Saturday, 28 July 2012

Cigars, Bubbles and the Sex Pistols - some thoughts on the Olympic Opening ceremony


There has been a predictable set of folk seeking to turn last nights Olympic opening into some sort of political debate. Much of this revolves round the slightly bizarre Mike Oldfield section featuring kids jumping on beds and spooky characters from children's literature. Apparently this is a terrible embarrassment for us Tories because we want to "destroy the NHS".

For some the whole episode - and the fact of some predictable socialists getting overly gleeful about the show - makes it unforgivably left-wing. Funnily enough they seem to be the same "we hate the Olympics because (insert grump of choice)" people we heard so much from before the event.

So maybe we don't all think the NHS is a perfect institution (or even remotely so) but that was but a small part of an event that celebrated the triumph of capitalism. For sure there was a nod or two to protest but the main thrust was the building of British power - the celebration of the market economy that made us rich, that allowed us to create and fund the welfare state.

For me the event was a surprise. I expected a more bucolic evocation of England's past rather than such an overt celebration of urban, industrial, capitalist Britain. I loved the IK Brunel moments - the bit from The Tempest setting the scene for industrial revolution, the top hats, the appreciation of Victorian might and the two-fingers at the nanny state with Brunel standing, cigar in his mouth, directing the show.

I guess the success of this comes from that evocation, that - professional grumps and amateur naysayers aside - we can take from what we saw our own sense of England, something to salve our understanding of the things that built Britain. Including the Sex Pistols.

Plus then - in the middle of a musical history - they play 'Bubbles' and in doing that remembered that this isn't merely London's games but the East End's games. Although not all East End folk are West Ham fans, I'm sure they'll have smiled at a little indulgent reference to East London's biggest sporting institution.

Was the show left-wing? I suspect rather more a reflection of received political wisdom - the Victorian made our nation what it is today, the NHS is a good thing, children are important and music - and media - are now at the heart of what Britain does well. And all this was brilliantly portrayed in a 90 minute show that felt like half that time.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ingredients list:-

One Queen
One Robbon
One Pair of Scissors

The rest is noise.