BBC News

Media reaction to London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony

media captionHighlights of the London Olympics opening ceremony

The London 2012 Olympic Games began last night with an opening ceremony watched by 62,000 people in the stadium and an estimated global television audience of one billion.

The show featured British celebrities and sportspeople, including David Beckham and Bradley Wiggins, screen characters Mr Bean and James Bond - and even a surprise acting debut from the Queen herself.

So what did commentators and pundits from across the UK and the world think of director Danny Boyle's celebration of British culture?

UK reaction

Simon Barnes, The Times:

"London turned down the option to celebrate giants and supermen and power and might and chose instead to celebrate people... Humour, above all things, humanises and there were elements of self-mockery that suggested that we could make this the humorous Games; the Games of humorous humanity in a land in which a joke and a grumble are never far away, and often enough one and the same thing."

Harvey Goldsmith, Music Promoter:

"I actually went to last dress rehearsal, and watched it live and then watched it last night. And strangely enough I was quite looking forward to watching it on TV, but the live experience was extraordinary... there was so much going on it was hard to pick it up on TV, so you lost a lot of that element which was a shame because in the actual stadium it was amazing."

Richard Williams, The Guardian:

"For four years, following Beijing was thought to be the most thankless task in show business. Danny Boyle made it happen. He made the stadium seem bigger than it is, as big as the world. He gave a party, full of jokes and warmth and noise and drama, and he got the Olympics started."

Historian Tim Stanley, Telegraph Blog:

"So after all of this, what is Britain? A country that can still put on a show, that has many identities, that is culturally rich, that has a battered landscape, that lost a lot when the factories were first built, that has patches of God still found lying about, that is intensely proud of what it got right (free healthcare, women's votes), but not too comfortable about what it got wrong (empire was never mentioned). It is a mess. A jolly wonderful mess. We're good at those."

Rick Dewsbury and Ian Garland, Daily Mail:

"There was no doubting the night's biggest star, local boy David Beckham, who transported the flame by speedboat under Tower Bridge to the stadium. It was the coolest moment of an amazing show and an estimated television audience of one billion tuned in worldwide."

Former Labour deputy leader Roy Hattersley, The Times:

"Presumably he hoped to capture the ethos of the whole host nation. But it is hard to feel romantic, or even sentimental, about anything as amorphous as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And it is near impossible to identify characteristics that are common to the Cotswolds and the Gorbals, the Falls Road and the Brecon Beacons without taking refuge in references to 'this happy breed' — a bogus description of the English written by Shakespeare before the kingdoms were united."

Arlene Phillips, Commonwealth Games choreographer:

"I wished I had seen it live because I found the camera shots sometimes focusing on quite small moments which were exciting, but it didn't make your heart pound. And of course, there were some amazing things to see. I didn't feel I got it all as a viewer... But I also thought after the ceremony Danny Boyle should be running the country because this was a people's ceremony."

Andrew Gilligan, The Telegraph

"The NHS segment in particular underlined how surprisingly parochial this ceremony was. The idea of the Health Service as a beacon for the world is, bluntly, a national self-delusion."

World reaction

"Britain presented itself to the world Friday night as something it has often struggled to express even to itself: a nation secure in its own post-empire identity, whatever that actually is... It was neither a nostalgic sweep through the past nor a bold vision of a brave new future. Rather, it was a sometimes slightly insane portrait of a country that has changed almost beyond measure since the last time it hosted the Games, in the grim postwar summer of 1948."

Anthony Faiola, The Washington Post:

"If the opening ceremonies of the London Games sometimes seemed like the world's biggest inside joke, the message from Britain resonated loud and clear: We may not always be your cup of tea, but you know - and so often love - our culture nonetheless. The themes showcased Britain, past, present and future, capturing the mind-set of a nation seeking to redefine itself through these Games after nearly a century of managed decline. A great empire, gone. Military might, ebbing. Sense of humour, very much intact... For an audience across the Atlantic, it seemed like the rock-and-roll Olympics, an event celebrating the shared culture of the English-speaking world — so much of it thanks to these relatively tiny isles."

The display "reminded a billion viewers of the best contributions that Britain has given to the world for over a century: its sense of humour, its music, and of course sport".

"Boyle's vivid and vibrant pageant set the tone for these Games and perhaps even a new direction for the Olympic movement. Rio has a hard act to follow, which won't deter it at all... His show did not take itself too seriously, but was never trivial. It was irreverent, but never disrespectful. It was clever, but did not outsmart itself. It was at once subversive and sublime. This is a country of royals and aristocrats, but Boyle's show rejoiced in the commoner."

Farayi Mungazi, BBC African Service, speaking on BBC Radio 4:

"Well, the London Olympics are of particular interest to Africa, simply because of Britain's colonial past on the continent... There was plenty of reaction on Twitter, and most of it very very positive. For instance, Ghana Web - Ghana's biggest website - called it "bloody brilliant", and one of Nigeria's most respected sports journalists tweeted that there are some things money can't buy, like the swell of pride in the chest of every British citizen. And the last comment from a Kenyan journalist I know personally says Beijing was nice, too technical, but London was more human...

media captionFarayi Mungazi: Many people would have wondered at all the hospital beds

"I think there were a lot of things that many people would not have understood... I imagine there were a lot of people who would have wondered at all the hospital beds and thought 'What on earth is going on?'"

Zhuang Chen, BBC Chinese Service, on Radio 4:

"Reaction from China is quite positive in general because it was broadcast live... it has become a very hot topic on China's vibrant cyber sphere. The Chinese official Wang Ning, director of the Beijing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, said he would give 90 out of 100 marks to Britain, which is quite high. He liked the innovative ways to illustrate British culture, its influence and also its new image. But the downside to that - the TV cut-aways during the show might compromise the experience of the live audience inside the stadium... And also talked about by Chinese audiences was the human side of the opening ceremony, which was not that illustrated four years ago at Beijing."

Anastasia Uspenskaya, BBC Russian Service, on Radio 4:

"There is a lot of interest in Russia, of course... almost all of the Russian media says London was in a very unlucky situation because it had the Olympics straight after Beijing - so it was an extremely difficult task to try and beat the Beijing ceremony and actually they didn't succeed. But there is one thing Russian media likes more about London opening - it's that unlike the robotic Beijing show, last night's performance was what they call elegantly chaotic - which is quite an English thing."

London did a "spectacular job"... Boyle "succeeded in defining Britishness in a surreal, moving and for some, confounding affair because of the jumble of ideas and an effort to tell a thousand small stories, which may not have been understood fully by the international audience."

"London presented a vibrant picture of Great Britain's rich heritage and culture as a colourful opening ceremony marked the inauguration of the 30th Olympic Games at the spunky Olympic stadium on Friday night."

"Kaleidoscopic pageant sets London Games rolling: Britain's Queen Elizabeth declared the London Olympics open after playing a cameo role in a dazzling ceremony designed to highlight the grandeur and eccentricities of the nation that invented modern sport."

"Children's voices intertwining from the four corners of her United Kingdom ushered in an exuberant historical pageant of meadows, steel mills and megapixels."

Twitter reaction

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch: "London Olympic opening surprisingly great, even if a little too politically correct. Danny Boyle a creative genius."

Television presenters Ant and Dec: "You can't not be proud to be British tonight. A triumph. Hats off to @DannyBoyleFilm. D x #OlympicsOpeningCeremony #proudtobebritish"

Runner Paula Radcliffe: "Nobody does it like Britain - nobody! @bbcsport #london2012. Welcome the world."

Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg: "Impressive though #openingceremony in Beijing was, they didn't have any great pop music to play, did they?"

Historian Tom Holland: "Shakespeare. Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Nimrod. Lots of Victorians in top hats. The Industrial Revolution. If only sport was always like this."

Speaker's wife Sally Bercow: ":-))) this is so fabulous! Give Danny Boyle a knighthood now. We're all dancing round like mad things (except Mr B obvs #decorum"

Conservative MP Aidan Burley: "The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen - more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?"

And: "Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap. Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones!"

More on this story

  • London 2012 opening ceremony wows world media