London: The deeply personal, madcap vision for the spectacular ceremony that opened the London 2012 Olympics was inspired by the memory of director Danny Boyle’s late father, whose birthday fell on July 27.
Speaking hours before the £27 million show that has been three years in the making, the Oscar-winning director said his late father Frank’s love for the Olympics was the reason he accepted Lord Coe’s invitation to direct the ceremony.
“It is my dad’s birthday today,” said Boyle. “When I took this job it was for a lot of reasons. I live locally, and thought I had the confidence and status to take it on, which you need.
“But I did it because my dad was a mad Olympics fan, seriously crazy sitting up all night watching Olympics from Mexico or wherever. Sadly he died 18 months ago, so he didn’t quite make it.”
Describing the show as a “warm-up” for the athletes’ parade that followed the main creative element, Boyle said he was excited at being responsible for an event “that will never come round again”.
He said the ceremony, which coursed from our “green and pleasant land” to the digital age of social media via the industrial revolution, was an attempt to explore Britain’s new place in the world with “modesty and pride”.
“We are learning our new place in the world,” said Boyle. “One hundred years ago we were everything. But there is a change and we have to learn our place in the world. The ceremony is very proud, but I hope in a modest way.”
He denied that the ceremony, including references to the Jarrow marchers, miners, suffragettes and a lengthy celebration of the NHS, was overtly political.
“The sensibility of the show is very personal. A group of us have created it but we had no agenda other than values that we think are true,” he said.
Boyle said he was unconcerned if it seemed parochial. “You do it for yourselves, you can’t do it for the whole world. People will be baffled at times, and I hope it will be charming, not annoying.” Boyle praised the 10,000 volunteers who performed last night.
He said: “The volunteers have represented the best of us, they have turned up in appalling conditions and danced their hearts out.”
He explained the inspiration for the three main acts: the industrial revolution; the NHS and the magical world of children’s literature; and the institution of Saturday night entertainment, fused with the invention of the internet.
The bucolic opening scene, featuring geese, sheep and a shire horse was, he said, a reflection of “something deeply embedded in our consciousness, historical, mythical” inspired by William Blake’s Jerusalem.
The industrial section, titled “Pandemonium” after Milton’s name for Hell in Paradise Lost, was a celebration of “our genius of engineering” Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The Brunel character, played by Sir Kenneth Branagh, read Caliban’s speech from The Tempest, before the Olympic rings were forged from steel.
That section was followed by a moment of remembrance, which Boyle said recognised that the industrial revolution had also mechanised warfare, leading to millions of lost lives. The NHS section was inspired by his respect for the institution and free universal health care.
The final scene, “Frankie and June Say Thanks Tim”, explored popular culture, and celebrated Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the internet.
The lovers, Frankie and June, meet through texts and social media and travel through nightclubs with music from the 1960s to the noughties, before inviting the whole stadium back to her parent’s house, where Saturday night sitcoms have been on the TV.
Inside is Berners-Lee, “the scientist who invented the world wide web, and even more important than that he put it in trust, made no personal gain”. He added: “Instant human communication is free to us all.” Asked if it was an eccentric show, Boyle said: “I don’t think it’s eccentric because I wouldn’t, I’m British, but others might think it is. If it is, I’m proud of it.”
BDST: 1541 HRS, July 28, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor
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