Be not afeard; be not afeard, the isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices, that, if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming, the clouds methought would open, and show riches ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked, I cried to dream again.
These words of Caliban in Shakespeare's The Tempest were recited by actor Kenneth Branagh impersonating the transport wizard of that era, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, during the opening of the XXX Modern Olympics in London 2012. Through dreams and more than that making what seemed impossible come true, he contributed to the enrichment of this nation or the Isles of Wonder as Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning director of the ceremony, called the show and who was born by the river Thames, the oldest Londoner.
Caliban is a character desperate for his human condition. He is a wild and deformed slave who unveils extreme many of our earthly torments. It is with exquisite sensitivity and touching foolishness that he offers himself to those who hope to obtain all possible material wealth, whether it falls from the sky or with the use of audacity by the labor of others. Failing to achieve what he wants makes him suffer from envy and if he reaches what he wants it makes him suffer from greed, a paradox that seems to have no end. This is a classic example of the ambition of the wild capitalism largely created and perfected in London prior to the Industrial Revolution. Caliban and his island full of springs are reminiscent of Gollum and his treasure from The Lord of the Rings. At the end of each play, we end up sympathizing with both characters.
For the third time, the capital of England organizes a modern Olympic Games. In itself, a true record. Selfishness, greed, ambition or merit? It's hard to answer that question when this country is responsible for setting the standards for many of the modern versions of sports that already existed back in the ancient era: golf, tennis, badminton, cricket, boxing, soccer or rowing to name a few. A sample of the current concept of intellectual property registration that was proposed to us and that we once accepted. The rights and the glory do not belong to the inventor only they are also to the one who registered the patent.
Having a good dose of ambition in this life is positive. Caliban's dream by The Underworld group, the director's best partner in the opening project, it’s inspired by that concept. To achieve your goals, you must want them. Dreaming that the typical London clouds open up and show us their richness before they pour rain down on us, it might be well represented by an image of the Olympic rings newly forged by the heavy metal industry and spilling over the people of the host country. That wealth could be the Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals to be competed for during the games. The United Kingdom originally was hoping to get 60 medals in these games. The planning masters were able to reach the goal, of 65 overall medals. Caliban inspires them, and the fire of the torch guides them.
Additionally, from the well-known British humor masterfully achieved during the arrival of the Queen at the stadium guarded by agent 007 (at the service of her majesty) or Mr. Bean’s interpretation with the London Symphony Orchestra of the always Olympic Chariots of Fire of the Greek Vangelis, the most emblematic representation of the night was the National Health Service (NHS), personified by patients from the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. That Hospital was our neighbor building while we lived at the International Hall of the University of London. The greatness of a nation can be measured by observing the degree of protection that country has provided to its people and within to the most vulnerable ones. The United Kingdom has worked on it for many decades now although, it is known that at least in part they did it at the cost of subjugating half the world.
After many years of being a school teacher and children's stories teller, Joanne Kathleen Rowling, author of the Harry Potter saga, learned to identify what most caught the children’s attention, through the sparkle in their eyes and the smiles they aroused in her audience. That night, she chose to lull the children trying to sleep in the staged hospital by reading an excerpt from James Matthew Barrie's Peter Pan, which says:
Of all the delectable islands the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact, not large, and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed. When you play at it by day with the chairs and tablecloth, it is not in the least alarming, but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very nearly real. That is why there are nightlights.
At the end of that reading with this luxury teller, "... in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very nearly real..." the range of villains from the most traditional children's stories of the Olympic Games host country appeared: Lord Voldemort enemy of the wizard Potter, Captain Hook from Peter Pan, Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians, and the Queen of Hearts from my all-time favorite Alice in Wonderland. Country, which perhaps, seeing what has been seen, also ends up being an island just like Neverland. Other vile characters like Jack the Ripper, Dracula, Mr. Hyde or Frankenstein seem to have stayed home. This was children's night. To combat them, the director did not choose Dr. Watson or the detective Sherlock Holmes, he chose a creation of an Australian writer, the most famous nanny of all time, who came flying with her magic umbrella and together with the doctors and nurses of the NHS, they fought to the rhythm of Mike Oldfield and his great Tubular Bells. Upon success, the music of The Hobbit Shire of the Lord of the Rings plays, while all together hand in hand, they dance happily in circles. In the picture, only Frodo and his furry friends were missing. How to set up a pedicure service in that town.
The Anglo-Saxon health organization, a pillar of the Welfare State, has been disappearing in recent years in front of the stunned gaze of the British and during the ceremony, in front of Prime Minister Cameron, one of the architects of the magical disappearance. Without a doubt, the sick children of this nation are not only threatened by the villains of the successful and abundant children's literature of the United Kingdom, but by dangers closer and more real than ever. It seems that neither Mary Poppins nor the health personnel of the institution, who during the scene danced longer than the soldiers marched with Poppy included, will be able to do something to avoid it.
Islands of music
The UK's musical, visual, literary or scientific contribution to world culture is massive, however, the director chose to focus on music and offered us a range of options during the act. If we wanted “…Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not…” he proposed the solemn and noble Nimrod by Elgar or the cheerful and playful Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by Handel. Rugby hymns and traditional music from the islands, such as the Irish Danny Boy, Flor from Scotland, Bread from Heaven from Wales, or Jerusalem from England also resounded. Hymn whose lyrics sing, that finally the idea of Jerusalem was built in the green fields of England. Presumably, they were tired of so many European crusades and tired of seeing their princes and noble youth die. In any case, the crusaders almost always were ending up losing the three times Holy city of the Middle East.
The fanatically venerated Union Jack or flag of the United Kingdom arises from the overlapping of three historically holy emblems in this region. The emblem of the cross of Saint Andrews (flag of Scotland), that of the cross of Saint George (flag of England) and that of the cross of Saint Patrick (patron saint of Ireland). At the time of hoisting it, with charm, the deaf and disabled children's choir interpreted the God Save The Queen that could not be missing, yes, not precisely in the Sex Pistols version, which was played during the introduction and was censored by the BBC for decades. Inevitably, this anthem has become God Save The King. King Carlos III, as tradition marks traditions, come first in the old monarchy.
Almost at the end, after the tribute to the child and the sun, Emily Sandè delighted us with a version of one of the most sensitive traditional Christian hymns in the United Kingdom. Abide with me (stay with me), capable of calming demons and dragons, including the protectors of the City of London and those that we carry inside. Pray:
…fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens. Lord, with me abide! When other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless, oh abide with me! Swift to its close, ebbs out life’s little day. Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away. Change and decay, in all around I see. O Thou who changest not! Abide with me…
If, on the other hand, we wanted “a thousand twangling instruments” to wake us up and shake us up a bit, the rest of the show delighted us with abundant sequences of rock and roll, punk, pop, hip hop and electronic, progressive, or alternative music, leaving out, the genre of heavy metal and its prolific offspring. Clear examples of one of the most successful exports of the United Kingdom: contemporary music. To a large extent, they have created it, they continue to invent it and of course, they continue to record it like no one else in the world.
Since the printing press, there has been no technology more democratizing than the Internet. The Web or www, registered by an Englishman, has made almost everything available to almost everyone. Almost all, since today it is relatively easy to connect to it and with almost everything since it is difficult to find something of the relative importance that is not posted on the network. To honor its inventor Tim Bermers-Lee, the director of the opening prepared a scene typical of our lives today, which begins with a young couple sending messages on the phone, dancing, dancing, dancing, and ends with a big kiss and their news also communicated through social networks. In short, all everyday applications of the Internet. OK, as they danced and danced, they went through several decades of popular British signature hits.
Being all those who were, many of those who are were missing. I'm sorry, but it's like that. The list of British musicians who were not honored is huge. Probably, if the director had included all those who deserve it, the games would end before the opening, so we had to settle for the rickety sample that he brought us. At least, Queen, The Beatles, Eurythmics, Sex Pistols, The Chemical Brothers, Pink Floyd and the incomparable The Prodigy were played. But, just to think that many were missing, it’s sad and if I add that they were also missing, my usual groups of heavy metal, among others, it’s a shame. In the closure of the Olympic Games, they compensate us a lot. But that’s another story...
For all these reasons, the host in a top hat, sideburns, and a cigar, in front of the Celtic Oak from whose roots emerged the workers who have been the basis of the success of this Northern Sea Perfidious Albion, eloquently told the stadium visitors and from the screen to the rest of the world:
Be not afeard; be not afeard, the isle is full of noises.