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Volume 6 No. 213
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World Heaps Praise On London, Boyle For 'Sensational' Opening Ceremony

The London Games Opening Ceremony has been hailed as a “whimsical, riotous and very British” triumph by viewers from around the world, who heaped praise on Artistic Dir Danny Boyle’s tribute to Britain, according to Tedmanson & Karim of the LONDON TIMES. A billion people are "estimated to have tuned in" to the three-and-a-half-hour show. The Opening Ceremony "appeared to be an instant hit with many." Its "British sense of humour and vibrant soundtrack" were celebrated by viewers from other countries who "flooded social media sites" such as Twitter and Facebook with praise over the Ceremony. Queen Elizabeth's cameo appearance was "a particular highlight for the non-British audience" (LONDON TIMES, 7/28). In London, Matthew Engel wrote that the Opening Ceremony produced entertainment of "unprecedented ingenuity and wit," which was also "a match visually" for the '08 Beijing Opening Ceremony. However, Boyle "understandably got carried away." Well, "who wouldn’t be?" There was "a stadium to command, a vast and not inflexible budget, and an expected global audience of a billion." Future Olympics need to find "a less ambitious and less punishing way to start than this." That said, "it was a sensational evening" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/28). Also in London, Gillespie, Ungoed-Thomas & Mansey wrote that the Opening Ceremony "had everything: thunderous music, dancing beds, cycling doves and a first-time actress who stole the show." The public "had been promised magical moments," and they got them "by the bucketload." The "outstanding one" came when the Queen appeared in her first acting role and uttered the immortal words, “Good evening, Mr. Bond,” to Daniel Craig in a scene filmed at Buckingham Palace. Gillespie, Ungoed-Thomas & Mansey opined: "Did his gamble pay off? The simple answer is yes. London really had done it" (SUNDAY TIMES, 7/29). In London, Tristram Hunt wrote that Britain "ebbed and flowed, succeeded and failed in equal measures, but offered an attractively contradictory, complicated, and above all creative conception of these Isles of Wonder" (GUARDIAN, 7/28). In Toronto, Reguly & Waldie wrote that "the message wasn’t just that Brits are an odd folk; it was that Britain’s past is more important than its future." They continued, "But what a past! Your country should be so lucky." 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, 7/27).

START ME UP: In Toronto, Cam Cole wrote that Boyle "shone his offbeat, occasionally whimsical light on the touchstones of Britain's cultural heritage from Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, the Beatles to Arctic Monkeys, sheep to socialized medical care, the Industrial Revolution to the World Wide Web (NATIONAL POST, 7/27). The AP's Leicester & McClam reported that James Bond and the Queen "teamed to give London a wild Olympic opening like no other." Boyle "turned Olympic Stadium into a jukebox, cranking up world-beating rock" from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Who to "send the planet a message: Britain, loud and royal proud, is ready to roll." It was a "brilliant introduction to kick off a 17-day festival of sports" (AP, 7/28). The BBC's Tom Fordyce wrote that "no one expected" the Opening Ceremony to be "so gloriously daft, so cynicism-squashingly charming and -- well, so much pinch-yourself fun" (BBC, 7/28).

CONTRASTS WITH BEIJING: NPR's Madhulika Sikka wrote that the show was "in sharp contrast to the militaristic precision of Beijing's spectacular '08 effort." Boyle brought "wonder and whimsy and wit to the proceedings, without skimping on any of the patriotic touch points that are a must" at any Olympic Opening Ceremony. James Bond escorting the Queen to the Olympics was "enough to earn my respect and my gratitude" (NPR, 7/27). In Salt Lake City, Bill Oram reported that it was "certainly a go-big-or-go-home production." It "almost needed to be after the dazzling ceremony" at the '08 Beijing Games (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 7/27). In New Delhi, Sukhwant Basra wrote that Britain has "the kind of heritage that resonates across the world, especially the English-speaking one. It was "an easy connect." Basra added, "Your correspondent was overawed by Beijing, this one he enjoyed" (HINDUSTAN TIMES, 7/29). The CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR's Mark Sappenfield wrote "in an opening act rare among those in the history of Olympic Opening Ceremonies, the London organizers did something extraordinary: They were honest." In a night that "crackled with British music, literature and humor," it was an opening act about the Industrial Revolution "that made this night as memorable as the one in Beijing four years ago" (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, 7/27). In Beijing, Mu Qian reported that 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).

U.S. REACTS: In Chicago, Philip Hersh wrote that "an atmosphere of whimsey and party won out over pomp and circumstance" during a show that "allowed an economically beleaguered Britain to pat itself on the back." The Opening Ceremony "took on the overall air of frivolity that usually prevails at the closing rather than the opening" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/27). In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote that "whatever it was Friday night, it was bloody well wonderful." London decided to be its "dizzy, disjointed self, welcoming the Olympics to its cluttered backyard with a wink and nudge and belly laugh that should resound through these Games' history" (L.A. TIMES, 7/27). Also in L.A., David Rooney reported that Boyle's "epic opera of social and cultural history was a vibrant work of unfettered imagination that celebrated  a nation, but even more so, its people. Boyle "injected playful irreverence, unexpected humor and even darkness." The "biggest surprise" was an actual acting cameo from the Queen. The show was unique in that it "acknowledged the nation's people and its innovative creative spirit more than its leaders or its past as a grand empire" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 7/27). In N.Y., Cassell Bryan-Low opined that "no star was bigger, however, than the one who appeared on tape: Queen Elizabeth II." Boyle "didn't shy away from the grittiness he is known for in his movies." It was "at times quirky." The show focused heavily on British culture and Britain's "strong musical tradition" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/27). Also in N.Y., Alessandra Stanley wrote that Britain "confidently opted for a celebration of individuality, idiosyncrasy and even lunacy." The whole show "veered from cute to creepy and from familiar to baffling." It showed "a love of movies that celebrate British eccentricity" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/27). The N.Y. TIMES' Sarah Lyall wrote that the Opening Ceremony showed an "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 '48" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/27).

SOCIAL ISSUES: In London, Beth Stebner reported that Americans reacted "with confusion to the glorification of free universal health care" during the Opening Ceremony. The show included a segment where "dozens of skipping nurses and children in pajamas leaping acrobatically on massive hospital beds, with a large 'NHS' displayed." It was a "celebration of Britain's national health service," which has provided free taxpayer-funded health care to everyone in the country since its foundation after World War II (DAILY MAIL, 7/28). The AFP reported that 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). In London, Beal & Sabey reported that the show "won rave reviews across the globe." The Times of India declared it "dazzling," adding that London had "presented a vibrant picture of Great Britain's rich heritage and culture" (THE SUN, 7/29).

FRENCH IMPRESSED: LE PARISIEN called the Opening Ceremony “grandiose, inventive and offset, drawing deeply in the British identity.” It was a show that was “uplifting in these times of crisis” (LE PARISIEN, 7/27). LE JOURNAL DU DIMANCHE wrote that Boyle had promised “something different” and he held true to his word. The Ceremony “dazzled the world Friday night” (JDD, 7/28).

NOT AS IMPRESSED: EL PAIS opined that “Britain offered to the world [an image] of what it is: a country with more past than future” (EL PAIS, 7/28). In Rio de Janeiro, GLOBO ESPORTE wrote that the show from McCartney and the lighting of the torch by a group of seven young British athletes were the “high points of the historic night in London.” The Ceremony was not “as engaging as the one in Beijing in ’08, but it left its marks” (GLOBO ESPORTE, 7/27). GLOBO ESPORTE also noted that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff “applauded the Opening Ceremony of the ‘12 Games.” However, she also said that the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in ’16 “would have an even more beautiful and animated party” than the one put on by the British (GLOBOESPORTE, 7/28).

GERMANY REACTS: In Hamburg, John & Dornhauser reported that many German athletes enjoyed the Opening Ceremony. Tennis player Angelique Kerber tweeted: "what a night you can not describe the feeling...!!! GOOSEBUMPS." German field hockey player Julia Müller seemed to had Paul McCartney's "Hey Jude" stuck in her head and tweeted: "Good night #olympics2012! Going to bed with a NaNaNa NaNaNaNaaaa #happy." Müller's field hockey colleague Moritz Fürste tweeted: "Unbelievable...What a night. I feel like on my first day of school... ;-) What a night." Track cyclist Maximilian Levy already looked ahead and tweeted: "Gotta admit those are the moments for which I compete! would love to experience it again in rio :)." In addition to the German athletes German Olympic Sport Association President Thomas Bach praised the Games' Opening Ceremony as well. Bach wrote in a statement, "This was a fantastic Opening Ceremony with lots of surprises, humor and ideas. The ceremony appealed to everybody with its playful ease and presented Britain's culture and great sport tradition in a modern way" (HAMBURGER ABENDBLATT, 7/28).

CHINESE REPLAY: The London TELEGRAPH reported that a British theater producer "has been approached to put on a stage version" of the Opening Ceremony for Chinese audiences. David King, 56, was contacted by Beijing hours after the £27M ($42.5M) show was viewed by a global audience of over a billion. Contacts in Beijing - where he already "stages a hugely successful" annual Christmas show - asked him to bring a new Olympics style musical "by the end of the year." King revealed that the Chinese audience "were particularly encapsulated" with the rolling British countryside set and want a stage version. They have asked for the "farmyard animals and a cricket match" (TELEGRAPH, 7/29).