It’s four days ago now and some of the impact is fading but – oh, wow – wasn’t the opening ceremony amazing?
Most of the media comments used words like ‘quirky’ – if they were broadsheets, ‘idiosyncratic’ – to describe the extraordinary mix of styles, colours and dynamics used to reflect Britain past and present.
Is it just a blur, now? Not for me. There were distinct moments of splendour or emotion that will probably stay with me for a long time. The opening rural idyll, the smoke-stacks rising impossibly from a flat map of London streets, the white-hot rings seemingly forged in front of us, the glorious assemblage of copper ‘petals’ making the final Olympic cauldron.
These were powerful images that imprinted themselves not just because of there visual power or the inevitable wonder, ‘How on earth did they do that?’ They stay because they seem to be saying ‘This is true. What you are seeing means something.’ That’s always the definition of what we remember: it has a significance beyond simply what it is.
What, therefore, was it all for?
It wasn’t particularly ‘olympian’, whatever that is. It wasn’t classical in the slightest. It was definitely British but even then, Britain as what? A former manufacturing power? A caring community, aka the NHS? A music-loving society looking for fun?
Yes, all of those. So?
It was moments of stillness that spoke to me most. When Emeli Sande sang ‘Abide with me’, complete,unabridged, and the whole stadium became still, it was because she was singing of something that goes beyond spectacle, beyond bravura, beyond achievement. The words and, in a way, the music speak of our longing for God, someone bigger and more enduring than anything, even these games colossal as they are.
Perhaps even more so was the moment when, out from the flame-costumed dancers reflecting the restlessness and danger of modern life (that’s how they spoke to me) came a single figure, a man, who walked towards the little boy we had seen a few moments earlier standing lost on the edge of the action.
At first the man appeared to elude the boy’s outstretched, pleading arms but then – as it were relenting at his plight – the man stooped, caught the boy up, clasping him as if never to let him go and carried him safe through the fire.
This is what I shall carry from the opening ceremony – we’re the little boy, God is our Father.
By Nigel O’Dwyer, who lives – and continues to be amazed – in Worthing.