This was an opening ceremony firmly pitched as a celebration of great British traditions - past, present, futuristic and sideways. It captured events and traditions from the Industrial Revolution to cricket, the Beatles to Shakespeare, the Sex Pistols, John Milton and Monty Python.
There was a celebration of the free-to-all, British National Health Service. A socialist idea that makes the blood of US health profiteers run cold and Obamacare look like a used band aid. But there was much more because above all – this was fun time
Could the London 2012 opening ceremony match Beijing’s effort of 4 years earlier? Yes is the short answer but comparisons aren’t relevant because this wasn’t better or worse – it was just madly, wildly different!
Director Danny Boyle has to be congratulated for his vision which told the story of Britain from the viewpoint of the struggles of the people. Yet there was even a bit part for the Queen which has been seized on with delight by royalists. They greeted her scene with James Bond actor Daniel Craig as evidence of a “second coming”, a step into the unknown. Tragic but true.
Perhaps the sentence that sums up Danny Boyle’s creation best was written by himself in the brochure of the Ceremony. “We can build Jerusalem and it will be for everyone.” He paid handsome tribute to all the volunteers who worked for nothing over the months because they believed in the idea. “The volunteers are the best of us. This show belongs to them. This country belongs to them.”
For a brief period as he put the show together the director had created a Utopia, a society that ran on goodwill. Unlike David Cameron’s Big Society, which has rightly been denounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury as a cover for attacks on the living standards of the less well off, this was a creation the volunteers could believe in. It was about the people, came from the people, and was for the people.
Unlike the privileged public school elite who occupy the top positions in British society, Danny Boyle is the product of a working class environment who went to a state school. He was brought up in a strict Catholic family and a colleague who worked with him on the spectacle said, “He has a very Catholic sense that this is a fallen world but you can find grace and beauty in its darkest corners.”
He did all that then added a very generous helping of fun. Good on you Danny Boy!