Undoubtedly, Athens 2004 Olympics ceremony produced images and thoughts that only, perhaps China or Japan could compete in terms of historic depth, civilization, meanings and connotations about humanity. This is a true statement, but it serves also as a disclaimer to avoid a social network death, after this piece is posted. Hopefully.
London 2012 took a different approach. Some would say due to a lack of ancient history. True again. But not all peoples around the world have the privilege of looking at ancient ruins with nostalgia. Some are obliged to put serious efforts to work, to achieve progress on economic and social level. Other reasons are in play as well. British land was never conquered at least since Julius Caesar. Greek lands have been turned again and again in a theatre of wars and extreme politics; so different peoples, different storytelling.
In my view, London 2012 ceremony focused on two things: first, what made Great Britain what it is today and second, on today’s world reality and change.
They depicted change via constructing images that described progress, embraced differentiality and promoted contemporary culture elements. From the agrarian economy to the “dark satanic mills” of the industrial revolution, which began in the UK in the middle of the 18th century and swept throughout the rest of the world -transforming society and laying the foundations of the modern world in its wake- to post-industrial pop society and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, British computer scientist and the inventor of the World Wide Web.
In my opinion, there were two key moments of the ceremony that made a difference. The one was the ‘Mortality’ section by choreographer Akram Khan that featured 50 specially selected professional dancers, a 9-year-old boy and Khan himself, accompanied by the voice of Emeli Sandé singing Abide With Me. Khan’s work brought an infectious stillness to the Ceremony, a reminder of our own mortality and the transfer of possibilities and hopes between generations.
The second moment was the final stage of torch relay with the young athletes leading the way to the future. River Thames cruiser with Beckham and the young female footballer on board delivered the flame to an older but strong athlete who entered the stadium and handed over the torch to a group of young athletes, who, as a group, shared the final meters towards the final task. It was a symbolic mystagogy that praised values, beliefs and the human factor.
A lot of comments are already made about the British Olympic party. Cross-cultural differences allow for too many interpretations and expression of national complexes. My preferred was the one tweeted by UK’s Conservative MP Aidan Burley, who was sacked as a ministerial aide last year after he took part in a Nazi-themed stag party in the French Alps. He said the Olympics opening ceremony was “multicultural crap”, The Guardian writes. He described it as “the most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen”.
Well, if the ‘Isles of Wonder’ managed to upset the extremists, it means that the social and political symbolisms were properly in place.
Dr. Demetris Kamaras is the Editor of AlYunaniya.com