LONDON — It was a no-win situation for London’s 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, simply because there was no way they could quite outdo what the world’s largest country (China) did during the 2008 Games in Beijing.
I sat in the Olympic Birdcage Stadium in Beijing in complete amazement and wonderment at the Chinese’s’ innovative aerial and mystical presentation, sitting in the London Olympic Stadium I was not sure what to expect.
I asked myself, “How could London match Beijing 2008? They could not.
But, as I sat in the Olympic Stadium with over 80,000 rabid fans and over one billion television viewers world-wide, the London Opening Ceremony surprised me with its fun presentation. It was enjoyable and took us through its rich cinema, comedy, and music history and, a surprising salute to the digital age – although the industrial salute age was a bit boring.
Smartly, the British did not try to outdo Beijing they produced a uniquely British production that was who they are and what they have been about.
Sure the visual musical presentation of every Opening Ceremony reflects the city hosting this mega sports festival; however, the appearance of the competing nations is my favorite part of the Opening Ceremony. Each team’s selection of the flag bearer, the wearing of their native garb, and the different size of each nation’s teams from very large to very small . . . I dig it because it is about the athletes.
Then there was our beautiful First-Lady (Michelle Obama) in the Stadium as our representative welcoming in the USA athletes. Then, there was also former Olympic Gold medalist Muhammad Ali on the field to touch and bless the Olympic flag before it was hung high . . . oh yeah!!!
London is city in the United Kingdom that has over 7,500,000 million people and has given us Shakespeare, James Bond, Mary Poppins and Harry Potter, the Tower Bridge, the Thames River, BBC News, English and the beginnings of Democracy. As well as Wimbley Stadium and the Wimbledon Tennis Center, and, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Amy Winehouse, Rolling Stones and the Spice Girls are recognized as the crossroads of world trade and world culture.
Being that defined as a world power gives it the hustle and bustle greater than New York, a rail system and bus system unparallel in America, a diverse population that all live in the same areas, and, a mixture of the old history and the new today.
Still in all its glory London has many of the same problems urban America has – the poverty, classism, congestion and old infrastructure.
In fact, talking to a few Londoners they told me that there had been a Rodney King-type riot. In August 2011, a police officer shot and killed a black man during an attempt to arrest him. From there several London boroughs, districts of cities and towns across England suffered widespread rioting, looting and arson where thousands took to the streets. Place in Tottenham, Hackney, Brixton, Chingford, Peckham, Enfield, Croydon, Ealing and East Ham all experienced rampant looting and arson attacks of unprecedented levels.
In spite of it misgivings, London’s greatest strength remains the diversity of its people. Londoners come from all corners of the world. Reports note that London is witnessing an expansion of cultural and artistic life not seen for decades.
Getting back to the Opening Ceremony, seeing all the world’s nations come together in a celebration of peace through athletic competition always brings me back to the words of the late Rodney King: “Why can’t we all get along?”
Seeing Iran and Israel and North and South Korea all on the same field together proves that it is possible for u to all get along. At least for a few weeks the Olympic moto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” – which translate to “faster, higher, stronger,” will be in the forefront of the international discourse for now.
Leland Stein can be reached at email@example.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII