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

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Financial Analyst -International TV Production

£250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: 6 month contract (Initially)A global e...

Recruitment Genius: Project Management Support Assistant

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Railway Museum, the largest of its ...

Sauce Recruitment: FP&A Analyst -Home Entertainment

£250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: (Rolling) 3 month contractA global en...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Account Manager - OTE £80,000+

£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children who fled the violence in the Syrian city of Aleppo play at a refugee camp in Jabaa, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley  

A population bigger than London's has been displaced in Syria, so why has the Government only accepted 90 refugees?

David Hanson
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Ukip on the ropes? Voters don’t think so

Stefano Hatfield
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project