If you’re going to thrust Great Britain into the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, or elevate Tim Berners-Lee as father of the world wide web, then you should also celebrate Britain’s unique place in crafting the world’s most followed sport. The Olympics is competed by 204 countries, FIFA boasts 209 members.
Not many countries can lay claim to inventing particular sports, let alone as comprehensively as Britain did in laying down the fundamentals of the modern game of association football. A sense of disbelief descended down on us as the opening ceremony went by without one single mention of the sport, one of the oldest to be contested in the Olympics.
There was Beckham who is less a football star than a global icon streaming through the Thames on a speedboat looking vaguely like he had been sent to snuff out another Romney gaffe and the evil of austerity. Maybe one but not surely both at the same time. He saved MLS, didn’t he? But in the stadium, there was no celebration of Ebenezer Cobb Morley, or the first FA rule book in 1863, or a timeline of the passage of the beautiful game to distant shores far and beyond, which set in stone a legacy withstanding the test of time. Britain’s greatest export that no one can quibble with as a myriad of historians revisit and revamp its vexatious place in the history of colonialism. When you had an estimated 650 million viewers in over 190 countries following Man Utd vs Man City on May 3rd 2012, then you know you have done something right.
Lets forget football for a moment. Lets take boxing. Everyone who enters the ring, from Muhammed Ali to Amir Khan, has had to follow the Marquess of Queensberry rules. A British sporting institution gave us Don King and In Zaire. None of it chronicled in the opening ceremony. The mind boggles at the missed opportunities.
Since we pride ourselves as a blog that not only pontificates on the beautiful game, lets sally forth on the Danny Boyle mess of an opening ceremony. Tim Berners-Lee is a cog in the digital revolution that was set forth by that true genius, Alan Turing. Who would have celebrated his 100th birthday a month ago if he had lived that long. No mention of the father of computer science, artificial intelligence, and a conflicted gay symbol. How much more contemporary do you want to get? And where were the Beatles? A whole segment should have been devoted to the Fab Four, a tectonic shift in the cultural landscape of the world. Abbey Road the most famous piece of asphalt. And if you want funny and British, may we suggest Monty Python? How about the Parrot Sketch or the Ministry of Silly Walks done by 5,000 volunteers and John Cleese MC-ing the whole athletic endeavour.
Shallow and muddled. That’s what the opening ceremony was. Even the special effects weren’t anything to write home about. And here is a note to the NBC ignoramuses commenting on the ceremony, you absolutely missed Kenneth Branagh resplendent in top hat, playing cigar chomping Isembard Kingdom Brunel. The figure most associated with the Industrial Revolution, as he built every visible symbol of modern day infrastructure that we take for granted. The problem is that Branagh did not have a name tag, not that it would have made much of a difference. Branagh who? Brunel who? Lets cut straight to commercial.