Saturday, 28 July 2012


It's my birthday on August 1st and I'll be 64 years old. It only just occurred to me a few days ago that I was born during the London Olympics of 1948. Probably because I have little interest in sport and even less in watching it. I'm not against sport; it's really a good idea; it's just that watching it bores me. But if I think that sport itself is a really good idea, I think the idea behind the Olympics is a brilliant one.

It's a celebration of hard work and excellence, of national and personal pride, of coming together. It's a joyous event and I'm happy for the happiness it brings to those who take part as athletes, those who work behind the scenes and those who watch it even if I won't be watching any of it. Apart from the opening ceremony last night, that is.

And I watched all of it from the first minute to the last because it's Britain's Olympics and I'm proud to be British. I'm even prouder after Danny Boyle's celebration of British culture and history. The imaginary rural idyll transformed in moments into the fire and smokestacks of the Industrial Revolution with its dirt-covered workers and top-hat wearing capitalists and Kenneth Branagh as the iconic figure of Victorian industrialist and engineer par excellence Isambard Kingdom Brunel quoting Shakespeare, and the pounding drums of Evelyn Glennie, of children's dark fantasies (with Joanne Rowling reading from Peter Pan) brought to life in a dancing celebration of the NHS while Mike Oldfield and band played Tubular Bells.

And then the dancing and the music. Hot young singer Emelie Sande singing beautifully in front of a riveting piece of modern dance. A history of British pop music with a kaleidoscope of images, dancers revealing an array of racial origins, clad in wonderful colourful costumes and, somehow, blended in a modern romance conducted by tweeting on mobile phones building to a reveal of the man who made the world wide web possible -Tim Berners Lee.

The Queen teamed up with James Bond. Smart suited David Beckham, (not someone I normally have time for) displaying great dignity and composure while piloting a motor launch with the torch and its female bearer at the prow. Mr Bean destroyed Simon Rattel conducting the theme from Chariots of Fire.

The seemingly endless procession of the athletes was made bearable by their sheer delight and joy at being there.

Then the lighting of the Olympic torch which turned out to be nothing like anyone expected. Seven young British Olympians each touched alight seven of the urns, one carried earlier by each team, which exploded to light them all. And then all 205 were raised into the air to create one majestic torch which was itself a symbol of what the Olympics is all about. Breathtaking.

Glorious madness. A wonderful blend of creativity and technical achievement that deserves a book to be written about it. Also, if they've got any sense, a DVD of the ceremony should be issued. Danny Boyle (along with thousands of people) has created something genuinely unique, genuinely marvellous, packed full of wonders and joy. (Pity about Paul McCartney singing that vastly overrated song Hey Jude but, hey, nothing is perfect except a kitten).


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