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Love the Olympics

Posted by in blog July 24, 2012

Solitaire & I were immensely privileged to attend tonight’s first full technical rehearsal of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. And BOY what a night it was! Understandably the organisers want to keep the creative powder dry for Friday’s real deal, hence the very clever ‘social proof’ inducing #savethesurprise hashtag on Twitter, so I’m not going to talk about content or post images (although I’ve got some corkers!). Instead I thought I’d blog about how the ceremony made me FEEL.

After the ignominious sight of a dishevelled Boris kak-handedly wielding a Union Jack at the Beijing Olympics handover in their closing ceremony, I think we were justified in being concerned that we Brits might fluff the moment. Like the performance record of the England football team, it seemed best to lower expectations in anticipation of a ‘pleasant surprise’, than over-optimistically hype them up for the inevitable disappointment.

Well, I’m unsure precisely how it will all translate to TV, but from my firsthand witnessing of the still teasingly incomplete show I can honestly say that as a nation we need fear no more. It. Was. Brilliant.

So how did it make me feel?

Firstly. Proud. Olympics opening ceremonies have to tread a careful balance of potentially jingoistic patriotism and open internationalism. ‘How cool are we?’ is the implicit question a host nation can end up inadvertently asking. But tonight I felt an unfamiliar sense of national pride for what it means to be British. Boyle’s show plucked at the sentimental heart-strings I have for my country. But with humility and as importantly humour. I felt surges of poignant emotion, laughed at moments of typical self-deprecation, almost welled-up on at least two occasions and rode a rollercoaster from mind-boggled amazement to slightly sarcastic silliness. Friendly flag-waving stuff indeed.

Secondly. Politicised. Again without referring to specific elements of the spectacle Boyle has I think produced something with a strong, subtle but still keen sense of politics. I recognised my own thoughts and principles in his narrative. It’s discrete but directed, light of touch but still heavy-hitting, playful but profound. OK, I’m a sustainability wonk so I’m bound through my own perspective, confirmation bias and prejudices to see what I want to see, but I’m convinced there’s a compelling sustainability message in the drama. The story the show spins is full of striking visual vignettes that demand questions from the audience about both Britain and the world’s development. Yet it’s done with verve and aplomb. It’s very clever stuff.

Finally. Part of Something. The whinging and the hand-wringing over ‘GFS-tation’, insidious Corporate tax evasion, daft ‘sustainability partners’ – all valid criticisms in my view – should continue until everyone’s coughing up, living up to their PR claims or simply doing the job they’ve been paid to do. But let’s also enjoy this bloody expensive frivolity too. I’m not sure ‘Bah Humbug’ cuts the mustard at this stage. All I know is yes, the transport was crap (the Central Line went down almost on cue – or perhaps it was a cunning ‘trial failure’ deliberately on the part of TfL to test the resilience of the system?) and the catering staff were predictably overwhelmed, but hey, this is London, we’re used to flaky transport and if there is one quintessentially authentic British art-form it is that of queuing! Yet the atmosphere was vibrant and buzzing, the crowd alive with banter and bonhomie. The Olympic staff were without exception smiling and chatty, wishing, genuinely it felt, everyone a safe journey home was a snapshot of the friendly city London at it’s very best can be.

So, don’t be a Scrooge on Friday. Make sure you’re tuned in to watch the sizzle of the ceremony. It’s a rare, once-in-a-lifetime thrill to watch your city and culture celebrated globally (to an audience of 4B!) in such a way. The fact that Danny Boyle and his wonderful team including thousands of volunteers, have done such a fantastic, heart-swelling job of it makes it all the sweeter. Love London and all it’s infuriating, inspirational complexity, diversity, vitality and difficulty. Love Britain and all it’s ambiguous, contentious, transformative and creative influence on the world. And love the Games.

40 comments

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  • glen
    July 24, 2012
    00:29

    Thanks for your lovely words ! I was performing tonight, and feel the same as you . Glad we could induce those feelings in you! x

    reply
  • Declan Cooke
    July 24, 2012
    01:16

    I perform (along with another 1,000) straight after the pastoral scene and your words have really warmed my heart. Danny Boyle has been there through the rehearsals, propping us up, encouraging us and trying to share his vision of what he wants the ceremony to be about. Quite a few of us have shed a tear in rehearsals and it’s so good to know that the humanity of the piece is coming across. Thank you so much for posting this.

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    • July 24, 2012
      09:52

      Thanks so much for the lovely post! I found it via the #savethesurprise tag on Twitter, and you’ve really summed up the whole feeling! I’m also a volunteer performer and it’s been a lot of hard work, but I’m so glad that what we’re trying to convey is being shown and felt. I’ve seen the whole show too, and I felt very emotional and very proud to be British. And Mr Boyle is an incredible, talented and lovely lovely man.

      reply
  • Scott
    July 24, 2012
    01:21

    Another thanks from me! I was performing too, and it was an amazing experience… The months of rehearsals must’ve been worth it. Would love to be able to watch it all too though!

    Yours is really lovely blogpost that has summed up some of my feelings about the whole thing that ive not been able to work out yet.

    Thanks for keeping our secret till Friday!

    reply
  • July 24, 2012
    01:50

    Great piece. I was also performing, I’m one of the drummers. My thoughts after seeing some of the show (you have seen more than me)were that at the end the world will have no doubt about what it means to be British!

    reply
  • Helen Isaacs
    July 24, 2012
    01:58

    As a Cast member & a games maker, all I need to say is thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    reply
  • July 24, 2012
    04:09

    I’m another performer. It is/was a pleasure to have an audience that clearly felt the emotion in what we did and have achieved so far.

    87 hours to go…

    reply
  • molly
    July 24, 2012
    06:36

    what a fine array of customers you work for – vivisectors like L’oreal, the soon-to-be badger cullers at DEFRA and Natural England, not to mention of course the Olympic sponsors Coca Cola and Eon. Given these last two, you were hardly the least biased observer there, were you. Who were you a guest of? Coke? Or Eon?

    reply
    • ed
      July 24, 2012
      07:44

      Thanks Molly. Yes, let’s tar everyone who has ever been in any contact with a wholly less than 100% pure business or organisation with the same dirty pariah brush shall we? That makes us pretty much all pariahs doesn’t it?! We all (unfortunately) sup with the Devil…some of us just prefer to use an extremely long spoon!

      I watched the ceremony with an open-mind and heart as it’s also one of the sadly few elements of the Games where there’s (mercifully) not a dodgy corporate sponsor to be seen. As the other comments here hopefully demonstrate, there’s a LOT of people who have given generously of their time, blood, sweat and tears to make the night amazing. It is them I’m saluting.

      And actually I was a guest of LOCOG (not that that matters). Suggest you switch off your TV on Friday and miss the greatest show on earth!

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      • molly
        July 24, 2012
        08:22

        Some use a long spoon and some just stick their snouts in the trough and chow down.
        I wonder though, how many lies about the Olympics need to be told, how many promises broken, and how many rights curtailed before the gilt rubs off for you? Greatest show on Earth? Please, retain SOME perspective.

        reply
        • July 24, 2012
          09:29

          At least Molly, have a bit of respect for the thousands of volunteers who have given their time and energy for this show to happen. Whether one likes the show or not, that doesn’t change the amount of work, which has been put it. Ed, thank you for your warming review. It makes us proud that all the hard work has paid off.

          reply
    • Observer
      July 24, 2012
      08:46

      Dearest Molly,
      I was terribly sorry to read of your illness and I do hope your recovery is swift. You are clearly suffering from Scroogitis, a common affliction during periods of national pride. Do not fear though, as a GP I can prescribe you a medicine that should have you back to normal in no time. Please watch a funny YouTube video, and smile outwardly in public. Do this three times a day before meals for a week and you’ll be right as rain in no time.
      If your symptoms persist please seek immediate medical attention.
      Dr O.

      reply
  • Rosey
    July 24, 2012
    07:59

    I watched the show as a would-be volunteer who didnt get a job and thought it was phenomenal. The best thing I’ve ever seen. Danny Boyle has brought us something incredible so thanks to him and all the volunteers.

    reply
  • July 24, 2012
    08:21

    I got goosebumps reading this. Thank you for posting and not giving anything away other than to make me even more excited about seeing this than I already was.
    I remain optimistic and hopeful that the games will triumph over cynicism and marketing and produce some truly memorable moments.

    reply
  • Jeannie (volunteer)
    July 24, 2012
    08:23

    Thank you so much for, first of all for ‘Saving the surprise’, secondly, for expressing such a positive, intelligent reaction to the Opening Ceremony. Throughout the months of rehearsals we’ve all been subject to discouraging negativity. As volunteer performers, we were thrilled at the very genuine spectator response yesterday evening and very proud for the entire team, and especially for Danny Boyle.

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  • Chloe
    July 24, 2012
    08:49

    What an amazing review! You’re a very talented writer. I’m performing in the end section and I have to say your words perfectly sum up the entire performance.

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  • George
    July 24, 2012
    08:50

    Excellent blog …. the ceremony makes me feel one thing

    BRITISH AND PROUD

    reply
  • July 24, 2012
    09:12

    Thank you for posting this superbly written review without any spoilers in it. I’m a performer in the show and it’s fantastic that you felt the same things we do about the show. We can’t see our own segments, so it means a lot to get feedback like this before we do it in front of the world.

    reply
  • Rosamunde
    July 24, 2012
    09:24

    Well most of the people who have commented are cast members and I am too (someone posted us your blog because they thought it was so great!). It means so much that someone enjoyed to the extent that you did! All the press is negative and the general public animosity was starting to wear thin with those of us who have spent months rehearsing. But you have cheered me right up! Its good to know that once the show is seen people seem to be liking it. Now lets just hope the rest of the world does too!

    reply
  • July 24, 2012
    09:25

    Re Mollys comments, why so negative? you really should take a step back look at the whole picture instead of being so sour, I am one of the performers and have given up time,sleep and has cost in loss of earnings, but I wouldnt want to be anywhere else on friday and there is 10,000 other volunteer performers who would agree with me, so sit back and enjoy(if you can)

    reply
    • Alison
      July 24, 2012
      10:00

      I was a spectator and I can honestly say its the best thing I have ever seen, and I can quite understand why Danny Boyle is nervous over the TV commentary – lets hope they sort that out before Friday. Just watching the sheer enjoyment of the performers I came away from the stadium totally buzzing and so impressed how cleverly the show captures what it is to be British. I felt really priveleged to be a part of the audience watching it last night and for all the performers who have given up their time to take part thanks you, I take my hat off to you! I hope you enjoy being in it just as much as I enjoyed watching it. Whatever the cynical press or the rest of the world think of it as a TV event as a live show it rocks!!

      reply
  • james
    July 24, 2012
    10:05

    I’m as cynical as they come, and when I took my seat last night I feared the worst. But I was relieved that my fears were unfounded. Congratulations to all the volunteers who made it such a special performance (and just a rehearsal, too!). It was really, really good! And surprisingly emotional. I wasn’t expecting anything on that scale… Now I am left wondering what we missed – I reckon there’s another 40% of the show to go, which I can’t wait to see on Friday.

    reply
    • July 24, 2012
      15:03

      There is more to come James…when you all went home the drummers were back on, this time as marshals for the athletes parade and there are loads more surprises to come. Not even we know!

      reply
  • Christine Daniels
    July 24, 2012
    11:39

    Thank you for this. It is very gratifying to know that our weeks of rehearsals, usually in the rain, have paid off. You have also expressed the same feelings that we have had about the ceremony and Danny’s vision. Thanks again from one volunteer performer who is so proud of the team and the whole show.

    reply
  • Pete
    July 24, 2012
    11:48

    As a performer in the ceremony who has been working on this since way back in November, this Blog entry sums it all up! Really thrilled you enjoyed the show! The atmosphere of having you all in to share it with us was just incredible last night! Bring on Friday!! x

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  • Yvonne
    July 24, 2012
    12:13

    I was there too, and i wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote so brilliantly!! well done!

    reply
  • July 24, 2012
    14:02

    I’m a volunteer perfomer in first segment (chimneys…wink, wink). Great, and really well, written piece. You’ve captured the emotions of the volunteers as well as audience – spot on. Feedback like this makes us all feel proud. Cheers!

    reply
  • July 24, 2012
    14:14

    This comment section turns into a performer hangout…but thanks so much for this post! Thanks also to the audience, it makes a massive difference to us performers. I am quite proud of the whole thing, and I am not even British! Tune in on Friday, there will be a few more surprises.

    reply
  • Darren McCabe
    July 24, 2012
    15:57

    As one of the performers in the opening section, thank you for these words, it makes all the hard work all of us performers in the rain and wind so worth it!

    reply
  • Pee0704
    July 24, 2012
    16:48

    I went last night as a plain old spectator and walked away proud to be British and full of gratitude and thanks to the performers. This was the greatest show I have seen in my 56 years, it brought a tear to my eye and blew me away. Well done for saving the surprise whilst telling all these wonderful performers how much we enjoyed it.

    reply
  • micky pomeroy
    July 24, 2012
    19:08

    My daughter is one of the volunteers, am amazed how hard she has practised and how much time has gone in making this event a memorable happening, my husband will be watching the final practise tomorrow. Good luck to the openming

    reply
  • Margaret
    July 24, 2012
    19:54

    THANK YOU! As a (Paralympic)GamesMaker, I felt so privileged to have a ticket to last night’s wonderful, emotion filled show and had a wonderful time. THANK YOU TO ALL THE PERFORMERS AND TECHNICIANS for quite possibly the best experience of my life so far(at least until I start my Gamesmaker shifts) Now back at home I was nervous of seeing the comments on #savethesurprise,expecting to see negative “moans and groans” but I am very pleasantly surprised to read such positive words and replys. Roll on Friday!

    reply
  • moira
    July 24, 2012
    20:39

    Loved it :) I’m not usually overly sentimental about national occasions but felt very proud and at times very moved by this. I haven’t told anyone what was in it, hope everyone “saves the surprise”. Can’t wait to watch again on Friday night

    reply
  • tania
    July 24, 2012
    20:46

    I was privileged to be an audience member last night. What a treat! And I agree with your comment Ed that it had a political tang. I really liked that. It was amazing. I cannot wait to see the Opening Ceremony in all its glory on Friday. And for the record, my journey to and from the Park was suprisingly smooth.

    reply
  • Jamie
    July 24, 2012
    22:14

    WOW! Thank you so much for this – wonderfully written and entertaining piece.

    reply
  • Neil
    July 24, 2012
    23:15

    Thank you so much for your great and positive coments. Each volunteer has given way over 100 hours of their own time and often at their own cost as well. we have all worked very hard but we all want to be here doing this. The atmosphere as you walked out to all those people in the stadium was amazing,it brought up the hairs on the back of my neck and I had to swallow very hard through some very emotional moments during , and more so after my bit in the performance. I was in one of the first bits with lots of movement of “bits” – It was so much fun, hard work yes but we have been rehearsing this for 3 months or more now but worth every minute of it!
    You have managed to give everyone who has read your blog such a lift – I only wish more people would realise and recognise how great we are as a nation when people get together and work together as a “team”, as this is what this show is about, a big team effort. The 10,000 volunteers , including myself feel so proud to be a part of this, and I dont care about the stupid politics,and what the cinics think, what means so much to me as an individual is all the amazing people I have had the pleasure of working with over the last three months as well as rehearsing with, and especially the small team I have been working in during the first major scene change. Its such an awesome feeling, and I feel so proud to have had the pleasure (and physical pain !), to be a part of this AND a huge thank you to you ED for your positive thoughts and comments about all our hard work and efforts. Here’s to the greatest show on earth on Friday night ! Thankyou

    reply
  • Simmie
    July 25, 2012
    10:46

    I was there watching, and have to agree It was an amazing experience, and one that makes anyone proud to be British.

    There are a lot of people who think the Olympics are a waste of time and a money. All it shows is they are the real idiots in this world.

    From the ****************************** to the ********************************************** every moment of that night was awe inspiring.

    #Savethesurprise

    reply
  • Lucy
    July 26, 2012
    13:00

    I had the privilege of watching last nights technical rehearsal and I agree whole heartedly with everything you have said!! It literally blew my socks off and so cleverly executed. The performers, volunteers, technical staff and Mr. Boyle himself should feel incredibly proud of themselves!! I cant wait to watch it again (with more surprises) tomorrow night!

    reply
  • July 26, 2012
    17:12

    Great post, and you certainly have me intrigued. Indeed I am already shedding my cynicism. However, what I will not shed is pedantry!

    There is an erroneous possessive apostrophe in the final paragraph. I will “Love London and *its* infuriating…” Actually, woah there, the whole sentence needs looking at. I got caught up in the moment due to Olympics fever. Sort out the final sentence, if you know what it means to be British!

    reply
  • November 24, 2012
    14:16

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    reply

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