Sunday, July 29, 2012

Opening Ceremonies - What Could Have Been

I covered the Opening Ceremonies yesterday.  Today I want to talk about what I would have done with them. 
Pretty much every one agrees that the Beijing opening is now the gold standard for Olympics ceremonies.  What did they do?  They decided that they would show off their history and progress.  They wanted to show the world just how far they'd come.  If anyone had visions of China as poor people in huts, tending rice, they wanted to show how wrong they were.  The planners did this with stunning visuals (remember the giant screen on the floor?) and a stunning multitude of people (remember the hundreds of drummers?).  You came away thinking 'wow, China has its problems but they can really put something special together'. 
Two years later Vancouver hosted the winter games.  Their budget was less than half of what they used for Beijing.  What did they do?  They used a methodical and easy to understand format to introduce the country.  They moved east to west from region to region, showcasing different music and dance types.  Each section was introduced by a bit of poetry from a Canadian writer; the poetry was read by a famous Canadian actor.
The London ceremonies started that way with the transition from agriculture to the industrial revolution.  The announcers said that Danny Boyle considers the industrial revolution to be one of the more important moments in history, which, well, he's right.  After that was a muddled mini-section where apparently the 20th century happened.  (This was when we saw Sgt Pepper outfits at the same time as the British naval veterans.)  Only two other bits pointed to any kind of national pride: the praise for the NHS and the celebration of pop music. 
What did they miss?
  • Shakespeare is arguably the most important writer in the history of the English language.  They used him for one short snippet.  Imagine if they'd introduced each section with more of the bard, using various big time Shakespearean actors to voice each one.  Think of Patrick Stewart reading the St Crispin's day speech!
  • One of the most important steps in our modern day understanding of human rights was the Magna Carta.  And yet it isn't recognized very often.  This would have been a good chance to correct that.
  • Is there any country that has gotten more out of naval power in the last 500 years?  And yet they navy got very little attention.  In addition, you can make a strong argument that the British navy did more to end slavery world-wide than any other institution (with the exception of the church).  
  • What about a section praising great thinkers of science?  Off the top of my head you could cover Bacon, Newton, Hume, Darwin, Wren and Turing.  Finish this off with Tim created-the-web guy.
The overall tone of the ceremonies seemed to say 'we've made some good music recently, and we do some good children's stories' but that's it.  There was very little grandeur and pride.  I would have done it differently.

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