With Danny Boyle’s massive Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics now a day behind us, it’s easier to judge the overall reaction to the production and just how the effort oversaw by the “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire” director was received by the British masses.
To offer an idea of how much the powers that be in the UK enjoyed the Opening, rumors are now rampant on the ground in London that it will soon be Sir Danny Boyle – with a knighthood now pending for his work producing a show watched by an estimated 1.1 billion viewers worldwide.
I rode my personal transport for my game coverage here – a 2012 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob – along the A3 or the Portsmouth Road from Surrey into Guildford (a working class town not known for its tourist attractions). I took a seat at the The Whitehouse Pub and and eavesdropped on the local chatter.
From the mood of the average blue collar Brits, it’s safe to say the Ceremonies were a source of national pride seen as a worthy successor to their famous predecessors in Athens and Beijing. But there were portions of the show that many didn’t understand or embrace. And that was predictable.
As I tweeted live during the show, I can’t imagine any country but the UK – the only country to host three Olympic Games – to apologize for its actions during what’s supposed to be a celebratory national showcase.
The Sir Kenneth Branagh driven segment – featuring the great English engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel tearing up the British countryside and ushering in the Industrial Revolution – clearly bemoaned the onrushing machinery and “dark, satanic mills.”
According to critics who want to assign political agendas to the Ceremonies, this hatred for industry and grieving for those Brits wrenched from their simple rural lives are in keeping with Boyle’s long-standing and aggressive leftist views.
I don’t know about that, and I’m the last journalist on Earth who wants to make the Olympics here political. I do know it seems oddly hypocritical for any production to cast dispersions on the very same engines of industry that made modern England and London possible and a worthy host to the world’s largest sporting event. In fact, Boyle and company wouldn’t have had the very stadium they called home to their show – nor most of the high-tech tools they used to produce it – if not for Britain leading the world’s transition into the modern age.
Leaving Guildford and following the A3 into London, I was able to settle into the London Media Centre in Westminster off Parliament Square and monitor UK media commentary on the Ceremony.
The reception from media critics, government officials and relevant celebrities was resoundingly positive across the board. The most popular segments were James Bond helping Her Majesty parachute into the festivities and the moving (and technically flawless) elevation of copper caldrons into one united Olympic Torch.
Multiple BBC commentators were quick to point out that Boyle was the first Opening Ceremony producer to transform the event from a huge production centralized in a stadium to a nationwide film and television spectacle that used the media to take the event outside the park.
In other words, Boyle will be remembered here in London and around the world for developing the Olympics’ first truly multimedia (and, indeed, new media) Opening Ceremony.