Did you watch the opening ceremonies? I thought it was terrific. I loved how “story-telling” it was and I loved the typically wry British humor, especially the skit with Her Majesty, The Queen and James Bond “arriving” by parachute out of a helicopter. Hilarious. Apparently everyone is calling her the next Bond Girl.
The buzz all last week speculated on how this show could possibly ever hope to stack up against that exhibition of over-achievement that was the opening ceremonies in Beijing in 2008. Do you remember Beijing? It truly set the gold medal standard for awesome. Casts of thousands performing in strict precision; drumming, marching, dancing; unerringly exact, not one single person out of sync. Talk about pressure! And I know how that feels! I was once in a display of similar magnitude, let me tell you!
When I was in grade 4, schools across the city participated in a dance exhibition at the Winnipeg Arena. The idea was that each grade would rehearse prescribed dance routines in gym class and then converge in the arena to perform all together with all the other schools. The grade fours citywide were doing an English country dance called “Gathering Peascods.” I have no idea to this day what a peascod is (and neither does my Spell Check which just underlined it in red.) In any case, it was a routine performed by four pairs arranged in squares; dozens of squares around the floor of the arena. No doubt the organizers imagined that these pods of darling children, hundreds of them, frolicking merrily to some ancient English folk tune, would look just adorable when viewed from the stands, and they probably thought we'd all be in nice, tickety-boo order, all precise and synchronized like a giant military drill team. And so it might have been. Except for one pair of kids. A couple of hapless girls who couldn’t figure out where their spot was. Two little eight year olds, holding hands, who were totally confused; hopelessly out of step. An enormous voice BOOMED over the arena’s PA system, like the voice of God, “Numbers 104 and 105!!! GET IN LINE!!” “What? What?” “OH!! THAT’S US!!!” “AAAUUUUUUGH!” I’m not sure my partner and I ever made it into formation. Maybe we messed up the whole pattern for the whole dance. I don’t know. I don’t remember the rest of it. I was glad when it was over. The humiliation was crushing.
So, I don’t blame London Olympics director, Danny Boyle, one bit for going the opposite route. In an interview on the Today Show, I heard him say that he had no intention of even trying to live up to Beijing. He told the reporter that he thought it best to accept that Beijing was astounding and to give the Chinese their due for near perfection. Boyle’s opening ceremonies in London were going to be different, he said; he described it as “a live movie”, more organic, more story-telling in character and more intimate. I’m glad he allowed his English country dancers to be all free form and joyous in the opening sequences. Maybe he heard about that “Gathering Peascods” debacle in Manitoba back in 1959…and shuddered. I certainly did.