Oh Danny Boy – Lord of the Rings…

31 07 2012

“We hope…that through all the noise and excitement you’ll glimpse a single golden thread of purpose – the idea of Jerusalem – of the better world, the world of real freedom and true equality, a world that can be built through the prosperity of industry, through the caring nature that built the welfare state, through the joyous energy of popular culture, through the dream of universal communication. A belief that we can build Jerusalem. And that it will be for everyone.”      

(London 2012 – Official Opening Ceremony programme notes)

“We had no agenda other than something with values that we feel are true. I felt that very strongly. There is no bull**** in it.”

“I hope you feel we delivered value for money. I try to do that in my films. I try and make them look like $100m films but they cost $20m. So if it looks like a $100m evening and it cost $27m, then I will obviously be delighted.”

Congratulations to Danny Boyle for his momentous, ‘Isles of Wonder’, London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.

The Academy Award winning director/producer, best known for movies such as ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘Trainspotting’, will now be forever remembered as the man who masterminded the breath-taking ‘warm-up act’ for 10,000 World athletes at the 30th Olympiad.  

His quintessentially British pageant played out, over three hours, by 15,000 volunteer performers, and requiring nearly 13,000 props was watched by an estimated global TV audience of one-billion.

Boyle’s spectacular Olympic overture, put together at a cost of £27m, may have seemed extravagant compared with a post-war budget of £700,000, to cover the entire cost of London 1948, the post-war ‘austerity games’, but was significantly less than the $100m (£64m) spent on Beijing’s 2008 curtain raiser. 

So what did we get for our money?

A ‘Liquorice Allsorts’ of British history:

·        An ‘A-Z’ of GB achievement, from Brunel (played by a cigar chewing Kenneth Branagh) to Tim Berners-Lee (in person) inventor of the worldwide web.  

·        ‘GOSH’ – a celebration of the Welfare State – featuring giant hospital beds, NHS staff and young patients from the Great Ormond Street Hospital.  

·        Touchingly thoughtful tributes to those from all nations who lost their lives in war, and the victims of the 7/7 (2005) London bombings.

A magical mystery tour of our rich cultural heritage:

·        A catalogue of classical literary references from Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’, Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ and Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, through to that best-selling phenomena of modern times, ‘Harry Potter’, – reclusive author JK Rowling making a rare public appearance to read an extract from JM Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan’.

·        A virtual trawl through Danny Boyle’s I-pod, provided a varied musical soundtrack, that ranged from Elgar to The Prodigy, featuring live performances by as diverse a group of artists as, amazing deaf percussionist – Evelyn Glennie, Mike Oldfield – complete with tubular bells, local East-end, grime star, hero – Dizzee Rascal, Arctic Monkeys and Sir Paul ‘Macca’ – for yet another tuneless reprise of ‘Hey Jude’ (someone really needs to tell the aging, former, Beatle that his time is up!)     

My Top Show Stopping Moments:    

·        To triumphant GB cyclist, Bradley Wiggins, he of the trademark sideburns, kitted out in his 2012 Tour de France winning yellow jersey, fell the honour of  ringing the 23 ton Olympic Bell* to signal the start of the Opening Ceremony.   

·        The transformation of an idyllic, opening, pastoral set (just a tad too reminiscent of Teletubbyland land for me) to the dark satanic mills of the  Industrial Revolution, complete with flaming red-brick chimneys and a fiery furnace – wherein five gigantic Olympic rings were forged and raised above the stadium.   

·        ‘Good evening Mr Bond’ – The Queen expertly delivered an iconic line, in greeting her security escort, 007 – Daniel Craig, before being whisked, by helicopter, from Buckingham Palace, and (apparently) making her royal entry to the ceremony beneath a Union Jack parachute – absolutely brilliant.

·        Multitudinous Mary Poppins, borne on umbrellas above the Olympic Stadium, doing battle with the stuff of children’s nightmares – giant puppets of Lord Voldemort, Captain Hook, the Queen of Hearts and Cruella De Vil.   

·        Sir Simon Rattle conducting a LSO rendition of ‘Chariots of Fire’, ably assisted by Mr Bean – Rowan Atkinson, playing one fingered keyboard – hilarious.

·        ‘Becks’ escorting the Olympic torch, by neon lit speedboat, along the Thames, beneath a flaming Tower Bridge.

·        Sir Chris Hoy proudly brandishing the Union Flag, at the head of team GB, clad in their ‘Elvis’ style white hooded tracksuits with golden lining (designed by high street retailer ‘Next’ and not, as many thought, Stella McCartney) entering the arena to rapturous applause.

·        Sir Steve Redgrave, rowing gold medallist at an unprecedented five consecutive games, and GB’s greatest ever Olympian, passing the Olympic flame on to seven teenage athletes, for the lighting of the cauldron –  a master stroke, in keeping with the London 2012 motto, ‘Inspire A Generation’.    

·        The igniting of the copper petals (assembled as participating national teams entered the stadium) by the ‘next generation’, before they rose and converged to form a large flaming cauldron in the sky – the most potent sporting symbol in the world.       

For me, Danny Boyle’s London 2012 Opening Ceremony was close to perfect.

Never possible, nor desirable to match the militaristic precision and technical expertise of Beijing, it did, however harness the philosophy and feel good factor of Sydney – ‘The People’s Games’ – while successfully capturing the very essence of modern Britain; an inclusive, multi-cultural nation with a rich and proud cultural history, an innate modesty about its myriad achievements, increasingly comfortable with its place in the modern developing world, but with a perennial tendency towards disarming self-deprecation, unerringly irreverent behaviour, and a wonderfully off-beat sense of humour.

It made me feel very proud and privileged to be British.     

* Earlier in the day, Jeremy Hunt (sport and culture secretary) got the day’s celebrations off to ‘a flyer’, dropping something of a clanger, when the hand bell he was brandishing with gusto  – as part of a national three-minute ring o’bells ‘pealed’ off its handle, narrowly missing a group of onlookers. He was caught on camera, all of a fluster, exclaiming,“Oh, oh dear! Are you all right? Health and safety!” 

It could only happen here – the Olympics are clearly in safe hands…      

C’mon Team GB… 

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4 responses

31 07 2012
Another Phil

Great summary Phil Boy…’Lord of the Blogs’. Enjoying my ‘Gamesmaker’ volunteering down in Cardiff – had to walk Mexico from their hotel to the stadium yesterday! Team GB are in my hotel…Stuart Pearce seems a bit miserable!
We’re off to London Friday and have tickets for six events, sadly no athletics but a good selection. Back Sunday for a flying visit to see FGR play a Man Utd eleven

31 07 2012
Phil Aldridge

Sounds great. I hope you enjoy your Olympic experience. Unfortunately I was unable to get any tickets but I’m toying with the idea of going down to London, on Sunday, for the Women’s Marathon.

4 08 2012
lanceleuven

Extra tickets are being released all the time so you still have a chance if you look online, so good luck!

Great write up of the ceremony though. I was also very impressed by the event and enjoyed it immensely. I did feel that many foreign viewers might have been left a little perplexed at points (‘Why have they spelt out the word gosh?’) but I thought it was thoroughly brilliant all the same.

6 08 2012
Phil Aldridge

Thanks.Still trying – but no luck so far!

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