From a casual chariot introductory ride in ancient Greece, the opening ceremony of the Olympics has morphed into an egotistic exhibition of national pride. Beijing was one testosterone-driven display of the prowess of China. Its grandeur is unlikely to be matched by any opening.
However, if Beijing forever hammered opening ceremonies into a strait-jacket of mechanical, robotic brilliance, London liberated the occasion with a shrug of nonchalance.
Danny Boyle and his crew knew that England has the kind of heritage that resonates across the world, especially the English-speaking one. And they milked it. It was an easy connect. Your correspondent was overawed by Beijing, this one he enjoyed. That despite the fact the Chinese had far cheaper beer.
In fact, beer here came at the premium of a long wait. The eats lines were non-existent, the one for the amber buzzer serpentine. The 60,000 people who packed the stadium came to party and they got it. This was a participative ceremony with a delightful dash of British humour. They actually shot a creative film which had the queen in the company of James Bond (Daniel Craig) board a helicopter and purportedly parachute into the stadium! It was wicked. It was funny. Can you imagine something of the sort being done at the Commonwealth Games with then president Pratibha Patil? Don’t even try, lest you be charged under some arcane law which presumes disrespect.
Then, the clip from the iconic film Chariots of Fire suddenly had the crazy Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) pop up and trip Harold Abrahams — a Jewish icon — and apart from the guffaws, there hasn’t been any reaction of perceived hurt to a minority community. Britain showed it’s a country that can laugh at itself — an option only for a nation secure in its position in the world.
The athletes’ parade, the original purpose of this whole jamboree, has become a side show. And honestly, it’s just too long. Sometimes in the future, the Olympics will have to take a call on whether tradition has to be maintained or spectator interest.
It was all largely beautiful, it was weaved well but it wasn’t seamless. There were bits of imperfection — just like in you and me. But then, there were just too many kids having fun out there for it not to be endearing. To add to the fun there were 3D glasses and sections of the event became a vivid swathe of colour with those on. Those times this was a ceremony on LSD.
Highlights | Numbers don't lie