I had the huge privilege of being at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games, and it was fantastic.
Danny Boyle showed us all why he is one of the most artistically and commercially successful film-makers alive, he takes clichés and turns them on their heads. Picturesque historic Edinburgh, through the eyes of a drug addict in Trainspotting. London’s busy tourist destinations but empty except for zombies in 28 Days Later and not the India of Taj Mahal but of poverty, organised crime and corruption in Slumdog Millionaire. If we wanted a “Last of the Summer Wine” version of Britain, Danny Boyle was the wrong man to ask.
The ceremony started with the picture postcard version of England, with village cricket, maypoles, milkmaids and livestock. That was quickly replaced with a journey through Britain’s counter cultural history from the Jarrow marchers and Suffragettes, through the Sex Pistols and the Rolling Stones to a parachuting Monarch.
I was buzzing at every stage of the event, except for the parade of athletes which was great for them but less so for us. The transformation from rural idyll to an industrial nightmare at the instigation of Victorian Capitalists with their Orwellian “strange cylindrical hats” was visually stunning culminating in molten steel Olympic rings showering sparks from the sky.
Putting the quintessentially British NHS centre stage, both literally and metaphorically, was an overtly political statement, playing Chariots of Fire would have been nice, but Rowan Atkinson taking the piss out of it (and by cheating on a run also the Olympics a little bit too) was genius.
Sneaking an image of Ken Livingstone into one of the animated sections was understandable and forgiveable seeing as he played a pivotal role in securing the Games for London and dealing with the terrorist attacks the day after.
We do (small c) conservative stuff better than anyone else in the world, Jubilees, Royal Weddings, the Ashes, the Oxford vs Cambridge boat race, etc. etc. etc. If we had done the same last night we would have been forgiven but not remembered. By holding a mirror up to the Britain that we are, rather than the Britain we think we are, Danny Boyle put on a show that will set the standard for many games to come.
And as a Tory I loved every lefty minute of it.