I’ve personally always struggled with the amount of money that the Olympics costs to host/produce, and the fact we’re in a recession did mean that when preparations kicked in, I had a good old moan about it. However, this post is not about moaning, it’s about celebration. No matter what your stance on how the transport network will cope, or some of the dubious sponsors connected with the games, tonight’s opening Ceremony was impressive, if only for the amazing lack of knowledge that the commentators possessed about precisely what was going on. Here are my more positive highlights.
1: This post starts with a personal highlight. Before the Ceremony started, an old-fashioned English ice-cream van came slowly down our road, complete with Croatian driver. I purchased a 99 Flake for the first time in years and my sister, who is visiting, told me an outrageous story of how she dropped her last 99 Flake the second after she bought it. A bad way for a 99 Flake to go. You know you’re getting old when a 99 Flake story sounds outrageous…
2: Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins came on and rang a massive bell to mark the start of the Ceremony, doing so casually, almost as if he was sleep-walking or thought this was a dress-rehearsal (or maybe both combined).
3: The Tolkien-esque hill with spiral path and ancient tree, surrounded by a traditional old English village. I loved it, but what I loved more was when the tree took off like the world’s slowest rocket and then, surprise!, loads of miners came crawling out to mark the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. It really reminded me of Ghostbusters, actually, when all the ghosts walked through the city. I’m not sure if that’s exactly what Danny Boyle had in mind.
4: The general dream-like atmosphere of it all. Again, it doesn’t matter what your opinion of the Olympics or elitism or dodgy sponsor associations is – it was one hell of a history lesson.
5: When the giant Olympic rings showered rain-light and an impressive lava-stream weaved its way across the ground. I imagine mums and dads all over the world had to field a lot of questions when this happened, like “Daddy, how did they do that?” Makes me feel lucky that I haven’t had children yet, because if I had of done then I have no idea what I’d have said to them. I’d have definitely had to lie.
6: The recorded bit where Daniel Craig – sorry, Bond – met the Queen. A nice surprise. The camera-people seemed to be obsessed with the Queen’s corgis, and this fixation remained until we followed Bond and the Queen into a helicopter…which the Queen then parachuted out of with comic effect! (It was genuinely funny, actually.)
7: When the floor was turned into a giant hospital with beds everywhere. It did seem to be like one enormous advertisement for the NHS, but despite this, it made being sick seem fun again, so there’s something to be said for that.
8: The weird demon creatures that appeared to mark the amazing history of Great British children’s literature. Each one looked to be modelled on the creatures from British hit film Attack The Block. Or at least how those same creatures might look if you starved them for several months and gave them only sugar.
9: The ingenious range of creepy giant monsters on display. A terrible and hastily designed/constructed 20-foot Voldermort from the Harry Potter films and the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang promised enough nightmares to last a billion children an entire life-time.
10: One of the commentators claiming that all the dancers were NHS doctors and nurses. Er, no they weren’t. At least not all of them. I didn’t see one person who looked like a clueless dad there and you’re not telling me the NHS doesn’t have a few hundred-thousand of them.
11: I kept wondering if the cast of Hollyoaks would appear and that was not a highlight, I can tell you. It really shouldn’t be on this list but I’m sure you’ll agree, it was distressing.
12: Learning French while watching pure TV excitement. I’ve forgotten it all now, but as they kept announcing things in French I was sure that some of it was sinking in. One day it’ll come out, probably at exactly the wrong moment.
13: This one’s debatable: Mr Bean – played by Rowan Atkinson – playing the fool sitting at a keyboard, as the London Symphony Orchestra played a classic tune which I cannot remember the name of. I am expecting a backlash for writing this, but I stand by this statement: I loved growing up with Mr Bean as a role-model.
14: All the amazing British music and actors and songs which were played throughout the ceremony. It really is incredible how much good stuff has come out of Great Britain since…well, let’s not be stingy here. Since forever!
15: Loads of people looking like they were genuinely enjoying themselves. It was great TV, even for cynical people.
16: When they played the West Ham football club anthem from classic hooligan boys movie Green Street, while, on screen, a female and male actor pretended to meet for the very first time. This was a bizarre contrast, since Green Street is to violence on British film what Blue Peter was to being selective about handing out badges. It was also followed by a montage of kisses which surely must have made the Queen go “Danny…Oh!”
17: Dizzee Rascal. He lit the place up.
18: Sir Tim Berners seated behind a desk in front of a computer. And no, I didn’t have a bloody clue who the hell he was either and yes, I felt ashamed. Sir Tim Berner is a downright genius for developing the basis of the Internet, it has to be said, but not exactly the kind of bloke you’d want to bump into at the supermarket after not seeing him since secondary school and you both started talking, as you do, about what you’d achieved since being 16.
19: The 2 minute silence to commemorate the brave men, women and children who lost their lives in the World Wars.
20: When Muhammad Ali came on at the end…
21: No big accidents, incidents or anything bad going wrong.
22: 80,000 people waiting for Steve Redgrave to deliver the Olympic torch after its journey of 12,800 miles.
23: Learning that “Olympism” is actually a real word.
24: The construction workers of the stadium being acknowledged.
25: All the blue lights and surreal undersea-atmosphere reminding me of Avatar.
26: The lighting of the cauldron. A gorgeous idea…footage that will truly live forever. There really is very little point in me attempting to explain it here for people who didn’t see it, but let’s just say this: if modern art was always like this, life would be amazing…
27: Hey Jude…
DISAPPOINTMENTS OF MAGNITUDE
1: All the nations coming on with their flags in a way which seemed a bit lazy to me. Most of the people carrying the flags look drugged, or as if they’re off out on a Las Vegas Stag Party. A few of of them must have been drugged to have been coerced into putting on some of those outfits…
2: Disappointingly, shockingly, there was no ode to a) fish and chips, Great Britain’s best and most extravagant fish-based meal, b) grumpy old men like you can find in an English pub, c) our love of moaning about the weather, or d) the Loch Ness Monster. Come on, you can’t forget the Loch Ness Monster! Also not featuring, unless I missed it, were e) Jimmy Saville & The Crankies and f) Cilla Black. I was really hoping she’d sing “surprise, surprise, the unexpected hits you between the eyes!” from hit 1980s/90s show Blind Date. Lastly, completely missing were g) sighing and queuing – two things which we are experts at. It seems a shame to miss them both out, don’t you think?
3: No Mr Blobby!
NOTE: sometimes writers make mistakes, publish a blog then wake up in the morning and realise that hundreds of people from across the world have witnessed and probably laughed themselves silly at those mistakes…for example, in the original version of this blog post, I inexcusably said that Voldermort was a character from The Lord of the Rings. Well, as Elessartelkontar thankfully pointed out in the comments section below — along with some other good points — he quite clearly wasn’t, he was from the Harry Potter series and called Lord Voldermort. That was just my brain getting things mixed-up. Thanks to her for saving me from possible massive embarrassment! In future, I’ll learn to double-check…