In defence of Danny Boyle

Recently, we witnessed the London 2012 opening ceremony, and what a sight it was to behold. Breathtaking and magical, it was enough even to warm my icy tax payer heart. It’s architect, British film director Danny Boyle, received almost unanimous praise from the media and twitterarti alike.

However, it stuck me that both the TV pundits and media writers the day after, essentially wrote a conclusion that said something along the lines of “it was never going to be as good as Beijing, but Danny managed to do the best second best that we could hope for.”

I take exception to this.

The Olympic opening ceremony that took place four years ago in Beijing was indeed an amazing ceremony. It’s a perfect example of what a totalitarian state can do when it throws enough money and slaves at something to really impress the rest of the world. But that’s all they had. While a big fireworks budget and lots of synchronised dancing is very impressive, it isn’t the only metric.

For example, we don’t recognise War & Peace as one the greatest novel because it’s really, really long. The quality of a novel is defined by the quality of its wordplay, the character of the story and the emotion that it generates. Not that Beijing didn’t have these, but London had them in bucket loads.

London had both. Clearly, we didn’t have grandeur on the scale of Bejijing, but it would ne nieve to say we lacked it entirely. An army of almost ten thousand performers were involved in the opening ceremony. Bejing may have had an amazing spectacle of thousands of drummers – but so did London.

As for character, soon after the ceremony it quickly became apparent how hollow the Beijing opening ceremony had actually been. The firework were pre-recorded and the girl who we thought was singing, was actually just miming while a girl deemed too unattractive sang from behind a curtain. Meanwhile, in London, we trotted out a series of heartwarming choirs, choirs that were actually singing, for real. In their need to achieve perfection, apparently, Beijing dare not compete with that.

We trotted out an endless list of amazing people – Isambard Kingdom Brunel, The Queen, James Bond, Mike Oldfield, Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal, David Beckham, Tim Berners-Lee, J. K. Rowling, Paul McCartney, Rowan Atkinson, Emeli Sandé and more. Again, Beijing simply couldn’t complete with that.

While China does have a long and noble history, we were really able to shine in celebrating our recent accomplishments (recent being the past few hundred years). Whether it be providing a shining beacon of socialist utopia as the world looks to the NHS as the model for universal free healthcare or a mega mix of the last fifty years of music, gently reminding everyone that the only people even in the same league as us when it comes to producing internationally acclaimed an enjoyed music is the United States, the ceremony reminded us all that Britain is both a cultural and social world leader. With a civil liberties record the likes of China, Beijing couldn’t complete.

Nor could it compete when we celebrated the two greatest turning points in modern society – the industrial revolution, that brought our economy from primary industries to secondary industries, and the creation of the world wide web, that took our economy from secondary industries to tertiary industries. Both owe their origins to Britain, allowing us to casually at the end of a house party scene, drop in “oh, btw, here is the guy who fundamentally changed how the world communicates.”

All that while respecting our own citizens Human Rights. And mostly[1] respecting other people’s as well.

So don’t be so quick to judge the London 2012 opening ceremony as the best we could do as an inevitable runner-up to Beijing. In so many ways, it was Beijing, that was hopelessly unable to complete with London.





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This entry was posted on Monday, July 30th, 2012 at 11:51 am and is filed under Distractions, Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.