You know what? I’ve spent months being cynical about the Olympics, but I’m going to come straight out and say that Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony blew me away. By turns impressive, moving, funny and occasionally slightly deranged, the ceremony packed a broad range of all the different aspects of what it means to be British, from the Industrial Revolution to the landing of the Windrush.
I was expecting the initial scenes of a bucolic, Constable-esque England. I wasn’t expectieng the dancing tribute to the NHS, or James Bond to parachute in with the Queen, or Rowan Atkinson’s hilarious cameo as Mr Bean in an orchestra performing Chariots of Fire. Equally hilariously, reports came in on Twitter that the screening of the famous lesbian kiss on Brookside had resulted in Saudi TV inadvertently broadcasting a same-sex kiss for the first time in history. It’s an ill wind that blows no minds.
But it turns out somebody didn’t like all this. Halfway through the ceremony, Aidan Burley MP tweeted, “The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen – more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?” To be followed later by, “Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap. Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones!” Wow, who would have thought a guy who once hired a Nazi fancy dress costume would have a somewhat narrow view of nationhood?
Burley may have been the most publicised grinch at the Olympic party, but he wasn’t the only one. On Twitter, Toby Young complained that, “I feel like I’ve just watched a £27 million Party Political Broadcast for the Labour Party” The Telegraph’s James Delingpole claimed to like it, “apart from the weird NHS propaganda” while Harry Cole whinged, “Not even communist China were so brazen as to extoll their nationalised stranglehold on their country so blatantly.”
Or, to put it another way, Danny Boyle’s epic display of all things British has done an impressive job of annoying all the right people. He provided a complex tapestry that included not only the likes of Shakespeare and the Red Arrows, but also a diverse and multicultural nation, where difference can be celebrated rather than ignored or denigrated. And yes, a nation that values its healthcare system.
And if the likes of Aidan Burley don’t like it, maybe we can set up a tiny little parochial nation where he and his ilk can live unencumbered by any horror of meeting people who aren’t like them. Perhaps we could give them the island of St Kilda, or some other place that none of us are ever likely to want to go.