thu 18/07/2024

Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, BBC One

Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, BBC One

Twitter votes no but Scotland puts out a cheerful welcome mat

Starry starry night? Party time in Glasgow

What is an opening ceremony for? For the taste gendarmerie on Twitter, it’s a juicy chance to fall on the festivities like a pack of wolves and tear the thing to shreds. For homegrown celebrities now domiciled far from the host country, it’s a chance to reaffirm vows of patriotism in public. For everyone else, it’s a party attended by some ridiculously beautiful athletes, plus the codgers of the bowls team.

Bombastic? Certainly. Bloated? For sure. Tacky? Hell yes. Any ceremony featuring John Barrowman and Susan Boyle is hardly calculated to score maximum points for artistic impression. Even the star musical turn Rod Stewart chose the occasion to sing one of his new ones; that it was a tribute to his old man from Glasgow was no excuse - it still evoked memories of George Michael and Annie Lennox promoting joyless obscurities at London's closing ceremony as the world scratched its head.

This wasn’t about brandishing the edgy Scotland of Jesus and Mary Chain and Irvine Welsh

Two years ago there were similar groans out there in the cybersphere as London unveiled its more expensive celebration. By the next morning, Danny Boyle's handy primer to modern British culture had established its position as a cheerful riposte to the synthetic gigantism of Beijing. So try as one might to poke a finger through Glasgow’s opening ceremony, the impression left by three exhausting hours is the capacity for symbolism to embody something positive. The silence for the victims of MH17, a third of them members of the Commonwealth, was intensely powerful even on television (if you discount the Aussie clown attempting to capture it all on his iPhone). Of longer-lasting impact will be the organising committee’s collaboration with UNICEF to raise money for children all over the parts of the globe that used to be pink. It turned the evening into a stadium version of Children in Need.

The only moment of genuine drama was unscripted, when Prince Imran of Malaysia struggled to open the baton containing the Queen's message that had spent half the year travelling 120,000 miles around the Commonwealth. Sir Chris Hoy rode to the rescue. Bloopers aside, the bottom line about opening ceremonies is it’s not possible to entertain both the person seeing it all in the flesh from row Z and the audience with a closer but edited view from the sofa. Above all there’s no way of filling a stadium with jokes. Billy Connolly popped up in pre-filmed segments, but his introduction to the city of his birth was longer on anthropology than humour. An opening musical montage featuring Glasgow-born Barrowman was notable less for camply huzzahing Scottish heritage than for a cheeky boy-on-boy kiss that won’t have gone down so well in those parts of the Commonwealth which are not out and proud: Uganda, Pakistan, the Isle of Man etc.

This wasn’t about brandishing the dark and edgy Scotland of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Irvine Welsh that some may have craved. The ceremony as smiley international welcome mat can never measure up to the insider knowledge of an indigenous metropolitan elite. They may wish to take the high road but the safer path is down the middle (only Rod, tweeting a pic of himself with no trousers on in the Celtic trophy room, took the low option).

Despite the evidence of SuBo’s wobbly “Mull of Kintyre”, the message was that Scotland’s got talent, and that includes the unfussy Hazel Irvine (pictured above) perkily outperforming Huw Edwards in the commentary box. Two of Scottish Ballet’s dancers cavorted in the middle of Celtic Park to a fresh take on The Proclaimers’ "I Would Walk 500 Miles”, Amy Macdonald sang along with a street flashmob, volunteers danced with chairs to updated Andy Stewart. And by the end Nicola Benedetti was sawing away with the children of Big Noise from El Sistema’s Scottish outcrop. The tartan was garish, which meant it fitted right in. There was no Rabbie Burns, no Bannockburn, no mention of those currently freighted monosyllables “Yes” and “No”.

Despite the evidence of a wobbly SuBo, the message was that Scotland’s got talent

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'There was no Rabbie Burns' - what, apart from the line "Wi' joy unfeigned brothers and sisters meet" splashed across the giant screen, complete with attribution to the poet, you mean?

I stand corrected, AndyNotStewart. I meant no mention of him by name, or none that I heard.

The ceremony was cheap and tacky. And a lot of bitter scottish were complaining about God Save the Queen being played instead of flower of scotland.

It's God Save The Queen that's bitter, not the Scottish people. Do you have any idea of the words of verse 2, you total idiot!

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