Night of wonders
BBC One’s broadcast of the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony attracted 82.5 per cent of the available UK audience, a share seldom recorded since the days when there were only two channels to choose from and one of them was showing the test card.
Brits seem to have loved what they watched, with the exception of the occasional Nazi sympathiser who didn’t appreciate seeing Voldemort vanquished by a flock of Mary Poppinses.
Critics from home and abroad were mostly delighted too, especially those lucky enough to be there in the stadium:
All expectations were not so much surpassed as destroyed. The celestially brilliant ‘Pandemonium’ sequence, in which the rural landscape turned industrial, culminating in molten steel Olympic rings showering the arena with sparks, was one of the best things I have ever seen. Not one of the best ceremonies, pieces of performance art, or events I have seen in a stadium. Just one of the best things.
Alex Chick, Eurosport
“Welcome to London,” said Sebastian Coe, the gold medal Olympic champion and organizer of the London 2012 Summer Games. “I have never been so proud to be British and to be part of the Olympic movement as I am on this day at this moment.” I’ve never been so proud to be a member of the human race! … I had tears in my eyes too many times to count.
Kelly Wallace, iVillage
Me too, Kelly, but not everyone was so enthralled. One critic devoted two long paragraphs to complaining that Elton John hadn’t been part of the musical montage, concluding:
The man who rewrote ‘Candle in The Wind’ for Princess Diana gets shut out? That, boys and girls, is intentional. That’s akin to having a tribute to pop music in the U.S. and leaving out, say, Elvis.
Michael Wilbon, ESPN.com
The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney was similarly incredulous that Dusty Springfield didn’t feature.
Snubbed musical favourites aside, most professional US journalists applauded the ceremony, but the majority of ordinary Americans felt differently, judging by the hundreds of comments I’ve read on news websites and blogs. They weren’t just lukewarm but furiously negative. It’s difficult to be sure exactly why these viewers hated it, because they didn’t say “I found it too bizarre” or “I prefer a more disciplined style of choreography” or “I didn’t understand half the references” but just, “That was the worst thing I have EVER seen! It sucked big time!!” One New Yorker suggested the naysayers simply lacked class. “The uptown folks got it,” she posted, presumably from uptown.
Amateur commentators from other nations were much more enthusiastic. “The first gold medal of the Games goes to London … Fantastic!” said David Fehring, a reader of the Die Welt website.
I was especially pleased by the London touches: the pearly kings and queens, Dizzee Rascal, Great Ormond Street Hospital and West Ham’s ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ (be fair, supporters of other London clubs, the stadium is in the Irons’ manor and they have a better anthem than you.)
For me, the only let-down was her majesty, aside from her daring parachute drop. No one expected her to sit grinning inanely while the Arctic Monkeys rocked the house. But did she have to appear so grimly uninterested the whole time she was there? Steve Tilley of the Canadian press agency QMI suggested that maybe the reason she “looked really, really cranky during the rest of the ceremony [was that] … she twisted her ankle when she landed.”