Leading article: Celebration of inclusive Britain

In an age inured to emoting and special effects, the finale was a truly moving spectacle

Share
Related Topics

It was a show "for everyone". The opening ceremony of London 2012 was even a show for people who have no interest in sport. Although our sporting heroes played a part, it was primarily a celebration of our national tradition of not taking ourselves too seriously while defending serious principles.

We showed the Chinese that we British understand individual free expression. We showed the Americans that we are proud of our "death-panel" NHS. We showed the world that we can laugh at ourselves, even to the point of having our most respected national institution parachute into the stadium with a fictional character.

As the original ambiguity of William Blake echoed down the centuries, everyone could interpret the symbol-laden spectacular in any way they liked. Blake's cry against industrialisation was turned, as so often, into a celebration of the advance of liberal equality. Of course it was political, and cleverly so. As Jane Merrick argues today, it was a celebration of the belief in progress, material and spiritual. It was an argument for an open, tolerant and compassionate nation, and against the forces of a small-c conservative view that resist any extension of equal rights.

The genius of Danny Boyle – apart from his use of surprise and humour – was to understand that this was the moment when the naysayers and the cynics would feel that they had to "get behind the Games". An ideal chance, then, to celebrate our nation's tradition of protest and dissent, from the suffragettes to CND, and to extol the virtues of the NHS, our modern "national religion", alongside the monarchy, the BBC and the military. That expression of British values can be embraced by modernised Labour, Cameron Conservatism and Cleggified Lib Demmery. Only sour republicans or Tories who dislike the very notion of inclusion – such as Aidan Burley, or Rupert Murdoch, who said yesterday that it had been "too politically correct" – feel excluded.

The trouble with trying to make it "for everyone" was the temptation to put in a bit of everything, and then people start noticing what has been left out. There was no Oasis, for example, or The Smiths, or the Spice Girls. And no Doctor Who, although we may have heard the Tardis at one point.

Yet the ceremony was a joyous celebration of a Britain in which we really are "all in it together", thus uniting the nation in a way that, just a little, limits the room for manoeuvre for the reactionary wing of the Tory party. It celebrated modern Britain, a post-imperial nation, still half in and half out of Europe but surprisingly comfortable with its role.

It may have been a show that was aimed more at the domestic audience than the much larger one abroad. What they made in Azerbaijan of Mr Boyle's telling of the story of the Industrial Revolution featuring pearly kings and queens can only be guessed at. It was a show in which, according to The New York Times, "Britain offered a display of humor and humbleness that can only stem from a deep-rooted sense of superiority". Well, that kind of superiority we can live with. And the finale of the show, the lighting of the 204 copper petals by seven young British athletes, and their rising to form a single roaring flame, was, even in an age inured to emoting and special effects, a truly moving spectacle.

Now, on to the sport. Which means, as Mark Cavendish discovered yesterday, losing as well as winning. However, after such an inspiring start, it means competing with pride.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A couple stand in front of a beautiful cloudy scene  

In sickness and in health: It’s been stormy but there are blessings in the clouds

Rebecca Armstrong
Chancellor George Osborne (C) wears a high visibility jacket as he makes a visit to the Prysmian Group factory and speaks to factory manager Steve Price  

Keep the champagne on ice – there are some clear and worrying signs that the economy is slowing

David Blanchflower
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?