5 Things Olympic Opening Ceremonies Always Have …

Now we know how the 2012 opening ceremony is going to start, what’s going to come next? Having watched one or two of these before, there seems to be a pattern going on. So what are 5 things every opening opening ceremony always features?

1. A child

Forget all the problems of the past, the host nation is always much more innocent-seeming when figured as a child. There’s always one there hanging the narrative together: remember the little girl on the beach in Sydney 2000? The “Child of Light” in Salt Lake City 2002? The little boy in the paper boat in Athens 2004? Even the little girl who needed a body double in Beijing?

2. History

An Olympic opening ceremony is always an opportunity to tell a story about the host nation’s rise to fame. But history fans watch out: it tends to be a very selective story. Witness the version of Greek history presented in Athens 2004 – most of the time spent on the ancients, then quick as flash we’re up to date!

3. Multiculturalism

Olympic host nations are always very inclusive societies – rich, varied but ultimately united in their passion to stage the games. Even if history would tell another story, which is probably the reason they think up this ruse in the first place. Examples? What about the Australian Aborigines being met by the aforementioned child in Sydney or the Native American tribes in Salt Lake City?

4. Technology

Opening ceremonies are a big advertisement for the host nation being a major player in the global economy. Remember the suspended spinning cube in Athens? Of course, Beijing was all about technology. And if you can fit in the discipline of a mass choreographed display you have the added advantage of touting your national workforce for jobs in a passing global franchise.

5. Parade of nations

Of course this is what it’s all about. Here we can see who are the biggest and best, and who is small but plucky. The rest of the games are pretty much redundant after this bit. But it brings a tear to the eye …





So we have the first look at the opening scene of the opening ceremony. Cows and pigs, a cricket pitch, a selection of music events and some rain clouds – all set in a field of green. That’s Britain, for you! Such is the vision of the artistic director, Danny Boyle.

“He’s Irish, isn’t he?” was Grumpy’s initial reservation.

“You’re thinking of Roddy Doyle” I said. “It’s Danny Boyle, they’re different”.

Grumpy swiftly moved on, “What did he do?”

“Shallow Grave. Slumdog Millionaire” I ventured.

“Oh” said Grumpy. “Do you think he’s being ironic?”

Boyle maintains that there will be humour, yes. The British always have to have humour. The shame is, no-one else gets it. The London sequence in the closing ceremony was funny (no – it was!) but only if you saw it from the perspective of someone who thinks naff things are good. This is not a characteristic we Brits share with the rest of the world. If you saw it from their perspective, then you’d cry.

This is one of the things that troubles me about the extravaganza that will be Britain’s version of the opening ceremony is less than two months’ time. The self-deprecating humour that we seem to not to be able to shake off must surely be a legacy of knowing that we are a little too blessed with the world’s resources for it to be quite nice. We had to brush off the spoils of the empire with a shrug, “It’s just us Brits, nothing to worry about!”

That only makes sense, however, if we needed to pretend that we weren’t so unfairly privileged as all that. But the world has changed. We are in an age of austerity. We are once again a very small island, with only a few memories of past glory to hang on to and attract the tourists. Poking fun at ourselves risks making us look stupid. But maybe it will be fine. LOL!