic-punk with a song in his repertoire called Thatcher F-—d the Kids? Dizzee Rascal? The Arctic Monkeys? Underworld? And that’s just the music.
The Opening Ceremony was a triumph. For so many reasons.
In an era of corporate anti-risk taking, everyone else would have plumped for Gary Barlow coordinating a medley of cheap easy-pop: you know, Jessie J, JLS, with Katherine Jenkins definitely singing Abide With Me. Instead Danny Boyle took popular but raw acts, singing songs that would be unknown to many but are an important part of contemporary pop culture. Many would have hated it. I thought it was genius. That’s called taking a risk.
In an era of feel-good fizz & bubble celebrations in which the audience are not expected to think, a trip through British history would have included the Royal Family, a bit of Shakespeare, some Commonwealth and lots of jingoistic Rule Britannia-type flag-waving. And maybe a Mini. Instead Danny Boyle included the trauma of the Industrial Revolution, the Jarrow March, the Suffragettes, the Windrush, and a celebration of the NHS… amazing. That is called taking a risk. Is he friends with Christopher Nolan?
Most significantly of all, in the middle of all that I have hated about the build-up to these Games, this Opening Ceremony felt like 2 fingers up to the IOC. Why? Because the IOC are all about elitistism in its worse sense. What we have seen with their blackmailed demands to London has been despicable: tax-free profits for massive corporations, traffic-free lanes for IOC members (they are NOT for athletes – no athlete has to get across London in 20 minutes), and the Brand Protection Police ensuring that no-one can benefit from the Games except the IOC and their ‘partners’. God forbid a local shopkeeper should make an extra few quid.
Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony was about people who live in the real world. It was an epic social history about change and development and its impact on people. It put on centre-stage those the IOC would ignore: miners, immigrants, protestors for the rights of the marginalised. The NHS.
As a story, the Opening Ceremony had echoes of Lord of the Rings. The destruction of the countryside for factories and mines was part of Tolkien’s message with Saruman’s mines and the revenge of the Ents, and the forging of the (Olympic) Rings of Power. But those with the power and the money don’t always win. Beware the little people. The Hobbits are coming.
The Ceremony felt like a social history including the little people. From the grand vision of the set to the quirky humour, this wasn’t highbrow culture but captured what the Olympic Spirit should be. Which is so far from where the IOC is. Yes it was somewhat chaotic. Yes some of it went over most of the world’s heads. And a lot may have felt like an in-joke. But it celebrated those under the radar, which is surely what the Olympics is all about.
Jacques Rogge take note. There is a new lord of the rings. The real Olympics have begun.
I know I said I wasn’t blogging. I couldn’t help it – the ceremony blew me away!