Saturday, 28 July 2012

Mr Boyle, you had me at Jerusalem...


And did those feet in ancient time, walk upon England's mountains green....

The day after the long awaited, and nervously anticipated Olympic opening ceremony and I'm still amazed by how fabulous it was.

After the spectacle of the Beijing opening ceremony there was a lot of speculation about how ours could match it. But thankfully director Danny Boyle wasn't thinking that way because he delivered something far better: a love letter to the world about our history and cultural innovation along with a look forward to the future for our vibrant, multi-layered nation.

From the opening notes of Elgar's Nimrod I was transfixed to the TV, music so embedded in our cultural landscape that most people probably don't know the name of it (I didn't) just that it means something to be British.  Then, setting the tone for the rest of the ceremony, a lone boy singing the epic and soul-stirring Jerusalem...

I admit to being slightly sneering during the run-up to the Olympics, looking at it as a huge waste of money and a potentially disorganised embarrassment. But, wow, if the opening ceremony is an indication of what we can expect then I reserve the right to change my mind.

I loved the whole thing. The pomp, the humour, the cultural references and the eccentricity that is uniquely British. Mr Bean playing the Vangelis 'Chariots of Fire' and ending with a fart? Inspired. James Bond acting with the Queen? Utter genius. Danny Boyle's celebration of the welfare state? A magnificent, timely two-fingered salute to David Cameron. And alongside all of the celebration there was time for silences for the war dead and victims of 7/7 which were elegant, moving and respectful. 

But the added bonus for me was the outpouring of patriotism and pride in our country evident on Twitter. Danny Boyle touched a nerve with so many people, and it was fantastic that - even if for a short time - we turned off our default setting of cynicism and celebrated our national pride.

Enjoy the Olympics over the next two weeks. Hopefully we'll win so many medals I might even learn the tricky second verse of the national anthem...