Simon Kelner: Why the opening ceremony took me back to 1997

Kelner's view

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Older readers may have felt that they were being transported back to the Industrial Revolution, or at least to an age when Britain made things rather than just moved money around. Others would have harked back to that bygone era when families used to sit down and watch television together.

But to me, Danny Boyle's imagining of the Isles of Wonder evoked nothing so strongly as those heady, things-can-only-get-better days of New Labour. For this was, among other things, a perfect expression of the values we were led to believe New Labour represented way back in heady 1997: modern, optimistic, humane, and, of course, supportive of the welfare state. Lord Mandelson must have watched the unfolding of Boyle's vision with an increasingly heavy heart: if only we'd had the imagination to do something like that at the Millennium Dome, he'll have thought, history might have turned out differently.

And given that the whole idea of the London Olympics was a Blairite construct, it is a profound irony that the people reaping the dividends are David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

Nevertheless, just like on May 2, 1997, everyone seems to be in a good mood, and despite the political content of the opening ceremony, very few people found anything bad to say about it.

But before we assume it to be an unqualified success, there are some questions I'd like answering. For instance, given that the Olympics is in fact a celebration of sport rather than hospital care, why was there virtually no mention of football, the game we gave the world and still the only one that matters in much of it?

Also, given how recently Bradley Wiggins had won the Tour de France, who would have rung the bell had he not been victorious? Who was the man or woman they had to stand down?

Why was there no Oasis on the playlist? By most measurements, they were the most successful Britpop band, and yet they were cast aside for Blur.

For those who feel that the Games are far too much about London (even though it is taxpayers throughout Britain who are paying for them), the omission of Oasis might have been seen as another example of anti-regional bias. In any case, who would have argued with a rousing rendition of Wonderwall?

And clever though the Daniel Craig-Elizabeth Windsor double act was, would it not have been better if it had ended with James Bond escorting Her Maj to her seat? So what was Craig doing that prevented him being there in the flesh? The Queen made the effort: why couldn't he? Perhaps his ticket had gone to a corporate sponsor. My final question: will Danny Boyle accept a knighthood?