Tuesday 31 July 2012


The feel-good factor (or as one TV commentator called it last night "the good-feel factor") brought to the UK by the Olympics is at last actually being seen and can now be believed.

I have to admit I was a skeptic (the TV commentator would have called me septic!) and the overkill of the Olympic torch relay around Britain left me and many others wondering whether another 3 to 4 weeks of Beach Volleyball would be desirable, or even sufferable. But then we had the opening ceremony!

After Beijing had spent something in the order of £200m on the opening ceremony alone, our meager budget of around 10% of that looked silly if we were do match the spectacle of China in 2008. So we did what we always do...we asked for thousands of volunteers and asked one of our best film directors (Danny Boyle) to put on a little show. Danny's theme idea of rural Britain becoming industrial Britain with all it implied was breathtaking and his use of people, colour, sound and props was superb. We didn't need the regimented thousands of Beijing. We used humour!

The appearance of Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) as the one finger synthesiser player with one note to play was brilliant as he took over the theme from Chariots of Fire. The appearance of the Queen and James Bond was totally unexpected. I really can't imagine any other monarch aged 86 and in her 60th year on the throne who would agree to take part in something lie that. Her popularity was already very high and it must have reached the stratosphere after Friday.

All the musicians and especially the pop stars like Paul McCartney were paid £1 to appear, and all the "actors" who took part were volunteers who spent up to 200 hours rehearsing their parts. Kenneth Branagh was great as Isembard Kingdom Brunel, though at time he did look a bit like Harry Enfield, and J K Rawling read beautifully. For 1 1/2 hours we entertained and overawed.

The parade of the athletes was the usual mix of exuberance and national pride. The only question was what were the copper buckets carried by each team as they came in...and who was going to have the honour of lighting the cauldron. The appearance of David Beckham on the Thames driving the flame torch to the stadium, then handing it to Steve Redgrave surely gave us the answer, but No. Redgrave lit seven torches carried by future  athletes, nominated by seven current and past athletes. The cauldron was then lit by all seven unknowns and the 204 copper buckets turned out to be the flame points of the cauldron. A brilliant idea and maybe the arguments as to whether it should be Redgrave or Thompson was a smoke-screen.

Day 4 and the UK has won a couple of silvers and two bronze medals. Supposedly we were going to win everything, but as the Australians say, the British excel at games where we can do them sitting down. Tell that to Mo Farrah!

Blog on, Dudes!

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