Like many, I watched the opening ceremony of the London Olympics last Friday and, like a few, I was confused about the meaning of the show. Or to put it more accurately, I was wondered whether the spirit of the Olympic Games as a world athletic meeting promoting world peace and intercultural bonds was truly conveyed to a global audience. Was that a show for the world or a show for “Brits only?”
I thought it was the latter. If you have never lived in the United Kingdom for a long time – most people prefer to live in their own country – it would be impossible to decipher the social codes and meaning behind some of the scenes displayed during the ceremony. For example, what is the importance behind hundreds of beds being rushed onto the giant ceremonial stage carrying sick children and jolly jumpy nurses from the Great Ormond Street Hospital? I spent a great part of my life in England and personally experienced the benefits of the British National Health Service. But did my octogenarian aunt and her family, who obsessively watched the ceremony until the end, understand what the huge initials of “NHS” meant when they appeared center stage after the jolly nurses faded away? OK, there were internationally-known British symbols like Harry Potter present, but there was no Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie. There was the industrial revolution but there was no English sea faring.
And what about the famous British humor? Was Rowan Atkinson’s physical comedy funny enough to represent the best British characteristic, the ability and the open-mindedness to laugh at yourself and your most reverend institutions? I did not think that Black Adder’s boredom from tapping the same point on the keyboard and his preoccupation with his nose was a representation worthy of such a rich tradition.
But I can tell you one thing. I thought that what saved the tradition of British humor was the actual representative of the oldest British institution: the Queen. Her wonderfully delivered phrase, “Good evening Mr. Bond,” when welcoming the latest James Bond actor, Daniel Craig, into her luxurious private office was original and creative enough to remain in our minds as the most memorable part of this otherwise inward looking domestic show. The Brits can still be sure that they have managed to keep a valuable feature of their society, i.e. the one which appreciates humor as a means of everybody’s democratic right to the extent that even the monarch can join in as a willing participant in the procedure.
It was reported in the news that the Queen was eager to find out whether the public was “amused” by her show and that she was assured by the director of the ceremony that they really did like it.
I can’t think of many leaders who would ask whether their public was “amused” even if they had condescended to take part in such a gag. In many societies the width of disrespect shown to the authority is a good measure for the degree of democracy.
So the show was bad, but the Queen saved it. The representative of the most anachronistic British institution showed once again that the balance between the authority and the citizen -in spite of it all - still holds.
So I say to you, “Good evening Mr. Bond,” a hundred times.