Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony and Romney's remarks: you reviewed!

July 31, 2012, 5:33 PM GMT+0

The London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, which took place Friday July 27th at the Olympic stadium in Stratford, London, was watched by 27 million people in the UK – viewing figures that outstripped the numbers that tuned in for last year’s Royal wedding (26m), or watched England’s losing match against Italy in June’s Euro 2012 Championship (23m).

It included a theatrical depiction of Britain’s evolution from an agrarian to industrial society, a comic skit featuring James Bond and the Queen jumping out of a helicopter, an homage to British music through the decades, a tribute to the NHS in which real NHS workers performed – even David Beckham delivering the Olympic torch to the stadium via speedboat.

The show was the eclectic brainchild of Academy Award-winning film director Danny Boyle, the film-maker responsible for Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, and has been garnering rave reviews from commentators in Britain and America.

While the reviews have been largely positive, however, there have also been reports that some top Tories, as well as the brother of comedian Rowan Atkinson (who played a starring role in the ceremony), felt the ceremony had a left-leaning political message.

In YouGov’s two-part weekend SportsLab, we invited our panellists:

  • Firstly, to submit their reviews of the spectacle, by telling us whether the Opening Ceremony exceeded, met, or fell below their expectations, and whether you thought it did a good, average, below average, or poor job at representing Britain positively.

There was one high-profile figure who put a dampener over the logistical success of the Games in the run-up to Boyle’s show, however.

In the lead-up to the Ceremony, US Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was stopping in London on an international campaign tour, when asked his perception of how prepared the UK appeared to him as host nation, he remarked:

“You know it’s hard to know just how well it will turn out. There were a few things that were disconcerting – stories about the private security firm not having enough people; the supposed strike of the immigration customs officials is obviously something which is not encouraging…”

  • So in the second part of the SportsLab, we asked just what would you say back to Mitt Romney, given the chance.

Part One: Reviewing Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony

We asked you to choose which one, from a list of statements, best reflected your feelings on whether the opening ceremony exceeded, met, or fell below your expectations, and the degree to which you thought it represented Britain in a positive or negative light.

Most of you said the Opening Ceremony had exceeded your expectations, and showed Britain in a very positive light.

  • Participants who were of this view gave extremely enthusiastic praise for Danny Boyle’s production, describing it varyingly as “unique”, “inventive”, “quirky” and “original”.
  • You felt that it was an apt representation of Britain’s shift through the ages, while also positively capturing the diversity and vibrancy of Britain today.
  • These panellists tended to express approval of Mr Boyle’s decision to include real NHS workers and other ‘real people’ in the Ceremony, but were also delighted about the role certain public figures played in the show, particularly the Queen and Daniel Craig as James Bond.
  • Others told us how they appreciated the humour of the Ceremony, and how they felt its overall tone represented Britain in a very positive light.

A significantly smaller proportion of participants said that while the Opening Ceremony was entertaining, they were not blown away by it, and felt that it did just an 'OK' job of representing Britain.

  • Participants who were of this view often reasoned that while they liked many parts of the show – with the lighting of the cauldron by young athletes getting an almost universally positive review – they found it to be somewhat confusing.
  • Doubts were raised as to whether people watching in other countries would understand certain elements of the Ceremony, particularly the NHS tribute.
  • You also told us you found there to be ‘too much going on’, and that without the BBC commentary you would likely have been confused about what the message was at different points in the show.

A rather small group of participants said that the Opening Ceremony was not as good as they expected it to be, and that it could have done more to show Britain in a positive light.

  • Those of you who felt this way said they found many of the elements included in the show to be arbitrary, with many citing the NHS tribute in particular.
  • Many in this group gave Beatle Paul McCartney a bad review for his performance.
  • And the charge that it was “too lefty” in its political message was another reason why participants in this group were disappointed with the Ceremony.

Finally, a still smaller proportion of those of you who took part said you did not think the Opening Ceremony was at all good, and that it showed Britain in a negative light.

  • Those who did not like the Opening Ceremony at all singled out the NHS tribute in particular as being an inappropriate addition to the programme, and felt it was indicative of the show’s wider left-wing bias.
  • Expanding on this theme, others felt it portrayed British history in a way that was favourable to a left-wing and ‘politically correct’ interpetation.
  • And finally, you thought that Paul McCartney’s rendition of ‘Hey, Jude’ was quite poor.

VIEWPOINT: 'The Opening Ceremony was much better than I expected it to be, and showed Britain in a really positive light'

It showed Britain as an inclusive nation, proud of its past and its considerable contributions to the world. The ceremony was witty, exciting, and movingKenneth M, Rochester Kent

I expected it to be parochial, but instead it showed how British society has developed, and how it has changed through history in response to the industrial revolution, wars, immigration and technology. British society's creative nature was celebrated in beautiful sets and music. It celebrated all that is dynamic and decent in British society, and made me really proud to be BritishLaurent, London

I expected something formulaic, perhaps a little twee, that would show Britain as some ‘past it’ country, certainly not the vibrant place it actually is. The Opening Ceremony blew me away; I think ‘vibrancy’ is a perfect word to describe it – full of surprises. Every minute detail was absolutely perfect. You could tell an immense amount of thought had gone into all of those details, and boy, did it pay off” Anon

The theme of British development over time was really good, and the transformation to Industrial Britain was incredibly clever! Just the sheer technicality of it all was a complete masterpiece. I've seen a lot of opening ceremonies over the years, and I can't remember anything as interesting as this one. It shows that Brits are inventive, and totally competent where it comes to showing the world what we can do!Jude, Bedford

It was truly for the people of this country – all of us. I was so proud that we did it our way; honestly, humorously and joyfully. The use of children and young sports people was fitting and a good way to solve the issue of one person lighting the flame. The Olympic flag being carried by campaigners, noting the loss of our service men and women and 'NHS' lighting up the sky was displaying to the world that we are a brave, honourable nation. The torch was beautiful. The whole ceremony was an exquisite, poetic, perfect piece of artRoisin, Chiswick

I thought it was really entertaining, especially Bond and the Queen. It showed off our history, achievements, and our sense of humourAnon

Danny Boyle's plans for the Opening seemed flat and old fashioned. However, all my preconceptions had disappeared by the end. It didn't all work; some of it must have been incomprehensible to people abroad but overall a triumph – by turns witty, self-deprecating, inspiring and moving. The lighting of the Cauldron at the end was so good as to transcend the normal language of praiseChris M, Belfast

I loved the rings in the sky being forged, Rowan Atkinson's piano playing of 'Chariots of Fire', the James Bond and the Queen sketch and the Olympic torch being driven to the stadium through the Thames by David Beckham. I also enjoyed the suspense of not knowing who would be lighting the flame, and the passing of the torch to the younger generationVayid M, London

VIEWPOINT: 'The Opening Ceremony was entertaining to watch, but I wasn't blown away by it. I thought it did an OK job representing Britain'

It’s great that people from all walks of life were involved. The lighting and music was great and the inclusion of Mr Bean was excellent. As for the Queen and James Bond, this was a master-class and shows that the Royals have a personality. On the downside, some of the costumes (stick on sideburns) were a bit naff, and I think that people in other countries would have found parts of it hard to understandGav B, Holmfirth

Technically, it was very well staged and choreographed, but I felt some of the content wasn't relevant for the occasion and would have left foreigners bemusedAnon

It was a unique interpretation of the Industrial Revolution, and demonstrated the inclusiveness of gender, age and race of which we are rightly proud in this country. However, there was so much going on it was difficult to make sense of some of the tableaux, and I would have liked a better balance of music which included more traditional, evocative music – that would have blown me away” Jan, Cornwall

It took me a while to understand what the message was, but when I did understand it was typically British. Thought Paul McCartney was awfulAnon

The Olympic Rings were good, some of the music from previous eras was entertaining, and I loved watching the competitors parading round the stadium. The representation of Britain was too stereotypical and went on too long, the stunt involving ‘James Bond & the Queen’ was tacky, the NHS piece too politically motivated (seeing dehydrated elderly people laying comatose in bed would probably have been more representative!), and the live music after the fireworks unnecessaryAnon

I liked the cauldron and the bits about the industrial revolution – these parts were very effective. I also liked the way it involved lots of volunteers. I wasn't blown away though, because there were plenty of people out of time with each other when they were dancing. The Arctic Monkeys performed a poor cover version of a Beatles song that was sung very badly, and Paul McCartney ending it really spoilt it for me. I'm fed up with him and that terrible song” Mark, Faversham

VIEWPOINT: 'The Opening Ceremony wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be, and I think it could have done more to show Britain in a better light'

It was utterly weird, what has the NHS got to do with anything? That scene was ridiculous especially as the rest of the world knows that the NHS doesn't work well any more. The scenes about children’s books were very odd; Paul McCartney singing Hey Jude was out of context” Anon

Political bias, for example showing too much cultural diversity, poor choice of music, little example of the UK contribution to the world – the only example was the InternetNorman, Surrey

The mangling of history was atrocious. The filmed sections were twee and the computer generated imagery was ropey. The references were far too oblique and likely to have not been understood by a great majority of international viewers. … The volunteers in the first section looked under rehearsed and badly choreographed, the nurses later however were very good. It also looked a lot cheaper than the amount of money spent on itAlex G, London

It seemed to be very disjointed and it was difficult to decide what certain sections related to. There was so much going on it was as if Danny Boyle had listed too many things to include but had decided to include most of them anyway!Anon

Dragged on, and it was confusing for overseas people because they would had no idea what was going on. It was less spectacular than I thought it would be, and why did we have to suffer McCartney again?DerbyGal

It was too left wing and cost far too much money for what it wasGeoff C, Leicester

VIEWPOINT: 'I didn't think the Opening Ceremony was very good at all, and I think it showed Britain in a negative light'

“Typical boring British kerfuffle. Extremely vanilla and quite pathetic to be dwelling in the past. But I expected extreme boring twaddle and tosh from a xenophobic country proud of its tainted, colonial heritage. And seriously, the NHS?! Not something worth showing off right now!Sam, London

Too amateurish in presentation, too sloppy, and too many talentless people milling about. I wanted to see what the stadium audience were seeing, not pre-prepared video clips of 'James Bond'. No idea what persuaded the queen to do that – truly awful. As for the NHS? What was that for?? I think it would have been an okay show for a particular type of UK-only audience, but not a global one. Inclusivity gone mad, except no one seemed to think to include the rest of the world as well. All-in-all, a lot of self-indulgent nonsense. I'm embarrassedAnon

This was an over-politicized event with a great deal of left wing bias. The representation attempted to airbrush our history and create a myth of out of our history. From this event, one would have thought that ethnic minorities formed a significant proportion of the population for the past 400 years rather than the last 60. The depiction of the NHS was simply propagandaDavid B

It was too politically correct and like most British celebrations ended up as a glorified pop concert interspersed with various novelty items. It would have been more up-lifting if the pop music had been replaced by a cavalcade of music from great British composers. Paul McCartney should go into immediate retirement. The cauldron should have been lit by Steve RedgraveRay, Harrow

It was both bewildering and embarrassing in equal measure. The cauldron was a real spectacle but aspects of the 'show' were just weird. What on Earth were children and nurses dancing around and jumping on beds to do with the Olympics? At that point I was thinking that Boyle had been arm-twisted by politicians. He probably was. … I spotted people leaving in their droves when McCartney came on for the finale, and how clever they were. He was simply bad, as was the concept of this as a climax for the evening. Sorry, I am embarrassed by the whole thing. It was not well judged” Gordon, Cromarty

Part Two: Responding to Romney

When asked for his thoughts on the UK’s Olympics preparations during his visit to the UK last week, Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate standing against Barack Obama in the US presidential elections, remarked:

“You know it’s hard to know just how well it will turn out. There were a few things that were disconcerting – stories about the private security firm not having enough people; the supposed strike of the immigration customs officials is obviously something which is not encouraging…”

Q: What would you say back to Mitt Romney, given the chance?

When we asked, as a follow up, just what you would say in response to Mitt Romney's comments, your views were roughly split in two:

  • Many of you said Mr Romney should “mind his own business” instead of being forthcoming with his views on the UK’s perceived ability to put on the Olympic Games.
  • Those who were of this view said that Mr Romney was probably trying to be clever, and highlight his experience as an organiser of the 2002 Winter Olympics, held in Salt Lake City, but that he would have been better off saying nothing if he could not think of anything positive to say about London 2012.
  • Several of you pointed out that staging the Olympics in Salt Lake City is far different than holding the Games in a giant metropolis like London, and while a few ‘hiccups’ are to be expected, generally you thought London 2012 would go off well.
  • Participants said the presidential candidate could stand to learn about ‘politeness’, and the basic courtesy of not offending one’s host.
  • Others commented that it was not the job of an American politician to pass judgments of the UK’s Olympic organising abilities, and expressed dread at the prospect of Mr Romney actually becoming president.

Others taking the opposite stance, however:

  • Tended to agree with Mr Romney’s concerns about security and immigration customs officials, and were glad he voiced them.
  • Participants in this group said they found the presidential candidate’s frankness refreshing to hear from a politician, and that you believed he had said what many people in the UK have been thinking.
  • A selection of you voiced similar concerns around the government’s preparedness in terms of security, and its ineptitude at anticipating issues with immigration officials threatening to go on strike.
  • Many of you made Romney's comments a springboard for expanding on your own distaste for the Olympic Games, taking particular issue with the costs of holding the event at a time of economic uncertainty and public sector austerity.

What did you think of Danny Boyle’s Olympic Ceremony, after a 2-year wait?

Add your voice to the discussion in the comments area below