The BBC showed a repeat of the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony last night. It took me back to those halcyon days when the world was a very different place – before Brexit, before Trump, before Covid.
I remember watching the ceremony live eight years ago with a mix of excitement, expectation and yes some anxiety.
I was worried something major would go wrong and Britain would humiliate itself on the world stage. It rained non-stop for weeks before the opening ceremony and then with just minutes to go the showers stopped to make way for this wonderful outdoor spectacle. It felt like a good omen, and of course, in the end all went spectacularly well.
It was great to see it all again, so inspiringly entitled ‘The Isles of Wonder’ from the Shakespeare play The Tempest. The Danny Boyle directed ceremony is a quirky, eccentric, patriotic and some would say chaotic celebration of so much that makes Britain great.
Everything from the industrial revolution which paved the way for the world’s trains, tunnels, bridges and to our modern-day NHS was featured.
There was humour – from British cultural icons as diverse as James Bond and Mr Bean – popular music, film, children’s literature and a reminder that the inventor of the World Wide Web was a Briton Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Movingly the words ‘This is for everyone’ flashed around the stadium as he and his invention were featured. It’s truly amazing that the man who invented something which is a central part of most people’s lives today is still with us – and British.
I went to the Olympics on three occasions – am so glad I did – first to visit my then new stepson who was working at the games for Coca Cola, we watched the handball in the Copper Box.
I then had a two-day ticket which included watching the athletics in the Olympic Stadium and the Beach Volleyball on Horseguards Parade.
I also got to watch an afternoon of football at my team Coventry City’s home ground, the Ricoh Arena, amazing to think it was once an Olympic venue. I’ll never forget how excited the Japanese fans were.
Watching the joy of all those volunteer performers, the exuberance of the young competitors from 204 nations and the excitement of the 10,000s of spectators at the opening ceremony feels like it’s from another world.
It made me appreciate the importance of staging big international events which enable people from all over the world to get together. It’s easy to be cynical about the Olympics but its ideals are good and the world would be poorer without it. It also made me value how important it is for humanity to make an effort, to plan, spend money, to create things to look forward and to celebrate the best of humanity.
The lack of big events in 2020 – the Tokyo Olympics would have started in just two weeks’ time – is just another one of the reasons why this year, the supposed year of perfect vision, will be remembered for nothing but coronavirus.