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Tuesday, July 31, 2012 

Let's do something very British: make the best of it.

I apologise in advance if this shocks anyone, but I have a confession to make. I didn't watch the opening ceremony live. I'll just let that sink in for a second.

Yes, it's true. I took one look at the pre-released extract of the nurses dancing and thought, nope, don't think I'll bother. And on that, I stand by my initial opinion: fine sentiment, not quite as good execution. As for the rest, well, it was crap, but it was crap in the best possible way. Certainly nowhere near as crap as China's reprise of 1936, or worse yet, the handover segment from the closing ceremony last time round (my predictions for the opening ceremony were thankfully not proved correct, although I was, sadly, part right about Amy Winehouse). It still had to involve the Queen, David Beckham and Seb Coe, but dear old Brenda seemed bored near to tears by the whole thing, while Seb talked out of his foot as could be expected. The bits that nearly raised it above crap were the forging of the rings and the inspired decision not to give the lighting of the cauldron to one person; I'd had a horrible premonition it was going to be Brenda doing the honours.

Some people, naturally, wanted to read far too much into it. Not just Aidan Burley, who dug himself a hole so deep he must be somewhere near Australia currently, but also Pollyanna Toynbee, who laments that Danny Boyle's vision of a "deep-dyed social democratic nation" is being torn apart by the coalition. Fair enough, the current government is a disaster, but are we really deep-dyed social democratic? Let's not kid ourselves here. That it also annoyed a certain section of right-wingers who detected socialism, political correctness or any of the other modern British "cultural evils" in it says far more about them than it does about Boyle's direction or Frank Cottrell Boyce's script. Indeed, if anything it reflects how they've become out of touch, rather than it being the other way around.

If the media as a whole appeared to love the opening, then we could perhaps have relied on the Mail to play at least one discordant note. Given the chance to sound off in the Mail Online's RightMinds comment section, Rick Dewsbury managed to make all the other criticisms and complaints seem insignificant by comparison. It wasn't just the celebration of the NHS when it's a system that occasionally fails, it was the completely unrealistically portrait it painted of mixed-race relationships:

This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but it is likely to be a challenge for the organisers to find an educated white middle-aged mother and black father living together with a happy family in such a set-up.

Almost, if not every, shot in the next sequence included an ethnic minority performer. The BBC presenter Hazel Irvine gushed about the importance of grime music (a form of awful electronic music popular among black youths) to east London. This multicultural equality agenda was so staged it was painful to watch.

Almost immediately realising this was just a teeny bit beyond the pale, the piece was quickly edited so something approaching the opposite was stated:

This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but such set-ups are simply not the ‘norm’ in any part of the country. So why was it portrayed like this and given such prominence? If it was intended to be something that we can celebrate, that two people with different colour skin and different cultural heritages can live harmoniously together, then it deserves praise. But what will be disturbing to many people is top-down political manipulation – whether consciously or unthinkingly – at a major sporting event.

Before the Mail realised it was on a hiding to nothing and the piece simply disappeared. Luckily, John Walker managed to capture it before it disappeared down the memory hole. That perhaps not everything in the ceremony was meant to be taken literally, as the last time I checked nurses no longer wear those sort of uniform, and James Bond is, err, fictional, seems to have passed some people by.

It is after all possible to think the opening was better than it could have been and enjoy the sport while still loathing the ridiculous levels of security, the areas being closed off for the duration to the public, the privileges demanded by the Olympic "family" and the sponsors, and the likelihood that there will be no real legacy to speak of despite all the promises, as Andrew Gilligan points out. It is an incredible waste of money, but let's make the best of it while it's on, eh?

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Just to advise that all links from your feed to your recent blogposts lead to an error.

Should be fixed now. It's actually been like that for ages but I didn't know whether there was a fix, as Google insists on urls redirecting to co.uk for some reason. It was so simple it took be approx 5 seconds.

Using "as Andrew Gilligan points out" to refer to points about London's infrastructure or economy (reasonable or not) is rather like using "as David Icke points out" to refer to points about international finance.

Well yes, but even stopped clocks are right twice a day.

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