… and then the Olympics took your hand and dragged you along, out of the helicopter of a preconceived opinion and into the crowd: even people who had decided they were going to hate this entertainment spectacle, started raving instead of ranting. And rightly so. Danny Boyle’s interpretation of social achievement was so much more than glorifying the idea of a nation set up for sponsors to display their logo.
Not only that there was an entire deaf and hearing children choir called CHAOS singing the National Anthem in their pyjamas, while the recreated hill of the Glastonbury Tor made all the officials look a bit lost in the green. To a certain extent it also gave history back to those who made it, and suddenly we found the workers of the industrial revolution alongside its engineers. Here history isn’t just made by outstanding heroes. We as a society rise, too. And suddenly it all came clear: fascinating about the Olympics is that deep down in the architecture of the games we find a transcendent gesture.
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Let’s be honest: we humans like the idea that we can rise – who wouldn’t want to -, and the idea that we are able to has many places in the games. Not only because athletes rise above their limits, but also because it was always meant to be an event in which nations are coming together to leave all national trouble behind. This moment that we can rise and overcome, now playfully hopped, in Boyle’s version, from scene to scene: it got picked up by James Bond, the Queen and her lovely chubby corgis, all four larger than life of course; it got enacted by books and musicmusicmusic and dancers all able to perform the trick of erecting a different world in the existing; it was displayed in the ethereal cyclists with glowing wings, as well as in the national praise of a choir of deaf children; and by a National Health Service taking care of a gigantic sci-fi baby, too – stop! Okay, let’s consider this for a moment .
As all the excited tweets made apparent, here the ceremony had its truly transcending moment: giving health service a place among the historic achievements of our societies. Boyle is right, when he says free universal healthcare is “an amazing thing to celebrate”. As it hasn’t a single hero, it often gets forgotten in history. Also it isn’t easy to put into a narrative and storify, which shows that we sometimes need an artist to help us see (let’s call it: Boyle’s Eisenstein moment).
But it is important: it embodies the values of our society, for we do not only help when paid with money and profit but when help is needed. Never would it have occurred to me that the NHS could be Pop. Bonkers! It has changed our societies definitely as much as the industrial revolution or digital technology, and reaches out to millions of people much like a live-tweeting Tim Berners-Lee. By the way, digital technology has proved that even though we live under the reign of entertainment, there can be a mass secret. While 60,000 people saw the dress rehearsal two days before, its story stayed secret. Amazing, isn’t it?
Finally, there is one element in the choreography of the Olympic opening ceremony that I can’t get out of my head: the fact that during the never ending march of all the national teams in their funny dresses more athletes hold a camera in their hands than flags. As if we can see the rise of a new transcending element: in leaving our individual borders to belong to something bigger, soon technology will be as connecting as the idea of a nation. Not a bad thing, I suppose.