I confess to imagining that the Olympic opening ceremony should feature The Spice Girls, Rebekah Brooks, Damian Hirst, and the entire cast of the Harry Potter movies in a celebration o f class war, malice, negativity and the exploitation of dead artists from Shakespeare to Amy Winehouse, in which every structure built in London before 1900 will be replaced with a luxury apartment complex, a Tesco, a Ladbrokes and a Tate annex. The whole to be directed by Guy Ritchie, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
But it turned out in reality to be almost as strange. I certainly didn’t expect it to include a tribute to the National Health Service, complete with glowing “NHS” logo visible from Mars. A lot of it was like that—the astonishing thing was not just the army of people swarming the field or the sets and costumes, but the fact that they were representing the transformation of rural England into the Industrial Age. Completely mad. Concluding with a forging of the ring, no less! Wagner and Tolkein must be seething with envy.
Both The Queen and Simon Rattle unbent their dignity for moments of welcome comic relief with Mr. Bond and Mr. Bean—two contemporary ideals of British manhood. Along with Beckham, Muhammad Ali, Daniel Barenboim, ….
The musical part of the show was hard to judge. Watching via NBC, most of it was submerged under inane presenter chatter. The playlist seems pretty strong, but the songs were presented in a rapid-fire montage of tiny iconic bits, like a drunk madly scrolling through their iPod. It was lively, but it hardly represented British accomplishments in pop music in the last 60 years (if that was the point).
The message was pretty clearly that Britain invented the modern world, both in terms of economic base—Industrialization to the Internet—but popular culture superstructure as well. Right. But I give them a lot of credit: where else would a sports extravaganza start with kids singing William Blake?