The Gift Trilogy

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Friday, 27 July 2012

Isles of Wonder. The Opening Ceremony

'Save the surprise' was the watchword and when Danny Boyle requested it once again, the stadium roared its support. This was the second and last full dress rehearsal and so far the promise has been largely kept. It shows a generosity of spirit, not altogether matched in the press. 

I caught a snippet in the Radio Times, which pointed out that the LA Olympics in 1994 started with a spaceman and a jetpack: Seoul in 1988 began with a giant river barge ten miles from the stadium, Sidney 2000 had a formation horse troupe...and ‘Tonight, artistic director Danny Boyle has promised us sheep.’

The media has both hands behind its back carrying, respectively bouquets and knives freshly sharpened. The key word is ‘quirky’. The media has decided Danny Boyle is quirky, a nice slippery word that will later explain either failure or success.

We were there at the dress rehearsal and without giving the game away, yes, there are sheep. And they are more exciting than the ‘clouds’. And if that was all, Danny Boyle would be less quirky than actively deranged.  

What we saw was a triumph in the act of trying to please as many people as possible. The fact that there were a few aspects of the ‘whole’ that left me cold bears out that fact. Dear God in Heaven, an Opening Ceremony that talked exclusively to me would leave the greater part of the nation untouched. The overall impression I had was a powerful balance between the traditional and subversive, populist and punk, and the darker, mischievous spirit of the surreal and British bloody-mindedness. Beijing spent £64m on their Opening Ceremony and it had something to prove. Boyle worked on a budget of £27m and a generous and dedicated cast. (And my daughter who is carrying Qatar's standard as they enter the stadium)

Perhaps the finest contrast between good cheer and optimism as opposed to a more sour spirit is to be seen in London’s mayor, Boris Johnson. The contrasting tone is to be found in a rather snide and sour piece in the New York Times with phrases like ‘Reports this week from London speak of tension on the set; if tempers are running high, it’s probably because so much is at stake. Critics are questioning the expense of the games, with words like “fiasco,” “disaster” and “complete nightmare.” I think, like Mitt Romney, Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky will eat his words. Except that academics rarely do.

Well we can at least hope we don’t repeat the mistake of the Seoul Olympics when hundreds of doves were released, many of whom landed on the rim of the Olympic cauldron and were promptly incinerated.


Maria Zannini said...

We never miss the Opening Ceremony. We'll be looking for your daughter.

While some ceremonies aren't as good as others, each host country does its best and that's all I can hope for. With any luck it'll bring lots of tourist money to the UK.

Jay Paoloni said...

I wish I had seen the opening ceremony in London live, being there myself, rather than being here.
Your review helped being more part of it.

Mike Keyton said...

Hi Maria, I think Danny Boyle got the balance right. I hope you enjoyed it.
Jay, I'm glad my take on it had some use. I think the general view now is that Danny Boyle did a very good job. At least real 'doves' weren't hurt in the process : )

Mike Staton said...

I watched portions of the opening ceremonies and what I saw looked fine to me. I'd give Boyle a pat on the back. There's always going to criticism; look at the'96 games in Atlanta, which were heavily criticized for being too commercialized. Atlanta's opening ceremony with its 500 cheerleaders and 30 pickup trucks was seen as garish. I guess the IOC and the restof the world wasn't into Redneck.

Claudia Del Balso said...

Sheep!?!? I just hope those poor creatures didn't go out the stadium's doors and diverted directly to the slaughter house. It would be a real shame. I didn't see the openeing ceremony because I was the Just for Laughs comedy festival attending two shows (one being the gala). I stopped watching the olympic games a long time ago. Sportsmanship has a different meaning now, politics somehow has made its way through, and political incorrectness is all over. I don't enjoy it anymore :(

Claudia Del Balso said...

Oops! sorry for the typos. I'm still half asleep: *delete 's, *opening, *I was at

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mike .. wonderful that you got to see the rehearsal - I thought it'll be a ceremony no-one will forget and it was so British ...

I do hope your daughter has fun - congratulations to her on her achievement and actually being a part of the Olympics ..

Cheers Hilary

Mike Keyton said...

Hi Mike, you're right. It's a bit like trying to square the circle and if you achieve a measure of success you add the stress to the next 'luckless' or otherwise organiser. I've seen it three times now - first live at the dress rehearsal, second on TV on the night itself and third with my daughter who, because she was part of it ironically saw relatively little herself. Some images stick in the mind.

You're dead right, Claudia. It's not for everyone. Mind you, I was a bit puzzled by your reference to being politically incorrect.

Mike Keyton said...

Hi Hilary and thank you for your good wishes ref my daugher. She did really enjoy it!

Unknown said...

I thought it was wonderful. I came over all British and enjoyed every second (except McCartney). It's impossible to please all the people all the time, but I think Danny Boyle got the balance exactly right.

Claudia Del Balso said...

Oh, Mike. Let me clarify. I didn't mean the Olympic Games are politically incorrect, I meant the whining from spectators and judges. Nowadays, you can't do or say anything without hurting someone's feelings. You always have to tip-toe around in order to avoid a "faux-pas" That's what I meant ;)

Mike Keyton said...

Shirley, you're right. It's a bit like writing. You have to please yourself and hope enough people share your vision.

Claudia I understand. My twist on it is that people are toooo politically correct - which kind of means condescension. As pure theatre this opening ceremony was pretty damn good