LONDON CALLING: Did Danny Boyle do the impossible and garner universal approval for his Olympic Opening Ceremony? NORMAN GILLER surveys what the international papers say
New York Times
With its hilariously quirky Olympic opening ceremony, a wild jumble of the celebratory and the fanciful; the conventional and the eccentric; and the frankly off-the-wall, Britain presented itself to the world Friday night as something it has often struggled to express even to itself: a nation secure in its own post-empire identity, whatever that actually is.
The noisy, busy, witty, dizzying production somehow managed to feature a flock of sheep (plus a busy sheepdog), the Sex Pistols, Lord Voldemort, the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a suggestion that the Olympic rings were forged by British foundries during the Industrial Revolution, the seminal Partridge Family reference from “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” a group of people dressed like so many members of Sgt. Pepper’s band, some rustic hovels tended by rustic peasants, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and, in a paean to the National Health Service, a zany bunch of dancing nurses and bouncing sick children on huge hospital beds.
It was neither a nostalgic sweep through the past nor a bold vision of a brave new future. Rather, it was a sometimes slightly insane portrait of a country that has changed almost beyond measure since the last time it hosted the Games, in the grim postwar summer of 1948.
The first lady, Michelle Obama, was in the audience to cheer on the United States athletes, who, it must be said, did a lot of cheering for themselves anyway during the athletes’ procession. And Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was there, too, although he was practically Public Enemy No. 1 around here after he appeared to question the British capacity for enthusiasm, something only Britons are allowed to do.
The pro-Romney New York Times did not carry the widely reported Carl Lewis quote on Romney: “There are some Americans who should not leave the country.”
If the Opening Ceremonies of the London Games sometimes seemed like the world’s biggest inside joke, the message from Britain resonated loud and clear: “We may not always be your cup of tea, but you know — and so often love — our culture nonetheless.”
Sydney Morning Herald
Danny Boyle got the balance and tone just right; he was able somehow always to see the wood while watching 10,000 trees. His show did not take itself too seriously, but was never trivial. It was irreverent, but never disrespectful. It was clever, but did not outsmart itself. It was at once subversive and sublime.
This is a country of royals and aristocrats, but Boyle’s show rejoiced in the commoner. His rationale for the tribute to the NHS was simple: “Rich or poor, we’ll all end up there one day.” If it wasn’t the greatest show on earth, it was the greatest pantomime … Boyle said he wanted his show to be remembered as gracious and generous. He has his wish.
If the next 16 days are like the opening ceremony, then the world must definitely expect a first-class Games here in London. Daniel Boyle, the Oscar-winning director and head of 15,000 contributors, produced a masterpiece on Friday night. Hats off! Hats off!
To offer a morsel of bravery with the bombastic music from the film Chariots of Fire, but to then turn it into humour thanks to Mr Bean; to show the Queen of England, as herself, but then to show her parachuting above the stadium; to set up immense scenes paying homage to the NHS. The organisers of the London Games succeeded in creating enthusiasm with an opening ceremony that took the classic from such events and had fun with them.
Los Angeles Times
An atmosphere of whimsy and party won out over pomp and circumstance during an Olympic opening ceremony that allowed an economically beleaguered Britain to pat itself on the back. The ceremony could not have been more of a contrast from Beijing’s four years ago, replacing Chinese militaristic precision with British fancifulness.
The Times of India
London presented a vibrant picture of Great Britain’s rich heritage and culture as a colourful opening ceremony marked the inauguration of the 30th Olympic Games at the spunky Olympic stadium. The night sky lit up with dazzling fireworks as the Queen declared the Games open to herald London’s moment of glory in the presence of as many as 100 heads of state and a host of other dignitaries who have descended on this historic city to witness the extravaganza, watched by an estimated one billion global audience.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth declared the London Olympics open after playing a cameo role in a dizzying ceremony designed to highlight the grandeur and eccentricities of the nation that invented modern sport. Children’s voices intertwining from the four corners of her United Kingdom ushered in an exuberant historical pageant of meadows, smokestacks and digital wizardry before an audience of 60,000 in the Olympic Stadium and a probable billion television viewers around the globe.
“In a sense, the Olympic Games are coming home tonight,” IOC President Jacques Rogge told the crowd. “This great, sports-loving country is widely recognised as the birthplace of modern sport.”
New Zealand Herald
The Queen and James Bond gave the London Olympics a royal entrance like no other in an opening ceremony that rolled to the rock of the Beatles, the Stones and The Who.
And the creative genius of Danny Boyle spliced it all together.
Brilliant. Cheeky, too. The highlight of the Oscar-winning director’s $42 million show was pure movie magic, using trickery to make it seem that Britain’s beloved 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II had parachuted into the stadium with the nation’s most famous spy.
Boyle sprang a giant surprise and picked seven teenage athletes for the supreme honour of igniting the Olympic cauldron. Together, they touched flaming torches to trumpet-like tubes that spread into a ring of fire.
The flames rose skyward and joined elegantly together to form the cauldron. Fireworks erupted over the stadium to music from Pink Floyd. With a singalong of Hey Jude, Beatle Paul McCartney closed a show that ran 45 minutes beyond its scheduled three hours.
The Sun Times in Ontario (Thane Burnett)
Dear world — what a bloody hangover. I spent Friday night with a billion friends or so. It felt like an evening at a very crowded pub — and the barkeep may have been doubling up my drinks.
While I’m groggy, I think I’ve seen the most chaotic – but possibly greatest – entertainment event of my generation.
And it included the best Olympic “porky pie” ever warmly shared during any opening ceremony — the Queen stunt double sky diving in with a James Bond close behind.
A king’s ransom – or rather a Queen’s purse – was spent on putting on the best torch lighting ceremony in the history of forever.
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