THAT Beijing Opening Ceremony

London is waking slowly this morning to clear skies, fresh air, minimal traffic and a sinking feeling that there’s just no way we’ll be able to match that in 2012. Four years away, and municipal humiliation looks unavoidable already.

Like everyone else, I think that that was the very best opening ceremony I have ever seen, ever, for anything. The hard thing that the Chinese somehow pulled off without warning was to combine the spectacular and the gigantic with the beautiful, and, hardest of all, the tasteful. How frightening to be that ancient athlete, yanked hundreds of feet into the air in order to singe his moustache in that thoroughly-dangerous-looking final lighting of the torch – but how moving and thrilling it was to watch him from the safety of Kensal Green.

London can compete only by going for the complete opposite. Get everyone into the stadium, have a brass band play “Colonel Bogey”, “Jerusalem” and that one by Eric Coates, then straight into the athletics without further ado.

Because Beijing’s very impressiveness was its weakness too:

  • there was something frenziedly gauche about it all, the feeling that someone was trying just a little too hard to impress the West
  • and, under the bonnet, the hint of fascism: the drilled, smiling masses, the streets swept clean of beggars, itinerants and the mentally ill, the countless thousands chucked out of work for the duration just to clean the air, the round-up of the usual political suspects and heaven knows what in Tibet. Hard not to be reminded of all that by the ceremony’s basic nature.

They tended to forget, too, that it’s not China’s Olympics, but Beijing’s. No excuse needed to remember Szechuan, of course. But the presentation of 54 jolly, happy ethnic communities all living merrily together under a flag that looks like something the infant Scargill designed on Fuzzy Felt has what, exactly, to do with Peking, the history of Peking or the make-up of Peking?

All is not lost, therefore, for 2012. But what ought we to do? Ideas, please. Here are some of mine:

  • Just have the Queen cut the tape and then cut to the sport. The “John Smiths” approach.
  • A “Jack the Ripper” theme: the murders are reenacted in a reconstructed Whitechapel in the stadium, and the killer, played by his close relative, the Prince of Wales, escapes through the crowd.
  • Or go for the Blitz: bomb out the trams and buses on the day of the opening ceremony, then have what Spitfires and Hurricanes remain battle it out with Heinkels and Messerschidts over the stadium whilst inside in amongst sandbags, ack-ack guns and Anderson shelters WAAFs hand out builders’ tea and hang men in nuns’ costumes from makeshift gallows
  • Deliberately misconstrue the stadium’s location and make the audience sit through “Titus Andronicus”.
  • Oh, I don’t know. I’m feeling uninspired this morning. Let’s just do what we did last time:




Hitlers do it,
Stalins do it,
Even Kim-il-Jongs and Maos do it,
Let’s do it,
Let us form an enormous polyhedron made out of six hundred people wearing folk costumes with neon buttons!

George Szirtes

5 Replies to “THAT Beijing Opening Ceremony”

  1. “Like everyone else, I think that that was the very best opening ceremony I have ever seen, ever, for anything.”

    Most impressive, certainly. But I actually preferred Athens.

  2. “there’s just no way we’ll be able to match that in 2012”: or as Mr Worstall likes to say, 2013. Actually, we could easily trump it by opening the games with the public execution of Tony Blair.

  3. For hyperbole little can beat Jeff Powell, in today’s Mail:

    That Beijing ceremony was also terrifying….the next Olympics might represent the last stand for European culture…Communism in its various guises is preparing to take over…it is not the London 2012 organisers who sholud be afraid, it is the western world.

  4. Apropos Jeff Powell, that will be communism in its fullblown capitalist guise then. Coming round to the withering away of the state by another route.

    I like your suggestions, James. Here are a few more.

    1. Get the Real IRA to ignite a few redundant buildings

    2. Cover London in mud, generate a lot of fog and do The Dickens Games.

    3. Get the Olmpic Committee to include darts and turn London into a gigantic pitted dartboard.

    4. Give it a water theme and remove the Thames Barrier.

    5. Invite Diana Ross to kick a football.

  5. If the UK part of the closing ceremony is anything to go by, wait to be excruciated. Actually I think Bob Geldoff and the Black and White Minstrels with a cameo appearance by Posh and Becks.

    Public Hanging of the Politicians who spent all the money to bring the games to the UK would cap the evening.

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