All over the place, but a lot of fun

My family and I (as someone I greatly admire might say) are just coming to the end of watching the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games.

My general feeling was that it was grand entertainment, but nevertheless all over the place. Why on earth did the creators of the opening ceremony chose the industrial revolution and the NHS as causes celebres of English history? And then all that bit with the family and the kids in the house – although I could sort of see an “Englishman’s House is His Castle” theme there…

But the fun was certainly appreciated. I can’t say how delighted I was by the James Bond spoof with Her Majesty – Her REAL Majesty! That was just sooo good.


The “Chariots of Fire” send up with Mr Bean was a good chuckle too.

Lots to like. I know there have been a lot of nay sayers regarding the Games, from Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith of the Catholic Herald to our own Michael Leunig in today’s Age. There is an awful lot of money spent on this, and the “peace and goodwill” theme does sometimes appear to be just a front for big money and power, but hey… There is little in life that is pure unadulterated simplicity and good. The one thing that Games does is bring together people from (almost) every country of the world for a (reasonably) peaceful and friendly event. That has to be a good thing.

I liked the number of hymns that featured in the opening ceremony – Abide with me, Guide me O thou Great Jehovah, even William Blake’s funny song about “those feet in ancient times”. With the Archbishop of Canterbury lined up directly behind the Head of the English Church, it reminds one that Christianity is still deep in the ancient culture of the British. I did wonder if the Tree on the Hill – uprooted by the industrial revolution – was not meant to be the ancient tree of Glastonbury, which would add even a little more to this aspect of the ceremony.

I hope the games in London turn out to be a benefit to the British nation, despite all the negativity. We in Australia know that big events can be big morale boosters – we’ve had our Olympics and our World Youth Day after all. I wish all the athletes all the very best for the next fortnight of events.

PS. I will just add that the quality of the advertisements during the ceremony (another necessary evil of the economic realities of the Olympics) were of a particularly high standard (except the one for Big Brother…). The gold medal for advertising goes to the Commonwealth Bank (money again) for producing a very commendable poem “The Ode to Can”. This is bound to become a classic in pop psychology!

PPS. Just got to the lighting of the lamp – Beautiful!

UPDATE 29/7: One always feels a little more sober in the morning. And a sober analysis of the Opening Ceremony, with a good dose of humour added in, may be found here at (HT Fr Z). To whet your appetite for it, Hoopes begins by saying: “Opening scenes: The British people see themselves as having gone from being Hobbits to being Orcs.” Indeed. I wondered myself whether the whole stadium was about to be attacked by Ents when the tree on top of the hill was pulled up. What would Chesterton, Lewis and Tolkien have made of the whole show? They may have approved of Mr Bean, at least (that is the one positive that Hoopes found in the whole show).

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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9 Responses to All over the place, but a lot of fun

  1. Dan says:

    I thought it was the most disappointing opening ceremony (overall) in living memory. It had some good aspects, like the Olympic rings formation and Mr Bean, but it lacked overall coherence. I literally laughed at loud when I saw the Queens face as she took her seat! I liked the thinking behind the Olympic flame lighting, but I didn’t think it looked that spectacular. The opening ceremonies of Beijing, Athens, Sydney even Moscow (all those years ago in daylight and without all the technology), were better.

  2. Matthias says:

    I thought the Bond scene and Rowan Atkinson were hilarious ,with the Poms taking a bit of a laugh at themselves.

  3. Gareth says:

    I felt certain aspects tried to be ‘trendy’ and were slightly inappropriate for an Opening Ceremony.

    Also, one could put forward an arguement that there may be double standards in celebrating political messages out of left-field (what would the reaction be if political message from a right perspective was expressed?) at an international sporting event supposedly meant to be free from politics.

    Perhaps politics is inevitable.

    • Peter says:

      Spot on Gareth!
      Who could forget Peter”the human deodorant stick”Garrett at the closing ceremony in Sydney.

  4. John Nolan says:

    Established first-world countries like Britain don’t need to showcase themselves in the way the Chinese felt they had to four years ago, and National Socialist Germany did, with notable success, in 1936. (And before anyone brings up the Hitler-Jesse Owens chestnut, this was a myth invented by the American press, who must have been aware that in 1936 negroes in the southern states were in a no better position than were German Jews under the Nuremberg Laws).

    I personally think the games are a colossal waste of money. Montreal took years to pay off the debt, and has Sydney benefited much from hosting the drugfest in 2000? However, if they are really about the brotherhood of man, then the best opening ceremony London could have put on would have been a performance of Beethoven’s ninth symphony. And end with Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks with a suitably grand pyrotechnical display. That would be worth tuning in for.

    • Peter says:

      One of the big predictions from the Sydney 2000 games was that they would
      lead to a significant increase in tourism to Australia.It never happened.

  5. Matthias says:

    My German teacher – born in bremen but brought up in Austria-ran second to Jesse owens at the 1936 Olympics. When he retired he told our student body ” remember the world is not in Science’s hands but in God’s.””

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