SBD/July 30, 2012/Olympics

Whimsical Opening Ceremony Takes Different Approach From Beijing Predecessor

Opening Ceremony featured a musical tribute to Britain's National Health Service
An atmosphere of “whimsy and party won out over pomp and circumstance" during Friday's Olympic Opening Ceremony that allowed "an economically beleaguered Britain to pat itself on the back,” according to Phil Hersh of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The ceremony “took on the overall air of frivolity that usually prevails at the closing rather than the opening” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/28). In N.Y., Sarah Lyall in a front-page piece wrote that the ceremony was a “sometimes slightly insane portrait of a country that has changed almost beyond measure since the last time it hosted the Games, in the grim postwar summer of 1948” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/28). In DC, Anthony Faiola wrote, “If the Opening Ceremonies of the London Games sometimes seemed like the world’s biggest inside joke, the message from Britain resonated loud and clear: We may not always be your cup of tea, but you know -- and so often love -- our culture nonetheless.” The message here “seemed to honor the quite serious Olympics -- which London is hosting for a record third time -- while simultaneously reminding the world that the next two weeks should also be about having a bit of fun” (WASHINGTON POST, 7/28). In N.Y., Alessandra Stanley wrote the Opening Ceremony was a “tableau of national pride that studiously avoided bathos and easy excesses of patriotism.” It is “hard to imagine any other nation willing to make so much fun of itself on a global stage, in front of as many as a billion viewers.” It takes “nerve to look silly” and the show “veered from cute to creepy and from familiar to baffling” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/28).

TO GOOD HEALTH: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Cassell Bryan-Low wrote, “The hours-long show paid tribute to British history and culture. It played heavily to memories of local favorites, though some segments might have been lost on the global TV audience -- like an all-dancing, all-singing tribute to Britain's government-funded National Health Service" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/28). In L.A., Lisa Dillman wrote the show featured a “celebration of five decades of British pop music, a heavy slice of history and, of course, that quirky sense of British humor” (L.A. TIMES, 7/28). In N.Y., Christina Boyle wrote the “dazzling show was a celebration of the Best of British” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/28). In L.A., Robert Lloyd wrote the Opening Ceremony was “by turns moving, bizarre, funny and exciting, and often surprisingly dark; certainly it was never dull” (L.A. TIMES, 7/28). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro called the show, “Splendid. Wonderful. Beautiful.” However, “in the middle of all the fun, they managed to throw one stunning, sobering moment that was deplorable in its callousness.” Viewers were asked to "observe a moment of silence" as a "visual wall of faces filled the video screens atop Olympic Stadium." The people pictured in the photos were deceased "loved ones of audience members who were asked to submit them for the ceremony" (N.Y. POST, 7/28).

DANNY BOY: In London, Tedmanson & Karim wrote the ceremony has been hailed as a “whimsical, riotous and very British” triumph by viewers from around the world, who heaped praise on London Games Creative Dir Danny Boyle’s tribute to Britain, as well as its British "sense of humour and vibrant soundtrack" (LONDON TIMES, 7/28). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Reguly & Waldie noted the ceremony began with "a flat start," but had "a lovely texture and momentum, not too fast, not too slow, dazzling in parts, never overwhelming, always anchored by the best British music and the best-known names in literature and culture” (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/28). The BBC's Tom Fordyce wrote "no one expected" the Opening Ceremony to be "so gloriously daft, so cynicism-squashingly charming and -- well, so much pinch-yourself fun" (BBC.co.uk, 7/28). In London, Beth Stebner noted Americans reacted "with confusion to the glorification of free universal health care" during the Opening Ceremony (London DAILY MAIL, 7/28). The AFP wrote the Opening Ceremony "did not shy away from weighty social issues." The show had "a celebration of free health care, the trade union struggle, the battle for women's rights and a fleeting lesbian kiss." Boyle "drew accusations from the British political right that it had strayed into 'leftie' issues” (AFP, 7/29). DAILY VARIETY’s Steve Clarke wrote the ceremony, “universally praised in the U.K. for its invention and distinctly British creative brio,” turned Boyle “into a national treasure overnight” (VARIETY.com, 7/29).

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT: The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Nigel Andrews wrote the Opening Ceremony “had all the contrasts we were told to expect, and more.” Andrews noted, “Lots of it worked; the bits that did not set off those that did” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/28). In Miami, Michelle Kaufman wrote the Opening Ceremony was “as moving as it was entertaining” (MIAMI HERALD, 7/28). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney asked, “How can you go totally wrong with Queen Elizabeth parachuting from a helicopter with James Bond?” Graney: “It was funny in parts. Highly creative in others. Touching, too. Long. Really long” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 7/28). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand wrote the Opening Ceremony is “starting to look like a Super Bowl halftime.” A “really, really, really looooong Super Bowl halftime show” (USATODAY.com, 7/28). In Cleveland, Tim Warsinskey wrote high-wire acts of past ceremonies “gave way to British pride, particularly in its music, and a vivid illustration of its history from a commoner's perceptive -- farmers, factory workers, nurses and rockers.” A “limited number of ‘wow’ moments didn't limit the drama or chills” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/28). In London, Giles Coren wrote he was “worried that there was too much self-parody, that the world might be laughing at us.” Coren: “But they were laughing with us. They were silently awed” (LONDON TIMES, 7/28).

APPLES TO ORANGES: NBC's Matt Lauer at the conclusion of the Opening Ceremony said he thought the production from Boyle “was spectacular given the challenges facing him following Beijing.” Lauer: “You should congratulate not only Danny Boyle, but congratulate the organizing committee. And I think after what we’ve just seen you need to congratulate the British people because they did it right tonight” (NBC, 7/27). The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Matthew Engel wrote the show had “unprecedented ingenuity and wit," and was a "match visually" for the '08 Beijing Opening Ceremony (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/28). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote the Opening Ceremony was a “jaw-dropping, confounding, surreal and spectacular show.” While in magnitude it “was not to the scale of the overwhelming opening ceremony China showcased in Beijing four years ago, this lid-lifter did have something that one lacked: A sense of humor” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/28). In Memphis, Geoff Calkiins wrote, “Better? Who can possibly say? But it was funnier, that's for sure” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 7/28). SI.com’s Alex Wolff wrote Boyle “gave us a chance to celebrate protest and dissent.” He “outstripped the previous Olympic host city by flaunting what the Chinese actively suppressed.” On these "isles of wonder, tumult is a good thing” (SI.com, 7/28). In Colorado Springs, David Ramsey wrote the “sometimes baffling, sometimes glorious” ceremony “failed to match its predecessor.” It was a "fun night, with about a perfect ending as anyone could devise” with a performance by Paul McCartney (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 7/28). Beijing '08 Olympic Opening Ceremony co-Dir Wang Chaoge had "mixed emotions" about Friday night's show. Chaoge said, "On one hand, I didn't want it to exceed my work; on the other hand, I hoped to see another show that amazes the world. Now, both my wishes are fulfilled. Objectively speaking, there's no way that you can compare the two ceremonies. We each had what the other didn't” (CHINA DAILY, 7/29).

Opening Ceremony was filled with loud,
booming music and fireworks

SONIC BOOM: In DC, Jen Chaney wrote the Opening Ceremony ended with an “epic power blast of fireworks and the sounds of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ then segued right into” McCartney. Chaney: “The opening ceremony felt a bit long, and to some, a bit like an acid trip. But even if you didn’t care for the entirety of Danny Boyle’s work -- though personally, I admired quite a bit of it, especially the digital era portion -- you had to give it up for that ending, even though McCartney’s vocals faltered a bit” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/28). The AP’s Jill Lawless wrote, “While sports are the heart of the Olympics, music -- loud, bold, world-conquering British music, amplified in the most global of settings -- was the booming beat Friday night” (AP, 7/27). Meanwhile, the GUARDIAN's Cass Jones notes the album “featuring music from the London 2012 opening ceremony has sold more than 10,000 copies within 24 hours of going on sale.” The compilation “is No. 1 in the iTunes store album chart in the UK, France, Belgium and Spain, and has reached No 5 in the United States” (GUARDIAN, 7/30).

FASTER, HIGHER, STRONGER: NBC's Bob Costas said while the Parade of Nations "can be as joyous as they are, sometimes they move at a snail’s pace." However, he said in the nine Opening Ceremonies he has helped broadcast, he has not seen one "move at a quicker clip than this.” Lauer noted pop music like the Bee Gees was playing as the nations walked into the stadium, and the speed of the parade had "something to do with the music they’re playing." Costas said later, “This is the fastest Parade of Nations I’ve ever seen. We’re giving these notes (on the countries) at warp speed” (NBC, 7/27).
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