As a 'whingeing Pom' you might expect me to start with a complaint about the weather perhaps, or Mark Cavendish, or the fact I lived in London when they held the games in Sydney and now live in Sydney while they're holding the games in London, but no. I'm writing to offer praise. Last week’s Olympic opening ceremony might be the best thing I've ever seen on a screen.
It was a beautiful and unusual assault on the senses that in turn made me cry (those singing kids), then laugh (Mr Bean), then gasp in amazement (Queen doing something original and unexpected). I was happy to get up at 6am to watch it - I've viewed it back about three times so far and it just doesn't get boring.
Other people have pointed this out in the past few days but it bears mentioning again, in my class ridden country where VIPs inside the stadium outnumbered real members of the public, it was massively refreshing to see the show crammed full of representations of normal British people (apart from the two Australian actors our reporters found bobbing around in cloth caps playing the part of artisans!) Still, in the wake of the scandals over MPs' expenses, bankers’ bonuses and phone hacking (and with last year’s riots still fresh in the memories of many) it was exactly what was needed.
As the Games got properly underway I learnt to like it even more as I heard stories about the people who didn't. One British MP called it "multicultural leftie crap." Imagine my delight then to realise that same MP was forced out of a previous government job after he was pictured at a ‘Nazi themed bucks party’ (yes you read that correctly.) Another dissenting voice came from a blogger on the Washington Post social reader, who slated the whole thing from start to finish, including that bit where "they tried to distract us with weird dance moves by Abraham Lincoln." After a period of initial confusion then sad realisation some of the 1080 commenters below his blog have pointed out gently this was in fact the Great British Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, before heaping abuse on him.
Anyway if people like that hated it then I’m proud to have loved it, and proud to have fully understood it. Most Brits will have got most of the cultural references, gladly most Australians will too. I do have some sympathy for the Saudi Arabian TV commentator who said it was the first Olympic ceremony that needed a live feed on twitter to explain it to the rest of the world. But none for the bumbling presenters of a major US network who had never heard of the inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee ("Google him")
There was a danger London’s opening ceremony could turn into a banal vanilla cliche of union jacks, Beefeaters and red London buses, but thankfully Danny Boyle is a man who’s directed movies about heroin addicts and zombies and set his stories in deep space and the slums of Mumbai. This Director and his deeply human material saved face for all Brits at home and abroad. Many have said he deserves a knighthood for it. Nice work mate.