The 30th Olympic Games got underway on Friday night in London with what has been heralded as the most spectacular Opening Ceremony the Games has ever seen. Directed by Brit Danny Boyle, the ceremony had all the lights, fireworks and music one would expected from such a spectacle, but also a few gems which made it uniquely British.
Proving that she’s game for a laugh, the Queen got the fun underway with a witty sketch showing her being whisked off by James Bond and parachuting from a helicopter into the arena. The orchestrated theme to Chariots of Fire was also given a humourous edge by Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean. And the truly amazing British music through the years was not forgotten with the Stones, the Clash, the Beatles and the Sex Pistols providing the backdrop to a video montage.
But this was all just a prelude to the main event. The parade of the athletes who are the pride of their countries and whose dreams may come true over the next two weeks. There are so many competitors that this stage alone lasted one hour and 30 minutes. Once all the athletes had filtered through, it was time to light the Olympic cauldron with the torch which had travelled 12,800km. No one person was given the honour of lighting the cauldron. Instead, representatives of 260 British Olympic medal winners lit each of the petals of the flower which was to become the Olympic cauldron and will burn for the duration of the Games.
Caught up in the excitement, the 85,000 strong-crowd packed into the Olympic stadium joined Sir Paul McCartney for a sing-a-long.
Read more on the opening ceremony at The Age.
Britain has been preparing to host the 2012 Olympic Games long before the announcement on the host country was made. I was lucky enough to work on the project to regenerate Stratford, East London from a run-down, area of high unemployment, to the international travel hub it is today. It started with the construction of a high-speed rail terminal connecting Britain with France (and Stratford, to the north of London, in nine minutes).
Once the announcement that London had been chosen to host the 2012 Olympic Games was made in 2005, construction really got underway with new stadiums, the athletes’ village and, of course, the rebuilding of a working-class suburb into a slick, inner city haven. Many promises and plans were made under the Labour Government. Times were rosy, people were making plenty of money, the economy was booming and the Global Financial Crisis simply couldn’t be imagined.
However, in the period since the work began, Britain’s economy, along with many other countries, has failed. Cuts are being made and the Brits are being asked to adopt new austerity measures, which have seen pensions being cut and essential services stopped. In what seems an astonishing show of irony, 800 dancing nurses took part in the $42 million Olympic opening ceremony to celebrate the National Health Service, which has suffered extreme cutbacks under the new regime.
While the Opening Ceremony ‘proved’ just how great it is to be British, the events of the opening weekend tell a different tale. The empty seats at even some of the marquee events, such as swimming, indicate that the locals are failing to get involved and that the anticipated mass influx of international visitors is yet to eventuate.
The bad news doesn’t stop there. The British media, that bastion of patience and objective reporting, has already started to turn, with the failure of those British athletes unable to win a medal making screaming headlines.
Whether the Games are successful remains to be seen, but with one weekend down, the signs for the Brits don’t look promising. And when the Olympic flame is passed on at the end of the Games, will the next host nation, Brazil, be reluctant to accept the honour? And will the British nation be glad to see the back of the Games of the XXX Olympiad?
Should the British Government have cut back on the extravagance of the opening ceremony in light of the cuts being made to pensions and essential services? Would you be happy for Australia to host the Olympic Games in the near future?