Tom Fearon

Marketing :: Communications :: Editing

London Olympics Opening Ceremony Lacked Global Appeal

 Rowen Atkinson provided a brief moment of comic relief in an otherwise lackluster opening ceremony. Photo: The Telegraph

Rowen Atkinson provided a brief moment of comic relief in an otherwise lackluster opening ceremony. Photo: The Telegraph

Jul. 29, 2012

By Tom Fearon

The world has been treated to Olympic opening ceremonies with bizarre touches in recent times, including Sydney's parade of lawn mowers, Athens' laser-inspired tribute to Greek gods and Beijing's lip-syncing child starlet Lin Miaoke. But none compare to London's pomp and peculiar curtain-raiser on Friday night that spanned three hours, costing about $42 million.

The media worldwide unanimously insists it was worth it. Initially, I thought maybe I was alone in not being swept up in the pageantry. It's art and Danny Boyle's creative genius must resonate with the masses, or so I convinced myself.

But at the risk of sounding like an uneducated simpleton with no artistic appreciation, I didn't like it.

It was more wacky than witty and lacked the universal appeal essential for such an international spectacle. Even Anglophiles or those from the former colonies could be forgiven if themes or performances went over their heads. I felt compelled to awkwardly chuckle at a joke I didn't get.

For the 27 million Britons who tuned in, there appeared to plenty to enjoy. Monarchists were probably shaken, though not stirred, at Queen Elizabeth II making her screen acting debut as an unlikely Bond girl, along with a likeness of her parachuting into the stadium. Sports fans, at least those from the Commonwealth, were no doubt delighted that a cricket match broke out, even if the most interested spectators were 12 horses, 10 chickens and 70 sheep. Climate change skeptics were even given a nostalgic reminder of the Industrial Revolution's (1750-1850) glory days, when businesses competed to see who had the biggest carbon footprint.

But alas, this was an event that will be remembered more for its pitfalls than its positives. It was clearly irreverent and was a victim of its success in trying to come across as very British. There weren't as many breathtaking moments as Beijing, but there were plenty of yawns. Aside from the sole moment of laughter from Rowan Atkinson reprising his role as Mr. Bean, there wasn't much to tickle the funny bone.

There were less deserving cameos in key roles, namely from the non-Olympian soccer star whose allegiance has been more to Hollywood than Her Majesty in recent years, David Beckham. Racing up the River Thames in a speedboat to deliver the Olympic torch was a scene straight out of a B-grade action flick.

The glorification of the National Health Service (NHS) was definitely not what the doctor ordered for an international sporting spectacle. Rows of ill, bed-ridden children being read bedtime tales by JK Rowling as Mary Poppins figures danced at their side was creepy, not cute. The entire segment came across as a 15-minute advertisement for the NHS, ignoring the flaws of a service in urgent need of reform.

Thankfully, 7 billion pieces of paper (not balloons) were used to represent every person on the planet by being dropped from a helicopter onto the assembled teams. It was simple, but hardly memorable.

The assortment of Britpop offered some respite for viewers by relying on classics from The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones, the latter which was apt for an opening ceremony that left many people feeling they couldn't "get no satisfaction."


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