Almost 24 hours from when it happened, I have just finished watching the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.
One word to describe it: wow.
Those who know me well will know that I'm a long way from being a "patriotic Brit", and the title of this blog clearly explains where my heart truly lies. Yet, dare I say, that opening ceremony made me, dare I say it, proud to be British.
It's been years and so much hard work in planning, but the multi-themed opening ceremony devised by film director Danny Boyle said so much about this country in a way that no other event supremo could have even thought of.
Tour de France 2012 winner Bradley Wiggins kicked it all off, by ringing the bell to get the party started. Isles of Wonder took us from a trippy green-and-pleasant-land intro, to the gritty, grimy industrial revolution. Drummers, men in top hats, Kenneth Branagh as Brunel (with Bradley Wiggins sideburns!), big chimneys rising up from the ground.
Subtext: When Britain was great. When Britain "made stuff".
A tribute to industry... at EuropeCrazy HQ we visualised a finale where the Olympic Park was transformed into a high street of pound shops, beauty salons, cash-for-gold shops and To Let signs, bringing our industrial past into the doom-laden present....
Anyway, onwards, to pearly kings and queens, to an army of Sergeant Peppers, to suffragettes, steelworkers, to a Britain that is long gone and lost. But from that rises five rings forged in steel, bursting into fireworks. With hope for the future. (Although with David Cameron sitting in the VIP section of the audience, that hope is very minimal at this point in time).
Happy and Glorious: a fun segment with the current James Bond (Daniel Craig) being greeted at Buck House by HM the Queen - the real one - with both proceeding to board a helicopter, fly over London and eventually land in the Olympic Park. Or not???
...Straight On Till Morning: I love the subversive nature of this opening ceremony: for now they celebrate the NHS and Great Ormond Street Hospital, with real medical staff dancing around, all to Mike Oldfield and his tubular bells. The children drift off into dreamland and it becomes a celebration of children's literature with everything from JK Rowling reading from Peter Pan to a giant Voldemort and the massed ranks of Mary Poppins coming to save the children from darkness.
The next segment is probably the funniest of the evening: Simon Rattle conducting the LSO in a performance of Chariots of Fire doesn't sound like it, but put Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean on that one-note keyboard line and it's a different proposition altogether, add in his dream sequence of the famous beach run and it's a winner.
We came into the present on the following segment which merged our digital life and over 40 years of Britain's pop music tradition, everyone from the Rolling Stones and the Sex Pistols, via David Bowie and Mud to the Specials, the Happy Mondays, New Order and Frankie Goes To Hollywood with the help of colourful dancers in a number of different costumes, bringing it reasonably up to date with Dizzee Rascal performing "Bonkers" and the final tribute to the man who made our digital life possible - Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web.
But isn't there some sporting event going on? So here's David Beckham in a speedboat with the torch. He soooo wants to be James Bond. But as mum reminds me, we've already seen Mr Bond tonight.
There followed a tribute, which I assume was for those who lost their lives in the 7/7 London bombing which took place 7 years ago, just one day after the announcement that the 2012 Olympics had been awarded to London. A suitably reserved performance of "Abide With Me" by Emeli Sande gave way to the parade of competing athletes.
It's a more feelgood parade of athletes this time round, with varying degrees of dancing, clapping and Olympic swagger which at times is more reminiscent of the closing ceremony than the opening. But it's so good to see everyone there, without exception: I'm from a generation which clearly remembers a time of boycotts - the USA refusing to go to Moscow in 1980, the USSR and its allies returning the favour in 1984. 2012 also brings a massive achievement for my own gender. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei are allowing women to compete in the Games, therefore there are no nations unrepresented by women. It's hard to believe that it has taken so long to establish this gender equality but it has finally happened...and regardless of their achievement, that is definitely something worth celebrating.
We enjoyed the walk-round soundtrack which would occasionally burst into something unique and totally British - "West End Girls" or "Stayin' Alive" to "Rolling in the Deep" and "Galvanise" heralding everything from the well-greased Fijian flag bearer, to the pink and blue of Germany, Mexico's riot of colour, Nigeria's green and white dresses, Peruvian hats and the white-trackies-with-gold-bits which was the Team GB fashion disaster. Our favourite parts of the athletes' parade will always be those countries who put their individual stamp on the proceedings whether it's a grass skirt, a unique piece of headgear or a brightly coloured flowing gown. You all brightened up our evening :)
Finally, to the formal, serious bits. You would need to have had a heart of stone not to be moved by Muhammad Ali's appearance: "the greatest" is ravaged by Parkinson's disease but he has made it here: a massive achievement indeed.
But after all these weeks of the torch relay, who would finally light the cauldron? My own tip for this was multi-winning Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave, however he then passed it on to not one but a group of seven unknown young athletes, nominated by British Olympians. A big ask, an enormous expectation, and something they will remember forever. In a final unique touch the 'copper petals', each one held by each competing nation, came together to form the Olympic cauldron. That phrase "the wow factor" is a bit over-used in these times, but on this occasion it was highly appropriate to describe what just happened there. And finally, to end the evening, who else but Sir Paul McCartney with the singalong to end all singalongs..."Hey Jude" :)
Well done to everyone concerned for a brilliant opening ceremony and let's hope that London 2012 will not let us down!