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Simon Kelner: The Opening Ceremony was a huge waste of money

Kelner's view
  • @Simon_Kelner

I don't want to be offensive like Frankie "let's poke fun at Jordan's disabled son" Boyle. And I don't want to be crass like Edwina "Italians are good-looking, even in wheelchairs" Currie. And I certainly don't want to be accused of being a self-conscious controversialist. But is it possible to say anything negative about the Paralympics Opening Ceremony without being accused of being one, or all, of these things? Well, here goes.

I think the event that launched the Paralympics – impressive in its scope and scale – was a huge waste of money. What is it with these opening ceremonies? They're overblown, overwrought and, now, over here. And there seems to be a cultural tyranny at play which forces observers and commentators to suspend objective judgement. We have already gorged on Mary Poppins flying through the sky, a parachuting Queen, the Spice Girls reforming, and pyrotechnics by the lorryload. Why couldn't Danny Boyle's unimpeachable extravaganza have acted as the Opening Ceremony for the entire Olympic summer?

We have shown the world that we can put on a bloody good shindig: we had nothing more to prove in terms of showmanship, so maybe it would have been more fitting to concentrate on the most important aspect of the Paralympics – the athletes themselves. This would have had the added benefit of allowing us not to be perplexed over the relevance of 62,000 primarily able-bodied spectators all taking a bite out of an apple at the same time, or to puzzle over a giant umbrella that turned into a boat, or to worry about the Queen having to undergo another open-air show full of loud music, fireworks and dodgy choreography.

What was truly affecting in the ceremony was the parade of the athletes, and the fact that you knew that, behind each one, was a story of moral courage and physical determination that would be both humbling and uplifting. I'd like a return to the days when the entrance of the athletes was the centrepiece of the ceremony, rather than the time when those at the stadium headed off to join the massive queues for a cup of tea, and those at home found something else to do while waiting for the next superstar to appear.

Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee, made a superbly judged speech to open the Games, in which, addressing the competitors, he said: "Your stories and performances will challenge the way people think about themselves and about others. You are all catalysts for change and role models for an inclusive society." He said that spectators will "experience every single emotion, including ones we never thought possible".

I'm sure Sir Philip's words will strike a chord over the next 10 days, as the tales of incredible human endeavour unfold. But one part of the quest for inclusion is that critical judgements must be fairly applied across the piece. And, that being the case, I don't believe it's crass to point out that we may have had our fill of pageantry for a while.