Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Olympics opening ceremony acclaimed across the globe

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers dressed up as Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond parachute out of a helicopter above the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: (L-R) Norma Major, Gordon Brown and Chief Executive of LOCOG Paul Deighton during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Daniele Matias Hypolito of Brazil chalks her feet on the uneven bars during training sessions for artistic gymnastics ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Training Academy on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Danny Boyle’s dazzling Olympics opening ceremony won gold across the world.

Media medals were being handed out by almost all countries which made up the audience for the three-and-a-half hour extravaganza.

But some found the show too quirky — and confusing.

The China Daily called the pageant “kaleidoscopic” and “a dizzying ceremony designed to highlight the grandeur and eccentricities of the nation that invented modern sport”.

The Times of India called the ceremony “dazzling”, adding that London had “presented a vibrant picture of Great Britain's rich heritage and culture.”

In America, the praise was almost universal.

The New York Times described the “hilariously quirky” celebration as a “noisy, busy, witty, dizzying production”.

It added: “Britain presented itself to the world as something it has often struggled to express even to itself: a nation secure in its own post-empire identity, whatever that actually is.”

The Washington Post's verdict was: “It's corny, cheesy, altogether over the top. And it works!This is awesome.”

The LA Times said: “An atmosphere of whimsy and party won out over pomp and circumstance during an Olympic opening ceremony that allowed an economically beleaguered Britain to pat itself on the back.

“The ceremony could not have been more of a contrast from Beijing's four years ago, replacing Chinese militaristic precision with British fancifulness.”

But some segments of the showpiece seemed to be lost on particular viewers. Los Angeles Times sportswriter Diane Pucin said: “For the life of me, though, am still baffled by NHS tribute at opening ceremonies. Like tribute to United Health Care or something in US.”

In Europe, also, the plaudits flowed.

For Italy, La Repubblica said: “There is no other place on earth which can stage the story of a fairytale with a real queen.”

In Germany, Der Spiegel concluded: “No opening ceremony of the Olympic Games has ever been so cool... the last shadow of doubt that these London Games can be a good Games was cast away.”

Spain's El Mundo correspondent John Muller tweeted: “despite all their mistakes, it has become clear that without the UK our lives would not be the same.”

And Le Figaro in France said the display “reminded a billion viewers of the best contributions that Britain has given to the world for over a century: its sense of humour, its music, and of course sport”.

In Australia too the response was positive. Greg Baum in the Sydney Morning Herald said: “Boyle's vivid and vibrant pageant set the tone for these Games and perhaps even a new direction for the Olympic movement. Rio has a hard act to follow, which won't deter it at all...

“(Boyles’ show) was irreverent, but never disrespectful. It was clever, but did not outsmart itself. It was at once subversive and sublime. This is a country of royals and aristocrats, but Boyle's show rejoiced in the commoner.”

But there were also dissenters.

Canada’s Globe and Mail said it was “long and eccentric” with the message not just “that Brits are an odd folk — (but) Britain’s past is more important than its future.”

Robert Bianco in USA Today wrote: “It was delightful at times, to be sure. But just as often it became impenetrable.”

And Americans on Twitter seemed unfamiliar with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the man who was responsible for England's Industrial Revolution — played by our own Sir Kenneth Branagh — and thought it was their own Abraham Lincoln.”

“Can someone tell me why Kenneth Brannah (sic) was playing Abe Lincoln in London?” one tweeted.

... but Stormont minister unhappy with ‘colonial’ elements

By Noel McAdam

Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has confessed to not liking some of the Olympic opening show but still described it as “spectacular”.

The Sinn Fein minister admitted being irked by the portrayal of Britain’s industrial revolution, headed by Northern Ireland-born actor Sir Kenneth Branagh as Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

She said that part of the near three-hour show in London reminded her about British colonialism.

The Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister was the only representative from the Stormont Executive to attend the London ceremony, a spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.

Ms Ni Chuilin said: “Danny Boyle is a legend, even though there were parts of the ceremony that I didn't like, it was a spectacular.”

Then she explained: “Didn't like the Industrial Revolution part, reminded us all of Britain and its colonialism.”

But, she added: “I loved the music, big time.”

Later on, however, the minister added on Twitter: “Maybe I did miss the point it wouldn't be the first time. Did get the politics about Health Service, CND etc, still powerful...”

In a statement before she left to attend the Games, the minister said: “Being part of the greatest sporting event on earth is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of us to witness and participate in, especially when it is all happening so close to home.”

Praising athletes from both Team Ireland and Team GB, she said: “We have a total of 20 local athletes competing for either the Ireland team or British team over the next 16 days and seven paralympians getting ready for the Parlaympic Games later in August.

“This is the largest contingent we have ever fielded. I want to praise all the athletes from the island of Ireland for their excellence and endeavour.”

Ms Ni Chuilin also said the experience gained by volunteers will help in organising the World Police and Fire Games here next year.

“An event of this size and scale could not happen without volunteers. It comes off the back of a hugely successful and inclusive all-Ireland Torch Relay,” she said.

“Almost 500 local games makers are playing their part in ensuring a smooth running and successful Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for all of them and their experience in London will be invaluable for next year’s City of Culture and the World Police and Fire Games.”

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