July 30, 2012 5:48 PM
The Olympics - A Brit's eye-view
I'm very blessed to have a very possible future daughter-in-law who's graced our family with visits on several occasions and who consistently brings out the best in those about her - including but not limited to - my special needs kids. And certainly in Matt.
I love the way she speaks and the British reserve which makes anything she has to offer a discussion well worth listening to. This isn't someone who dashes off her thoughts without careful consideration for the feelings of others. She is kind and diplomatic and sincerely interested in communication where people learn from each other. For that, I respect her immensely.
In response to the chatter here about the Olympics, Emma wrote this - and I felt it deserved it's own entry:
I thought I would leave a (long) comment from a British point of view. Although I don't consider myself a very patriotic person, for the first time in my life I was buzzing from seeing the nation united for such a fun loving celebration. I was disappointed to read that others interpreted it is as being wholly 'agenda driven'.
The opening ceremony is supposed to be welcoming the world, showing the honest truth about our country in the last couple of hundred years in a hugely dynamic way and I felt proud to be British.
Opening the ceremony with the Green and Pleasant Land, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland united with a medley of songs representing each country - William Blake's poem Jerusalem, Danny Boy, Flower of Scotland, and Bread of Heaven. Setting the scene for a united love of our land, our United Kingdom.
Then came the fittingly named Pandemonium section, introduced with a character portraying Brunel (world-leading engineer of steamships, bridges, tunnels and railways) speaking lines of Shakespeare's "The Tempest", which really tell us what we witnessed throughout the rest of the ceremony:
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.
I took from this that the opening ceremony was meant to delight audiences. Stephen Daldry, the ceremony's creative director, says the production sought to represent, in capturing "the rich heritage, diversity, energy, inventiveness, wit and creativity that truly defines the British Isles."
The main section on GOSH (Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity) & NHS (National Health Service) was as I can understand not easily understood around the world. Organisers say it honours "two of Britain's greatest achievements: its amazing body of children's literature and the NHS". The cast of 1,200 volunteers were not performers, but patients and staff from Hospitals nationwide. GOSH receives all the profits from Peter Pan hence linking in children's literature. Also quite fittingly the NHS began when the Olympics were last in London. I am very happy in the knowledge that I won't be asked for my insurance details before being treated should the need arise, and although the care isn't the best in the world I personally haven't experienced anything bad about it.
The NBC decided not to live stream the ceremony which meant they could control the viewing and control the commercials added, however their commentators failed to do any research even telling audiences at one point to "Google it" if they didn't understand.
They failed to show the section remembering those no longer with us and the bombings in London 07/07/2005 - the day after London won the bid to host the Olympics. The hymn Abide with me was sung whilst dancers used images of mortality such as dust and the setting sun to dramatise the struggle between life and death. The song - the favourite hymn of Mahatma Gandhi - was also played by the band on board Titanic as it sank. I appreciate The LA Times review: NBC's stumble can't mask Olympics' beautiful opening ceremony.
I'm not sure if you are able to outside of the UK, but try to see the live stream on BBC, it was aired the way it was meant to be seen & felt for the world audience - with relevant commentary and uninterrupted key moments: Olympic Ceremonies - London 2012
It's worth taking a look also at guides to the Olympic opening ceremony if you want to understand it more than just a spectator. Navigating the 'Isles of Wonder' really covers some great hidden links throughout the ceremony.
Or for a longer version from the London 2012 site from the creators: Opening Ceremonies Media Guide
Another thing to think about, all the magical moments created - such a spectacle, and being linked with London Theatre myself I knew many people involved with it. How they made those magic moments: The secrets behind that jaw-dropping Olympic opening ceremony
A comment was made that volunteers have been behaving with an enthusiasm that seems bewilderingly un-British, however doesn't it prove something that 7,500 enthusiastic people would volunteer just to be a part of something for nothing in return even when the country is "at a time of deep economic malaise". This was truly a nation coming together due to the fact they are British.
Emma, all I can say is how glad I am you took the time to put this together. I've already downloaded the media guide and plan to study it for the rich connections it offers. Too bad our shallow American commentators apparently didn't familiarize themselves enough to pass some significant information on British culture on to the viewers.
For me one of the high points was when Sebastian Coe at the end of the spectacular said, "I have never been so proud to be British." I almost stood up and cheered as I did the first time I watched Kenneth Branaugh conclude his cinematic Henry V's St. Crispin's Day speech. It made me proud to be a country with a British heritage too - in a way that we have not been allowed to feel for a long time in the US as our media/celebrity/leftist complex has beat us down with constant reminders that we are no better than anyone else and if we are we better be prepared to dumb ourselves down to the bottom.
So, yes! Go, Britain! There's much to be proud of.
I still think that Danny Boyle's leftist politics skewed his choices to drive his own personal agenda where he could. The choice of NHS - which our Obamabot media seized on point out what they saw as the irony that the US has resistance to socialized medicine while your country is proud of it - made the agenda even more objectionable. Other European commentators pointed out that among socialized systems, Britain's is not one of the best. And I hear that people wait very long periods of time for things like hip replacements. You are young and perhaps haven't had to expect much from the British system. But as a mom of four kids with special needs, a couple of whom required extensive care the first 18 months, I've had a lot of experience in ERs and ICUs. My kids there were next to kids whose parents had no insurance and who were receiving the same cutting-edge care as mine. It's truly a myth that anyone goes without health care in this country. Hospitals are required to serve everyone. The costs are absorbed by the hospitals or the state. And historically, our system didn't start showing signs of breaking down until the government got involved in the 1980s with the introduction of HMOs (thanks to Ted Kennedy), which was the first incremental step toward socialized medicine, adding several layers of completely unnecessary bureaucracy and sending prices skyrocketing.
But back to the Olympics. I was excited when they announced the tribute to children's literature, but disappointed that it took such a dark turn - a la Tim Burton. Were there no positive images or humorous images or lovely images to draw on? Again, Boyle's agenda. And where was the tribute to Britain's rich repository of classic literature and classical music? The references in the opening sequences were quite beautiful, but was Rowling's Voldemort more representative of Britain's heritage than volumes of Dickens and Shakespeare?
Same with the music - the overlong tribute to Britain's post-70s music scene - tied around a cellphone love story - seemed just a little too hip and time-bound to be considered artistic.
But that's just my opinion about some very specific things. I'm the kind of person who would rather have watched the conductor and musicians play "Chariots of Fire" than Mr. Bean. But there's a lot about British humor I don't get :)
All in all, I thought it was incredibly ambitious and very energizing. I was thrilled that Brits felt free to express their pride in their country as you too mush have been under that same oppressive spirit Americans have faced for a couple decades.
I can't tell you how happy I am that you are part of something special that will hopefully have a lasting effect on your country - and that you've so graciously and unselfishly shared ideas/thoughts/research here which will make our experience "across the pond" a lot richer.
PS: Daniel loved the army of Mary Poppinses descending from the sky - you will always be his personal Mary Poppins!
PPS - Great roundup at Proud to Be British, includes this:
Most of the time we don't even realize we have a heritage or a cultural identify of our own, we are often far too busy heralding the culture of others and apologising for the sins of our forefathers. How lovely for once to see us trumpeting our Britishness to a watching world.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
Thank you so much for that insiders description. I can see why you would enjoy it much more, without the commercials, and understanding the inside jokes. I loved the opening number with the children's choirs and thought that was the best, at least until the torch lighting. NHS, and Olympics - with the historical reference, I guess, but I think of reading Julie Andrews' bio and the seriously negative effects the switch to NHS had on her first father in law who was a doctor and essentially lost everything. As a celebrity, she ususally got quick treatment, but it doesn't seem to have been very good treatment in many cases. At any rate, I can understand the show a little better now.
Posted by: Linda | July 30, 2012 9:44 PM
I'm English and lived in London for years, although I'm an hour away now. May I just pick up on a couple of inaccuracies mentioned in the 'insider's view?' The Welsh hymn is Guide us, O Thou Great Redeemer, not Bread of Heaven, although those words feature in the lyrics. 'Abide with me' was not the hymn played by the band as the Titanic sank. That was 'Nearer my God to Thee'.
Only small points, but thought worth correcting; there was no Titantic link which I think would have been a little odd if the ceremony is a celebration of Britain.
Over here, most people are still buzzing with the ceremony. We're proud of it. A few detractors who have said the ceremony was leftist have been generally ridiculed. We are quite a 'lefty' country, proud of our inclusiveness, our multiple-culturalism, our artistic heritage, our institutions- we are generally very proud of our provision of healthcare to all, while being aware of its limitations.
Above all, the general feeling is our games are about the legacy of the future, and inspiring a generation and we feel our ceremony reflected that in a way that hadn't been done before. We spent a tiny amount compared to previous recent Games. Our cauldron moment was up there with the best of them and reflected not only all the nations competing coming together but also the future generations of athletes.
As a nation, in recent history Britain has not felt we had much to be proud of. We're not the type of nation to big ourselves up. This has given us something to be proud of. It was uniquely British and unashamedly so, and believe me, what a refreshing change for us, as we are generally rather apologetic and struggle to find our own way with regard to identity.
The use of humour is unprecedented and for us- again- a welcome change, as well as representing the type of wit and arch humour that stretches back to Shakespeare and beyond.
It's not exaggerated to say it's brought us together, given us something to smile about, be proud of, and the fact it was quirky, eccentric and perhaps a little unfathomable on occasion sums us up as a nation.
Arise, Sir Danny!
Posted by: Catherine | July 31, 2012 8:35 AM
Also, was interested to read comment on the blog that Beijing's ceremony was better as it was 'not political'. I couldn't disagree more. Ai Weiwei, Chinese artist, wrote a considered response to the London ceremony, comparing it to Beijing, which I found interesting on this point. (this is a mobile website as I am on my iPhone, hope the URL works)
Posted by: Catherine | July 31, 2012 9:40 AM
I am in total agreement that the boost in British self-confidence is long overdue and is sure to have a lasting impact.
It gives me hope that the US will emerge from the current oppression of political elites who denigrate our our achievements in an effort to destroy our spirit.
I so appreciate your comments, Emma and Catherine!
Posted by: barbara | July 31, 2012 10:38 AM
Really love Abide With Me. Everyone who's anyone has sung it, along with Amazing Grace. Will have to check youtube for it.
Posted by: Julana | August 1, 2012 4:35 PM