Ok, I know everyone is going to be blogging and talking about the Olympics for ever more, but please humour me. I want it to be said and recorded: I loved the opening ceremony. Ever since Beijing, which awed us all, there has been a nervous atmosphere in Britain regarding the opening ceremony. We were not particularly impressed with the handover on a London bus. It was a bit of a shambles. We were dreading making Boris Johnson the heart of the spectacle and when we head 'manufactured rain' there was some serious griping. We were sure that next to Beijing our attempt would be an embarrassment.
But the actual ceremony of last night? Won my heart for the Olympics.
|Voldemort being defeated by a flock of Mary Poppins|
I honestly felt like the ceremony was made just for me. I want to guide you through the ceremony via the moments that made me feel like I was quintessentially British.
Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins and Harry Potter. Anyone who knows me knows my love of children's writing. Although some people may not be aware, all of those were books first. All books I have read and loved. With Shakespeare as well I was blown away: I never expected a celebration of words in an event about sport.
-Folk music and hymns
I am very fond of traditional folk songs and loved the Irish children singing from the Giant's Causeway. It was beautiful and epic. Opening with a hymn was interesting when so few people identify as Christian these days, but I thought it was powerful and beautiful. I didn't know that Abide with Me is actually sung at many sporting matches, but I love that hymn which is enough for me.
I know a lot of people love rock music, but the choices were all songs I love. In particular I was delighted to hear Enola Gay by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. One of my favourite bands. Plus I was thinking of the Scroobius Pip line: "Who makes the best music in the world? / We do." and smiling at all the classic tunes that have come out of Britain.
-World Wars' Memorial
One of the only moments I ever feel patriotic usually is on Remembrance Sunday and Danny Boyle got me on my patriotism weak spot. I studied the First World War in great depth at A Level English, reading tons of war poetry and novels until I feel like I knew Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. I have also been to France and Belgium to visit the memorials, have been in the trenches and placed a wreath on the Menin Gate. All this has meant the First World War is an era that feels very important to me and so I was very touched by the recognition of the world wars. I was deeply impressed that in a celebration of all things British we didn't shy away from the horrors.
|Smelting the Olympic Rings|
Unlike the world wars this is not an era I have a vast expertise on, but again, recognising the dual nature of the industrial revolution as a blight on the English Countryside and as a forging of a new future through the metaphor of smelting the Olympic rings? Incredible. It took my breath away. You can't beat a well-crafted metaphor.
The Tempest is one of my favourite Shakespeare's and the speech they chose is one of the few that I can actually recite. I by no means claim Shakespeare for my own, but in a celebration of the bard I was glad that that was the moment they chose.
I know that the Olympics are in fact set in London, the metropolis, not a quiet country village and as such many people felt it was an inaccurate representation. However, as someone who has lived in the countryside and enjoys a sense of historical continuity I really like the maypole and the thatched cottage, quaint and twee as they may be.
-Celebration of the NHS
One of the reasons I am usually not patriotic is because I associate the word with xenophobia, racism and ignorance. I associate it with a blindness to the darkness in our history and a pride in war where there should only be sadness. I hate looking on the world wars as things which were honourable or glorious. I rarely feel a pride in Britain as a whole. But all of the above? I didn't feel one ounce of hatred of exclusion in the ceremony. It was a recognition of Britain as it is -and I loved it.