From the beginning I’ve said that, although I was excited about London getting the Olympics, one particular worry was that the opening ceremony would be cheesy, amateurish or otherwise rubbish. We ought to be able to do it — there are plenty of people in the UK with expertise in putting on a show, whether it’s a West End musical, a pop concert or a Harry Potter film — but recent examples like Euro 96 or the Commonwealth Games have not been encouraging.
Well, the first details have been released. The ceremony is going to open with a recreation of the British countryside, with real grass, real trees, real farm animals, tractors, cricket being played, a recreation of Glastonbury Tor, and two ‘mosh pits’, one to represent Glastonbury Festival and one for the last night of the Proms.
So what do I think? I guess I’m cautiously positive. It’s an idea which, if it’s done well, could be impressive and memorable without trying to compete with Beijing for sheer megaspectacle. It could be a bit twee, but it could also be fun.
But that cautious enthusiasm is subject to the assumption that what they’ve told us so far is not the full story. I’m all in favour of warm beer, sheepdogs and cricket, but it would be very weird, in the 21st century, to present the UK as a rural idyll. There has to be some kind of indication that we are an urban, multicultural, modern nation. The games are being held in east London, not the Cotswolds: we don’t want a Midsomer Murders opening ceremony, whitewashed for the sake of cosy nostalgia.
But I think the organisers know that. So let’s trust that they have a few surprises up their sleeve.