I’ve never watched an Olympic opening ceremony before. Nor have I ever watched any of the Olympic sports. I’ve always been as anti-sports as one can be. This time, it’s different.
I’m now a father of two. I began thinking about this year’s Olympics when my 7-year-old daughter came home all excited because she’d been learning about it in school. So I bought her a London 1948 T-shirt from Next and she wore it proudly. She would come home from school full of Olympic facts. In fact, last night she asked me if I had a favourite swimmer! In short, she now knows far more than I do about the Olympics, although to be fair, that wouldn’t be hard! Her favourite swimmer by the way is Rebecca Adlington.
I thought I would make a special effort to watch the opening ceremony with the kids. We got into the living room bang on 9 with the dishes washed, kids showered and a cup of coffee for me.
I found myself getting emotional right from the very start, and that surprised me. The whole idea of the Olympics, that unifying global experience, suddenly became clear to me. And I’d never felt that before. Music and technology can make me feel that way, but sports never have.
The spectacle was quintessentially British, peppered with history, music and humour. Mr Bean’s appearance was pure genius, bringing to mind Comic Relief. The choice of British TV shows and music to feature was very well made. Sure, some of the music wasn’t to my particular tastes, but it spread a thin layer over all the genres, decades and age-groups without any lumpy bits. And I suppose that playing the Pistols’ Pretty Vacant rather than God Save the Queen was the right choice to make!
Freya (now 8) was mesmerised by the whole thing, and even Hamish (6) was reasonably interested, although he did get bored eventually. Freya stayed up until the Cs in the athletes’ parade and went to bed around Croatia.
But she was straight back into it this morning when she got up and was desperately searching for the Mr Bean bit when I left for work. And that shows just how right that decision was. They could have have chosen to feature any of the great British comedies: Black Adder, Fawlty Towers and Monty Python to name but a few. But the choice of Mr Bean tickles the kids. Even Hamish was laughing away at that. And the international appeal of Mr Bean goes far and beyond that of any other British comedy character. I remember hearing my landlady in Odessa, Ukraine chuckling away at Mr Bean when I spent my gap year there.
And how about that children’s literature sequence! Absolutely brilliant! Although, as Freya pointed out, wouldn’t Dr Who have been a better choice than Mary Poppins to save the day? I agreed. Imagine the sound of the TARDIS echoing around the stadium. Now THAT would have been something!
Having JK Rowling reading was another well-made choice. She is responsible for getting so many people—yes, people, not just kids—interested in reading books.
It took me a long time to get the power of Twitter, but if I hadn’t grokked it before, I certainly did last night. Following the stream of Tweets made the whole thing feel more global. I follow a lot of tech nerds in the USA and when they came on-stream it was a lot of fun. And whereas I’m usually following some Apple event or other US-centric thing, it was nice to be following a UK-based event.
I was surprised on Twitter to see so many haters. I suppose experience should tell me that the Internet is full of haters—just take a look at YouTube comments to see that in full force—but to see it when I’m in such an emotionally good place, well, it just surprised me, that’s all.
So now I get the Olympics. It brings together the world in a way that predates technology. Differences are put aside as the world’s athletes come together to compete in a global event. And the Internet is just the icing on the cake, bringing us all together for a shared experience.
The whole event made me feel proud to be British! And to spend the ceremony cuddled up on the sofa with Freya, and mum and Hamish on the other sofa made this a moment that I shall never forget.