The Olympic Opening Ceremony was left wing, and was better for it

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.

12 responses to “The Olympic Opening Ceremony was left wing, and was better for it

  1. I'm afraid I thought it was small minded and embarrassing. But I appear to be in a minority of one.

  2. Nicely put James.

    Is perhaps the central message here that when you look at the rich society Britain has become the seating arrangements of the 18th century French national assembly, and whether we are on the left or right, become less and less relevant?

    We're a society that has thrived on inclusiveness (surely the core undertone of the Act of Union) and while I'll put my hand up and say before hand I was hugely skeptical about what we were likely to deliver as an opening ceremony I'm delighted that we were able to deliver something that seems to have served to resonate with so many, and ultimately unite us, regardless of politics.

  3. Perhaps it was not so much that it was left-wing, as that it had elements of both left and conservative (Queen, Churchill, armed forces, industry producing wealth as well as satanic mills, remembering the war dead). Normally I don't think the “left” elements get much of a look in at national events of this sort, so it is a bit of a shock to see them there – I certainly usually feel excluded by such events, but not, for once, by this one.

  4. Yeah but you're probably the kind of Tory who also likes the BBC. Wake up. The values being expressed are antithetical to what Tories are elected to do.

    Your blindness to it explains why people are leaving the Conservative Party in droves.

  5. No, anonymous, you're not in a minority of one; it's just that freedom of expression has been so eroded in this country that people are afraid to speak out.

    As for blingmun – well said!!

  6. Not a minority at all. Look at the internet. It will be remembered as a disaster everywhere outside Britain, and by many within the UK.

  7. Shock news Tories are also socialists these day, wow who'd of known? If you can't see the damage this anti business anti work anti wealth creation anti innovation propaganda is doing then youre blind to reality.

    The industrial revolution did more to improve the lot of the average working man and woman than the billions wasted on social pork barrel projects ever will.

  8. An overtly political left wing statement indeed. And if Tories can not see that then they are not real Tories at all. That includes Cameron and Boris. How could Churchill, the man who saved the multicultural element in Britain from genocide, be virtually ignored while the NHS, which allows thousands to die every year at the hands of so many apathetic, negligent, cossetted untouchables be given centre stage?

  9. As a real Tory, I thought it was a load of pretentious cr*p, symptomatic of the arty-crafty crowd mentality.
    Country's gone to the dogs.

  10. Well, I enjoyed it. I thought the music and visuals were great, even if some did seem liable to be lost on an international audience. Still, looking at French, Italian and Spanish tweets, it seems to have been loved. Only bit I would have changed was the social networking segment, which was mega-cringe.

    The main bitching online has come from a minority of grumpy Americans who were “bored” (not enough crash-bang-wallop?) and/or saw the NHS segment as an unwelcome endorsement of that great bugaboo, “Obamacare”. Reading such reactions, a Carly Simon classic comes to mind.

  11. Sorry James. In the understandable enthusiasm of the moment you may well have enjoyed every minute of it. In time to come I hope you will look again at the numerous elements of agit-prop and political correctness and feel a slight sense of shame.

    I wonder how many of your constituents will view your comments in a few months time – they may come back to haunt you.

  12. I was directed here from a nasty right-wing site…..So,James who?/AM?/Oh,assembly member[in London]……leader of the conservative group…..that explains a lot.///Wait on; this man is being paid £1305-96p per week in terms normal people can understand.No politician should be paid more then a three year squadie whose Aldershoting it.That would drive out the bad and bring in the good.

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