Upon hearing that Danny Boyle, the Artistic Director of the Olympic opening ceremony, has called the show Isles of Wonder, some aficionados would be forgiven for thinking he was hashing together a sequel to his 2000 movie The Beach, with a global audience seeing a comparatively pedestrian Leonardo DiCaprio scrap for a Gold medal - apt perhaps, considering the academy have passed over on him for another year.
As it is, Friday's announcement lights the touch-paper for one of the more intriguing events in the Olympic calendar. Opening ceremonies define an Olympics as much as the sport. If you mention Barcelona '92 to people, the moment that often soars over Gunnell, Christie and co is Antonio Rebollo shooting an arrow of fire into the Olympic Cauldron. From Suitor and the rocket pack in '84 to Ali in '96, how a host nation starts its Olympics is key to setting the tone for the whole event.
The anti-Olympics brigade will continue to chide such revelry as an excuse for failed dance students to have five minutes in the sun. And the government's injection of £41m to boost the production budgets have not quelled the detractors' ire. No one - save those closest to the situation - knows why the additional funding was needed. One can only deduce that either the initial plans did not stir the senses and so needed a leg-up; or that they are so good the extra capital will see it over the line with Boltesque aplomb.
The Beijing Olympics in 2008 would have caused any succeeding host exigency, such was the largesse of their strategy. Aside from futuristic temples of sport, the ceremonies were cavernous in their use of resources and execution. It was thirties Hollywood on steroids, smeared with Tiger Balm. The line nearly all observers took away - aside from getting Boris a jacket that does up - is that London shouldn't try to match the Chinese in 2012. Britain has its own history after all, and a way of doing things that can be an equal to any host city.
Six months from now arts, current affairs and colour commentators will reflect on what Boyle and his team served up the masses in east London. The Lancastrian is an Oscar winner: he knows how to tell a story and reach out to an audience. He wasn't the obvious choice, but is a strong one all the same. Surrounding himself with collaborators such as Underworld is a move to suggest that the ceremonies will be sufficiently ballsy, even if details around the NHS, Shakespeare and bells suggest a troupe of Morris men appearing mid-show could yet be his ace in the hole.
No one, least of all Boyle, should underestimate the importance of the opening ceremony. It will trigger the connection of a global audience with the London games. The dancing, and the visuals and sounds are what people will take to bed with them that first night. As such, the ominous 'L' word - legacy - faces an immediate test, if only to ensure the ticket-holders pour in the next morning inspired and TV sets are attune with the beat of the five rings.
Will the Slumdog become Top Dog? Tune in 27 July...
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