by Ursula K. Le Guin
9.40, Friday night, July 27, 2012. Cheap, hokey, trivial, cynical, pompous, patronising, pretentious, button-pushing, celebrity-worshiping, predictable beyond belief, degrading of every poet, musician, or artist associated with it, what a great show the Olympics opening night in London is! It’s still going on. Hours yet to go. I gave up at 9.15. I don’t know why I lasted past the shot of the corgis looking up adorably from the palace steps at the helicopter that was fakely bearing the fake Queen away so that she could fakely parachute down into the stadium, ooooh, wowwwwww, wheeee, and then (really) sit there glowering straight ahead and looking as if she had just drunk a quart of vinegar.
“Look, she’s smiling,” my husband said hopefully, when they sang God Bless the Queen, but I couldn’t see it. She just looked as if maybe her Tums were giving her a bit of relief for a moment, but she was still sour, bored, ungracious, and not about to hide it. Oh England, my England.
I guess I kept hoping there might be one more really amazing moment like the moment of the five rings descending: that was true real stage-magic as well as huge Super Special FX. But no. Just more hokum and more schmalz. And I began to think I might totally lose it if the chirpy announcers mentioned Danny Boyle one more time. Every two or three minutes we had to be told that he was responsible for this wonderful, dazzling extravaganza of British schlock. Maybe he wrote it all those mentions into his contract? For quite a while I thought they were saying Danny Boy, as in the song Oh Danny Boy, and wondered why. Perhaps I was confused because I think they did sing a bit of Oh Danny Boy at the very beginning. Maybe Danny Boyle put it in as a cute little subtle compliment to himself. I’m not sure though whether I did hear Oh Danny Boy at all, because there were so many little bits of songs. But of course they ended, inevitably, with the song “Jerusalem,” the words of which were written by William Blake, who in his direst visions of what might happen to his country never envisioned anything so monstrously silly as this.
I suppose eventually the poor athlete will come panting into the stadium with the Flame, and we’ll have some more whooptido and hokum. Maybe the Queen will be shot up to a hovering helicopter on a rocket in a fountain of fireworks, glowering all the way, and then we’ll get to see the corgis looking up adorably from the palace steps to greet her.
I leave it to the corgis. I’ve had enough. I’m going to go to bed and think about Thomas Hardy’s poem, “The Darkling Thrush.” The English do that kind of thing really, really well.
28 July 2012
P.S. Saturday morning. It seems there was a huge unplanned, unsponsored, spontaneous celebration going on in Trafalgar Square at the same time – Londoners and people from all over the world who’ve come for the Olympics all gathering to wait for the clock to tell them the opening moment of the Games, singing, shouting, waving flags, climbing up on the big bronze lions, and having a ball. Reading about that, I finally felt the authentic Olympic thrill.