July 28, 2012

2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies: Populism Abounds


Industrial Revolution ore

Apropos of British history, the current crippling and unending recession, honor to the socialist state (under attack, as it is), and perhaps, above all, a half-Dickensian, half tonque-in-cheek response to China’s high tech and perfectly synchronized Opening Ceremonies four years ago, the scene of Brits moving from agrarian roots to forging ore in the middle of Olympic stadium amidst suffragettes and all sorts of Oliver Twists felt unpretentious, indeed.

It was that, and all the marching up and down that funny grass hill.


And then, there was the hilarious segment with the Queen and James Bond. As I tweeted:

Queen bumps Hillary to Silver in race for the cool.

Screen shot 2012 07 27 at 9 18 37 PM

Screen shot 2012 07 27 at 9 17 23 PM

What was most brilliant about it, though, was how it exemplified and perpetuated a brilliant strategy by the monarchy to seemingly breakdown the strict social hierarchy between royal and subject. Using pop culture, populist gestures and accessibility, as well as a heaping dose of humor and surprise, the Queen — just like the Obamas — understands that to maintain your tenure these days in exalted status necessarily involves the common touch. Hence, all the love from ground up. (Here’s the video if you happened to miss it.)


As I tweeted: I had this hallucination that the #2012LondonOlympics opening ceremony actually celebrated a National Health Service.

NHS Beds Olympics

English photographer Ciara Leeming tweeted back:

“that stuck us as especially interesting given that our government is hiving off bits of it for privatisation at the moment.”

Olympics NHS close up

To which I replied:

“Certainly appreciate your point and current predicament. The acknowledgement from here was stunning though.”


Finally, even though the star-struck NBC anchor only wanted to talk about the Queen, the Queen, the Queen, Danny Boyle did manage to mention the theme of inclusion, his favorite touch being the construction workers who helped build the stadium lining the tunnel as the welcome committee to the torch runner, Steve Redgrave.

Just how populist or, dare I say, socialist England or, certainly, the Nike Visa Games truly are is highly debatable. But last night was a people’s show.

(photos: AFP, Getty, Reuters, Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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