This past weekend I was lucky enough to witness the opening ceremonies as a small, foreign speck in a massive crowd of UK folks. I attended the BT London Live concert, which was the “official Opening Ceremonies concert” in London. In the middle of the concert, they paused to show the Opening Ceremonies live. The amount of excitement that enveloped the crowd during the Opening Ceremony was remarkable. As a tourist standing amongst them, I felt a little bit out of place; it was almost as if I was impeding on a moment of nationalism for the Londoners witnessing the event together. Although I loved that the Opening Ceremonies played so much into Great Britain’s personal history, I also thought it was interesting that London decided to go with a show that was so specific to the nation itself. When hosting an international event, I would have expected them to be a little more international in scope. The route they chose wasn’t distasteful by any means, but I just would have never thought to take it in such a local direction. It was very cleverly crafted, because while I laughed along with the jokes and was equally in awe at the ceremony itself, the “locals” seemed even more enthralled. There were definitely some elements that I just didn’t get, but they did. This was most true when it came to the music. Most of the people at the concert could sing along with all the songs played during the Opening Ceremony, while I had never even heard of a lot of them.
The whole time I was watching the ceremonies, I was pretty surprised at how much media played a role in the overarching theme of the Opening Ceremony. The whole show was basically a showcase of some of the UK’s biggest icons and “claims to fame” of all time. They had fun with elements of their own culture, like the royal family for example, as well as with UK pop culture icons such as David Beckham. Witnessing the reactions from the crowd was unbeatable. There was this one guy standing right behind me who had the best reactions! The most hilarious moment was when the Queen showed up in the ceremony. All he could say was “No way, no way! Ah that’s so cool!” over and over again.
This is what made me think of the media’s role in cultivating that deep sense of nationalism that was clear in the reactions of all the locals surrounding me.