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Olympics 2012 - 'Isles of Wonder' ceremony a triumph of Britishness

Confession time. I feared for Frank Cottrell Boyce and his involvement with the Olympic Games. From what I knew of both they seemed at odds. Light and shade. Generosity and greed.


After all, there is a lot to dislike about the Olympics. Where do you begin? The International Olympic Committee’s pursuit of some grossly unsuitable sponsors? Its sledgehammer attitude towards protecting its trademark?


On the other hand, Frank is yet to reveal his dark side.


Like many of the 27 million people cosying up in front of their TVs across Team GB-land for last Friday’s megabucks opening ceremony, I hoped that Frank - as the event’s ‘writer’ by invitation of fellow man-of-the-people Danny Boyle - could help conjure up something special.


Something thrilling, awesome, memorable, charming and most of all, something that was about us not them. Something to make me feel proud to be British.


Had fond childhood memories of Olga Korbut, Mark Spitz, Dick Fosbury or perhaps Bob Beamon skewed the Blundellsands Bard’s judgement and persuaded him to embark on a regrettable PR exercise for the IOC? We all have our price. Mine’s 50 quid. No. Have faith in Frank, I thought.


By the time the iconic chimneys of Dickens’ Coketown had risen so gloriously within the Olympic Park, my fleeting doubts had vanished. I knew that this was indeed about us. Not sponsors. Not branding.


Today’s worries over corrupt, self-serving, uncaring decision-makers were put aside. Skillfully and relentlessly I was reminded how wonderful Great Britain is and I was left elated at being a Brit. For a frazzled 40-something die-hard cynic (my wife’s words, not mine) that takes some doing.


There are times when life stops us in our tracks and forces us to think about the ‘bigger picture.’ We re-assess our beliefs, our values and how our actions can shape our world.


As a society we pause to reflect, sometimes to mourn, pay tribute or celebrate. The plot or track of our communal lives changes - knowingly or not. It could be argued that Diana’s death and 9/11 are two of those snapshot moments. Or even the birth of Beatlemania. Some may call them seminal moments.


In time we may see that this Olympic Games, the ‘Isles of Wonder’ opening ceremony and its 10,000 volunteers exalting the NHS, popular culture and our role in the industrial and digital revolutions, gave Great Britain an opportunity to stop, to reflect, be proud and change for the better.

Posted by Peter Harvey: Tuesday 11th December 2012