History 101: Program Notes for the Opening Ceremony

Yes, I was among the millions of viewers who watched the opening ceremonies for the Summer Games in London.  Fortunately I could watch the simulcast by CTV, rather than the botched and edited version NBC broadcast in the USA.

There is a great deal that I want to talk about, but for this blog let’s focus on the opening ceremony. Like many others I was sometimes bewildered by what was being shown. I wondered why the medieval portion was so short, but that had been playing out as the live audience assembled, for an hour before the broadcast started. We also missed the RAF fly past.

The pageant turned its back on ‘Rule Britannia” and the imperialism we usually associate with British power, and except for a briefly hilarious comic entrance of the Queen, left the monarchy out completely. Instead it opted for revolutionary change in a country that had never had a revolution in the ordinary sense of the word. These changes were social: agrarian, industrial, musical, and technological. I needed a program to know the players… who was being portrayed by Kenneth Branagh, for example… and found it here this morning. Brilliant!

Even if you watched the show and think you understood most of it, watching  the account I linked below from the Guardian will give much of its quirky brilliance new clarity and dimension. I wish I had been able to access this during my first viewing… but then that would have destroyed the surprise, of which there were many

Richard Williams on the greatly enjoyable – and occasionally bemusing – spectacle of the first night…  “Boyle’s inventive ceremony grabs the licence and the thrills” from The Guardian,  Saturday 28 July 201


There is a delightful set of still photographs here.  This site refused to link to the blog. Open Google, copy the http link, and paste to the search line.


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