I thought I would burst with pride in my adopted country when it won the staging of the 2012 Olympics in 2005. I was so excited and pleased. I also thought I couldn't be more proud when I was selected as an Olympic Ambassador from 45,000 applicants in 2010. But last night I was so moved by some parts of the Opening Ceremony, which not only sent my pride level racing off the scale, but left me simply speechless.
As Olympic Ambassadors we all had a preview of the Ceremony last Monday at the technical rehearsals, so I knew most of what was coming up. I even took pictures, but naturally couldn't publicise them. But some things that couldn't be rehearsed, or they wanted to leave as a surprise for everyone, were not included. I saw them last night, like the lighting of the most amazing cauldron, and I can see why they were kept under wraps. How on earth do you top that cauldron? What an ingenious and innovative idea!
In fact, that cauldron epitomised everything about why accepting change in our lives, and being flexible with the way we think, is so important. All along, as the show progressed, people and presenters were wondering where the Olympic Flame cauldron was situated. They were looking for the traditional cauldron that everyone can normally see first thing in the opening ceremony, serenely waiting to be lit. Not last night. It was nowhere in sight, which presented an ongoing puzzle and much curiosity.
Later, that cauldron appeared out of nowhere, having lain flat on the ground, fusing all those copper petals together, symbolically uniting the 205 countries participating, as it rose majestically into the air in triumph, taking all our ambitions with it. And the Stadium itself was just the most fabulous visual backdrop in the way it looked all night. Wow! Just Wow!
Highlights of the Ceremony
The Opening Ceremony started off simply enough, with a rural scene which transformed itself into all kinds of eye catching aspects to match the brief narrative of Britain's social history, from rural living to industrial chaos and domination. Among that, the central part the NHS has played in our lives was emphasised, and the role of music which has helped to put us on the world stage, from the '60s to the present, given due tribute. Fiction and fact came together when James Bond 007(actor Daniel Craig) escorted the Queen in a helicopter and they both 'parachuted' into the stadium. At least it showed the Queen had a sense of humour! And Mr Bean (Rown Atkinson) provided the usual laughs with his antics.
Naturally, the march past of athletes looking genuinely happy and proud, as well as the magnificent cauldron at the end, got my vote. Everyone looked radiant in their eye catching colourful clothes and the cauldron was simply stunning. The decision to have the Flame passed from the older generation of athletes to the new generation who actually lit the cauldron was also inspirational. It seemed so right for the future. It was a truly spectacular night to remember, essentially British, someone said. Yes, it was. But the 2012 Olympic Games were being held on British soil.It was bound to showcase us at out best.
Danny Boyle and his team can feel tremendously proud today, and also put two fingers up to the constant naysayers - both at home and abroad! - who had nothing good to say about the preparations. But being on the inside as I was, I could see it all coming together beautifully because parts of the process went like military clockwork, especially the organisation of the 70,000 volunteer Games Makers and the 7,000 Ambassadors. Most important, the 4 billion people who apparently watched the Opening Ceremony across the globe would be thinking of its impact on them, and would probably want to visit Britain now, if they had no real knowledge of us before: thus boosting the tourism revenue to come.
I have always adored this country, because many people who take its blessings for granted, perhaps not having my experience of living in another country, do not really begin to appreciate how fortunate they are and how much they are blessed. They can only see negatives in everything. But this is one of the proudest moments Britain will enjoy in this century and I hope that last night's inspiration, by the army of volunteers, will galvanise the rest of us into actually doing something to enhance that, than just making critical comments. I am already enjoying flying the flag for our country's efforts!!
BBC audience research has revealed that the Olympic Opening Ceremony peak audience was 26.9 million, and actual viewing was a steady 20m plus from 9pm to 12.15 am. Such a sustained high number of viewers over such a long time is unheard of. There couldn't have been many people doing much else! But that level of attention was well and truly deserved. A huge THANK YOU must go to the BBC for nearly 6 hours of superb coverage and NO breaks!! Well Done!
I am very very thrilled to have experienced the Games so far, from both inside and out, and after last night's eye opener, I feel sure that the best for Britain is yet to come!
Good luck with the medals, Team GB - and all the other participants!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/2012/ James Bond escorts The Queen to the Olympic Stadium in this special film 'Happy and Glorious'.
Relive the Opening Ceremony, courtesy of the BBC (if you have access to the IPlayer).