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There are a number of British references in the Olympic opening ceremony that may not be immediately obvious to non-Britons. Perhaps some here might be interested in teasing out the wider connections….

The choir that vocally sang and BSL signed the British National Anthem was the Kaos Choir – who are deaf and hard of hearing. They are from North London. Their motto is ‘If we all sang the same we would get tired of listening to each other’.

There was a period of silence in the first part of the ceremony remembering the dead of all wars on whatever side. One of the visual images was of poppies. This is a powerful symbol for Britons as it recalls the First World War battlefields where poppies would be the first flowers to emerge in the churned up mud of the front lines in Flanders. See the Canadian poem ‘In Flanders Field The Poppies Grow’. Every year in Britain (and Canada)  in the weeks leading up to November 11th people wear paper poppies in the lapels. There is an annual Festival Of Remembrance at the climax of which a shower of poppy leaves is released to drift down onto the participants. One poppy leaf for every British war casualty.  

When the British team entered the Olympic arena they were showered with white paper slips. One slip for everyone believed to be alive today, so one of those slips was for you.

The singing of ‘Jerusalem’ at the start of the ceremony represented England. The songs for Northern Ireland were ‘Londonderry Air’ (with the words Danny Boy); for Scotland ‘Flower of Scotland’ and for Wales ‘ Cwm Rhondda – but in English  not Welsh so in the version known as ‘Bread of Heaven’.

The song right at the end just before the entry of the teams was ‘Abide with Me’.Traditionally sung at major cup finals. Also one of the most serious hymns in the British tradition.   It was quiet tribute for  those killed in the terrorist attack that came the day after London was awarded the games. It was a favourite of Ghandi and is played by the Indian Army, amongst other non-Christian users of this tune.

The music played at the start of the timeline of popular culture (as the woman and child got out of the red mini) was the theme music for ‘The Archers’. A very long running radio soap opera about rural life. A massive stable cultural fixture amidst the ferment of other cultural developments.

The bit of business at the end of Mr Beans participation in the orchestra I am pretty sure is a reference to one of the best loved British comedy routines, in which comedian Eric Morecambe murders some piano music and when accused by the conductor of playing the wrong notes says ‘I played the right notes but not necessarily in the right order’.

Some of the pictures flashed up on the screens were references to the TV series ‘Grange Hill’ (Set in a high school), ‘the film' Gregory’s  Girl’,  and the film ‘Kes’ all of which have themes of young people having awkward relations with the adult world as they explore growing up..

The torch relay was shown going from Lands End (in Cornwall) to John O’Groats’ In north Scotland, the longest possible one-way land journey you can make in the island of Great Britain.

The song sang as the young couple kissed was ‘Forever Blowing Bubbles’ which is traditionally associated with the part of east London near the Olympic site.

There are actually several dozen more such ‘Brit’ references in the opening ceremony. Some of which I have undoubtedly missed myself

Anyone else got explanations or questions?

Originally posted to saugatojas on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 01:46 AM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA and Community Spotlight.

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