• London 2012: Opening Ceremony: Saving the best to last.


    Before 21:00HRS British Summer Time yesterday evening, the long suffering British taxpayer together with the even longer suffering London council tax payer, were wondering what Mr Boyle and his colleagues will have spent their millions on. Now we know.

    The British Gazette desperately wants to be positive about this, but the best we can do is to highlight the few good bits.

    Let us start of with the best of the good bits: the cauldron. Who ever thought of that and all those who took the idea and turned it into reality deserve the nation’s wholehearted congratulations. On behalf of the people of the United Kingdom, the British Gazette says: Very Well Done!

    What else was good? The TV comedy sketch featuring HM Queen Elizabeth playing herself and Mr Daniel Craig reprising his role as Agent 007, James Bond was clearly “the great surprise.” It was hugely entertaining. Our only observation would be to ask a question: Should this country’s head of state (or any country’s head of state for that matter) be portraying themselves in what is a light entertainment television programme?

    We seek the answer from our readers.

    At this point we are afraid that things begin to go down hill.

    Firstly let us apportion the blame for this: clearly on those who planned the show. Those thousands of volunteers together with their professional assistants are not to blame.

    The opening ceremony clearly had talent by the bucket load. We had the splendid percussionist, Dame Evelyn Glennie, DBE. We had the actor Sir Kenneth Branagh. These and others delivered the best performance they could. Unfortunately, their very great talents were misapplied.

    Then there were the children who sang. Their singing was wonderful. They deserve much praise. However it was unaccompanied. Such is fine in a setting such as a nativity concert in a cathedral but not in the London arena.

    The basic problem with the ceremony was that Mr Boyle and his team attempted to achieve the impossible. Mr Boyle wished to tell the story of Britain in a particularly British way. Of course in doing so he had certain constraints:
    - he had to observe the norms of modern political correctness.
    - he could not offend anyone.

    Whilst the first constraint can be said to be a self inflicted constraint the second constraint was not just a constraint. It was an absolute requirement! In observing this requirement, Mr Boyle was doing what any responsible master of ceremonies would do.

    Mr Boyle’s problem was that it would have been impossible to portray the history of these islands in any coherent form without at worst giving offense and at best being embarrassing to the largely overseas audience. Of course Mr Boyle and his colleagues fully realised this and as a result huge swathes of history was cut out and as such the industrial revolution, women’s suffrage, children’s literature and the Great Ormond Street Children’s hospital and the NHS were the topics covered.

    It was at this point Mr Boyle and his team can be said to have “lost the plot.”

    One of the most obvious considerations any producer must take into account is the audience. He or she must ask themselves the question: who will be the audience?

    The answer for Mr Boyle was “the world.” Most of the world is not British. Most of the world is not European. Most of the world is Asian and African. Large parts of last night’s performance will have completely passed these good people by! As the giant puppets towered around and children jumped up and down on iron bedsteads these millions will have been somewhat nonplussed and will have asked themselves: “What is this all about?”

    The biggest irony however was that in a curious and very depressing way, Mr Boyle and his colleagues did in fact achieve their objective – to paint a picture of Britain. It was and is this: that the British are a nation of hugely talented people. Much of this huge talent was prominently displayed last night at the opening ceremony. We have already mentioned Dame Evelyn Glennie and Sir Kenneth Branagh. The problem was that this talent was misapplied. This is of course one of this country’s great problems: huge talent but poorly led and directed.

    Another irony of course surrounds the task Mr Boyle set himself. It was a Herculean task. British Gazette readers will note that the twelve labours of Hercules is also known as the dodekathlon. Does this in Olympic terms make Mr Boyle a dodekathlete? Failed of course.