• 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.

    • Jo,

      You are spot on as regards your comments about the cauldron. IMHO the best and most imaginative ever. I nearly missed it however for as it went past midnight the wife suggested that it was not worth staying up any longer and she retired. I’m now satisfied I stayed up as I would have missed what was overall the best bit of the whole show.

      I do take issue with the Editor on one aspect however. The title of the article. He should have inserted the word “nearly” as I agree with you, as the last item was Paul McCartney and your comments are spot on!

      So far as the Queen appearing in a sketch with James Bond, I don’t think the Editor was criticising her. I think he is probably split on this. For myself I think it was OK for her to do it and was for me the most entertaining bit of the whole show. Insofar as the parachute jump was concerned, that was obviously a put up job but still good fun.


    • Mr Boyle might perhaps have re-enacted the signing of the Magna Carta followed by a bonfire of the EU flag and the hoisting of the national flags of the EU member countries.

    • I was left wondering why I had struggled so much studying British history all those years ago at school when it has now been reduced to the level of the arrival of a boat from the West Indies etc.
      Having said that some parts were well worth watching, the lighting of the flame for example.

    • Yes the cauldron was a magnificent feat of design and engineering, probably the best presentation of the Olympic Flame I can remember.
      I don’t think we should be too harsh in commenting on the Queen taking part in such a light-hearted manner, the consensus from everyone I have spoken to, have felt she did herself no harm in agreeing to do this.
      The NHS thing seemed to go on for too long, the mechanics of the ‘industrial theatre’ were spectacular but how many people abroad would have understood it all?
      Where were our world renown figures from the field of literature, was Harry Potter the best we could bring to the fore?
      Much of it seemed disjointed trying to fit so much in, but the biggest groan has to be for Paul McCartney, he looked awful, missed his cue and sounded dreadful! High time he was told to retire or, at the very least NEVER invited to perform on a publicly staged arena again.

    • What I personally find so unutterably depressing, apart from the sheer cost and fatuous childishness of this junket, is the almost imbecilic re-action of tens of thousands of spectators lining the streets during the tour of ‘The Torch’ around this nation.

      Why on earth were they cheering and whooping like demented refugees from some latter day Bedlam? Truly, the ‘lunatics are running the madhouse’ while dressed in ‘the Emperor’s clothes’

      John Green

    • The absence of any critique from me reflects the fact that I could not bring myself to watch it.

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