Like half the UK population, and probably one in seven of all of the people on this planet, we settled down approaching nine pm Greenwich Time to watch the only Opening Ceremony broadcast from these islands that the majority of us will witness during our lifetimes. Three and a half hours later, as the last athletes were being herded away from the lit cauldron, we drifted off to bed feeling the same warm glow from that eternal flame, after what turned-out to be an absolute triumph for its creator.
Our personal evening was made all the more enjoyable by a very thoughtful option provided on the red button – the ability to watch the coverage sans-commentary. This had been sought, and found, within nano-seconds of discovering that the BBC’s commentator was Huw Edwards, a news presenter who winds me up simply by sitting in a studio looking into a camera. He doesn’t even have to open his mouth to have me reaching for the remote, so the prospect of several hours of his particular brand of snide commentary, delivered in pseudo-dulcet welsh tones, did not appeal. As it turned-out, experiencing the ceremony in the same way as those lucky 80,000 actually in the stadium was by far the better option.
There has, of course, today been the inevitable picking-over of the content, but on balance everyone appears to have enjoyed it. Personally, I found the industrial revolution segment simply fabulous, and its culmination in the formation of the rings above the stadium was pure genius. I wasn’t too sure about the NHS bit, but again finishing it with an airborne invasion of Mary Poppins was excellent. As for the music segment, well you will never find me criticising any celebration of British achievements in that area; music has been the background to my life, we produce the very best of Rock and Pop consistently and continually – and the world knows it. Having said that, quite where the Arctic Monkeys and luminous cycling birds fitted into that, or how they came to be performing ‘Come Together’ when Sir Paul was also performing on the night, was lost on me. But hey, if that’s how Danny Boyle wanted it, then it was a small price to pay for what it was part of.
Today, most are saying that they consider the apparent parachuting of the Queen into the stadium with James Bond to be their favourite part, something that should show even the most avaricious republican that our Monarchy is far more in-tune with its people than any journalistic hyena, snout-nosed banker or childish opposition leader. But for me, the highlight was ‘Abide With Me’ – not for the religious overtones, or the mildly-perplexing and off-beat choreography, although it has to be said that both aspects were brave inclusions in such an overtly-PC environment, but because it provided that echo to the sporting gatherings of my youth. I have lasting memories of black and white FA Cup Finals preceded by Community Singing, when they wheeled-out a rostrum escorted by the band of the Coldstream Guards, upon which Arthur Caiger in his white suit conducted 100,000 opposing fans in a few moments of jolly sing-song, culminating in solemn rendition of that hymn that not one of them failed to join-in with – a moment of joint comradeship prior to the battle-lines being redrawn for the commencement of hostilities.
In the end, all of the bets on who would light the flame were lost as, in true British style, seven unknown young athletes were given that honour. Who knows, maybe William Hill, Paddy Power, et al, might choose to sponsor one of them from the millions they took through their hyped-equivalent of a raindrop-race. But I suppose the final views on how it all went are best taken from overseas observers. From what I have gleaned, the Aussies found it subversive, the Americans bemusing and the French didn’t enjoy it one bit. All-in-all, that would suggest that Danny Boyle got the balance just about perfect.