Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympics 2012 -The Opening Ceremony

So I guess I won't need to tell you about the opening ceremony as over one billion people watched it.  But I figure that I can comment on it.

So lets start with the negatives.  There were some things that I didn't like.  I didn't really get the music and technology bit.  The use of Tim Berners-Lee at the end was good.  He showed that, far from being relegated to a nation that lost its influence and importance a few centuries ago, we can still create something that has had a major impact on the world.  And surely the fact that he didn't patent it to earn himself a fortune, believing instead that it should be freely available to everyone, is a perfect display of the kind of ideals that the Olympics stands for.

But sadly, while the idea of showcasing some of the vast and varied music from British artists over the decades was OK, I felt that the music and choreography didn't hang together as well as it could have done.  I don't think most of the international audience will have understood the various TV clips etc, and I'm not sure that even the UK audience would have caught enough of it to make it really effective.  I could see the point about the technological generation with mobile devices and social networking, but it felt a little contrived to me.

And then there was Sir Paul.  Mixed feelings there.  His voice is no longer that good, and Hey Jude has never been a favourite of mine as it is very repetitive and goes on for too long.  But... he is, or at least represents, a genuine icon of British pop music, and that fitted perfectly with the theme of the ceremony. And as we saw when we were there for his show in Montevideo, Uruguay, he remains very popular.  So maybe it was OK.

But those are really my only criticisms.

Now to the more positive.  I thought the 'green and pleasant land' to 'dark satanic mills' scenes were excellent.  Technically and visually it was amazing, and I thought it had a great story to tell about our past.  And the forging of the Olympic rings that then had the fireworks dropping from them looked fantastic on TV and must have been truly amazing in the stadium.

The involvement of real people was lovely.  Using NHS staff and patients was brilliant, and perfectly demonstrated that this was supposed to be for everyone.  The scene itself worked well, but what made it great for me was the fact that it looked like people were really enjoying themselves, rather than just performing.  It wasn't a highly slick and polished show, but it showed real enthusiasm and commitment from thousands of unpaid volunteers, who genuinely wanted to be involved.  Amateurs dedicated to doing their utmost to achieve something amazing - exactly what the Olympics is all about.

And I just loved the use of humour.  There was a danger that we could be a bit too serious about this and come across as arrogant, which is a charge that has often been levelled at us internationally.  But we showed brilliantly that we can laugh at ourselves too.  The Rowan Atkinson bit to Chariots of Fire was great, but James Bond collecting the Queen and 'parachuting' her in was just brilliant.  I think showed what a wonderfully human woman the Queen really is, that she was agreed to do it.  And enough of the gripes about the fact that she didn't look excited.  She almost always looks serious - it is an essential part of the role, and it was probably well past her normal bedtime.  And I was so pleased to see that she did, as she so often does, take care to have something relevant in her outfit; she wore a brooch that was given to her in 1948, when the Olympics was last held here.

Now maybe it's just my HR background coming out here, but I thought it was fabulous that we incorporated people with disabilities into the ceremony.  The drumming was lead by someone deaf, the national anthem was sung by children who were signing, and they included people with disabilities throughout.  This not only gave a great pointer to the Paralympics, which are often badly overlooked, but it also was another way that we celebrated the huge diversity of our population.

And then we get to the torch lighting.  So most people wanted to see a role for David Beckham, and he got it, bringing the torch to the stadium dock in style.  Sir Steve Redgrave was the favourite for the flame lighting, and for a while it looked like he was it.  But then the secret that had been kept so well was finally revealed.  There was to be no one Olympian lighting the flame, nor a royal, nor some other established and worthy person.

The use of the young aspiring athletes, nominated by our most revered British Olympians, was inspired.  Was it a cop out to avoid making a decision on which one Olympian we value the most?  Possibly; Sir Steve was clearly in the prominent role bringing the flame in to the stadium, but this way they could involve more of our Olympians in this symbolic moment.  Was it a fabulous approach that was totally in keeping with our motto of 'Inspiring a Generation'?  Absolutely!  We promised an Olympics that would encourage a new set of athletes and this was a very high profile way of showing that we meant it.

And that cauldron; it is truly beautiful.  Whether on the ground for the lighting, rising up, or in its final position, it looked stunning. I am really looking forward to seeing it for real when we are at the stadium for the athletics in August. The idea of using 204 individual copper petals, brought in with the individual teams, to make up the one whole cauldron is excellent.  Pulling it off so beautifully was just brilliant.

Overall, I thought that this was an exciting and interesting opening ceremony.  It didn't try to 'outdo' Beijing.  It did something different, that celebrated the United Kingdom, but with a touch of self deprecation and humour thrown in too. It showed us as a great nation, reminding the world of just a few of our peoples' great achievements, but avoided any hint of glorifying past imperialism.  It demonstrated that from Her Majesty down, we can laugh at ourselves and like a bit of fun.

So the Opening Ceremony got my seal of approval.  Let's hope the rest of the Games is equally good.  And of course, the very best of luck to Team GB!

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