Olympic Opening Ceremony hits home


 Sanjeevini Dutta muses on what made the Olympic Opening ceremony so appealing to the vast audiences watching.

 What was it that made the Olympic Opening ceremony so affecting and memorable for the vast majority of the 27 million viewers of this nation? Though referred to as the 'best inside joke' by the Washington Post suggesting some cultural references may have been lost on those not from these Isles, it did not matter as characters like Bond and Bean are universally known and loved.

I would like to hazard that the London Olympic Opening Ceremony was a cut above the rest because it aligned itself to a set of values and beliefs that held the three and a half hour epic together, and because the direction was left to the imagination of one visionary artist, Danny Boyle, who by now is surely a household name.

There were strong underlying themes that acted as a scaffold to the drama: a view of Britain that values all the cultures and races that make up the modern nation, first articulated in the Olympic bid. Together with the investment in the next generation, was a portrayal of British irreverence (even the Queen joined in the jest whilst Bean broke all niceties of the Olympic code), humour and the commitment to give back to society, epitomised by the sheer amount of time 'donated' by volunteers to the public service of the Opening Ceremony performance.

No committee sitting around a table could have dreamt up a show which started in the rural idyll with the rallying of “Jerusalem”, and ended with the inventor of the World Wide Web revealed in a suburban home via the Industrial revolution, fat cat capitalists, army of factory workers, dancing nurses, characters from children's fiction and rock and roll music that spanned five decades. The blueprint had to emerge from the inner eye of just one individual with the confidence to leave it to specialists who could add to the vision by being allowed freedom with a framework. To Akram Khan, Danny Boyle gave a one word brief: mortality.

The designer of the Olympic Cauldron, Thomas Heatherwick, spoke an in interview on Radio 4 of his instruction to bring together nations. Rather than increasing the size and height of the cauldron, he came up with the idea of each nation contributing one petal to the overall flower-like sculpture. It was designed so that after the Games it could be dismantled and a piece taken home by each participating nation. The beauty, elegance and symbolism of the cauldron best expressed the values of the Games. Each nation was represented, the torch passed from seven Olympic athletes to seven aspirants who lit the cauldron. The dance piece choreographed by Akram Khan showed a young lad being passed the 'magic ball' from his mentor, and he was then held aloft symbolising the eternal cycle.

There was not a dry eye in the house. The Ceremony appealed on some level to each and every viewer, whether in the stadium or watching from home on television. We were all more human, warm-hearted and loving to each other as a result of Danny Boyle's homage to the British Isles.