The London Olympics Opening Ceremony - A Class Act
29 July, 2012 - While I've been blogging and sending out press releases about the London Olympics ad infinitum, I couldn't bring myself to awake at 5 am (Sydney, Australia) in time to watch the Opening Ceremony in real time. Instead, over a pizza and some vino, my husband and I lounged back on our favorite couches at a more reasonable hour and watched the taped version over dinner.
I'll have to be honest, the beginning of the London Olympics' Opening Ceremony left me a little underwhelmed. Having had my expectations heightened by the memories of those whip cracking stockmen galloping across the Sydney Olympic arena to the theme of The Man From Snowy River, I was waiting for my spirits to instantly soar at the London Opening Ceremony. No such luck. What we got instead was a green pastoral scene, with village locals from ages past going about their businesses - working, dancing, interacting with each other. It was an age of simplicity.
Before long, the scene started to change dramatically, as evil looking smoke stacks from the Industrial Revolution seemingly rose out of nowhere, belching out their toxic fumes. Nothing was glossed over as the landscape turned from a verdant green to an ugly grey and black, clearly communicating the high price that was paid for technology. Then, like a Phoenix rising out of the ashes, the Olympic rings rose to the middle of the stadium, glowing red and spilling forth a dramatic shower of sparks. Wow!!
From that scene, I couldn't wait to see where the show was going. We weren't disappointed as we saw Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II join Daniel Craig in a James Bond parody, hopping onto a helicopter from Buckingham Palace and seeming to parachute into the Olympic Park. I howled with laughter and marveled at British irony and self-deprecating humor at its best. You'd never see Julia Gillard or Barack Obama doing this!
After the visual celebration of the UK's National Health Service, proudly featuring 15,000 volunteers, we were transported to scenes from Chariots of Fire, with English conductor Sir Simon Rattle leading the London Symphony Orchestra's beautiful rendition of its theme. Just as we thought things were turning a little too serious, Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr Bean), who was part of the orchestra, took photos of the crowd on his smartphone, Twitted, and attempted to wipe his nose with one hand after a particularly aggressive sneeze while trying to keep his other hand on his instrument. One didn't know whether to weep at the exquisite sentimentality of the music or guffaw at Mr Bean's antics.
A celebration of the best of British rock and music from the 60's, 70's and 80's, and the parade of athletes, followed. It ended spectacularly with Sir Chris Hoy leading the Great Britain team to the strains of 'We Can Be Heroes', complete with, wait for it, a glance of Her Majesty The Queen picking at her fingernails. As a fitting tribute the Planet Earth's 7 billion people, 7 billion pieces of paper were dropped via helicopter over the stadium as the crowd went wild.
After the official speeches, the flame was carried into the stadium by Sir Steve Redgrave, who passed it on to 6 'non name' athletes. The flame was eventually used to light dozens of torches which rose to form the 'Flame of Unity' and the Olympic Cauldron as a montage of Olympic moments played on the video screen.
From being underwhelmed at the start of the London Olympic Opening Ceremony, I couldn't help feeling charmed and fascinated by the end of it. As I wrote in my book Culture Savvy For Women, " The British find open displays of emotion embarrassing and bury their sentimentality under humor. This is what makes them the absolute masters of irony. With a unique comedic style that is dry, sarcastic, self-deprecating, and razor sharp, it is delivered with deadpan accuracy."
And deliver with deadpan accuracy they did. The verdict: the London Olympics Opening Ceremony was quintessentially British and a class act all the way!