27/07/2012 Newsnight


27/07/2012

Analysis of the stories behind the headlines with Emily Maitlis. As the Olympics kick off, what do people think of the opening ceremony? Do we like this advert for Britishness?


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Transcript


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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to London. To the games of the 30th

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Olympiad. Sheep and Shakespeare, Brunel and

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Mr Bean, with humour, cliche, spectacle and surprise, the heart

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in London has begun. (Bond music)

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The Queen's greeted with massive applause as she, apparently,

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parachutes into the stadium. And the Britain of self-

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depprication, and even the cock-up, is paraded to the world. What did

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it really tell us, and what did it say to the world. We have athletes

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and historians to try to make sense of it here. Good evening, good of

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you to join us, we are more than half way through the opening

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ceremony, we are offering here the first comment and conversation of

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all we have seen tonight .7 sheep was a brave way to kick off -- 77

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sheep was a brave way to kick off, on landscape that looked, momently

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by Hobbits, we have Shakespeare talked of by an engineer, sex

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pistols, Mary Poppins, and a sense of anarchy always present and a

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sense of humour, did it work, and what does it tell us about our

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Britain, and the Britain we want to project to the world. We will ask

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our panel what they make of it. Steve Smith first on what we think

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so far. The Oscar-winning director kicked

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off his Isles of Wonder spectacular with a film, a bird's eye view of

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the green and pleasant land of Jerusalem, that Danny Boyle is

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offering a worldwide audience, which could number a billion.

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Who better to ring in the ceremony, in the stadium, than Britain's

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newly-Laureled Tour de France champion, Bradley Wiggins.

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Oh no, it's Wallander, not Scandinavian gloom, but this was

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Kenneth Branagh in a different eulogise, dressed as the great

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engineer, Brunel, and in Bradley Wiggins side burns. In dreaming the

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clouds mere thought would open and show riches. The 19th century

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industrialist then read from Shakespeare's Tempest.

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I cried to dream again. In a, frankly, pagan moment, drummers

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summoned the shades of the country's manufacturing poor from

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their slumbers beneath the green hill. A potentially ticklish piece

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of theatric, no-one wants to die on a grassy knoll.

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But by now the Boyle production was warming to its theme. The white

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heat of the Industrial Revolution. Glowing hoops of steel slowly

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resolved themselves into a family geo.

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Mr Bond would like to see you. Not so long ago, and not so far

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from where I'm sitting, taking liberties with the Queen on film

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was a bad career move. Not so tonight for 007, Daniel Craig.

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evening Mr Bond. Eat that, Helen Mirren.

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Good evening, your majesty. Future historians may well decide

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that this was an extraordinary shaft of daylight, let in on the

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magic of royalty. Of course, this is not only Olympics year, but the

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Jubilee. And the 50th anniversary of James Bond at the cinema. In a

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pinch-me moment, the Queen appeared to parachute into Stratford. But

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surely she qualifies for the zil lane!

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Cut to the Queen wearing the same outfit, good continuity. There's

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If you had been watching the ceremony, and let's face, you were,

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and probably still r then you would have seen Boyle all-singing, all-

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dancing homage to the NHS a kind of bed pans and broomsticks.

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It seemed to owe less to the current state of the health service,

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and more to a sentimental view of this great institution. We think

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this is what Carry On Nurse looked like, to the characters in Boyle's

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And, as promised, or threatened, the coming slew of gold, silver and

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bronze, was inaugurated by old Golden Balls himself, the whole

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thing was like a box of chocolates, as someone once said, something for

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everyone, but one or two of the treats, ever so slightly tripped

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via enamel. Our guests are here to give their

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first reaction in just a moment. First O'Connell is a seasoned

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veteran of international spectacle, although more of the Eurovision

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variety. He joins us high above in the Olympic Park. Give us a flavour

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of what it felt like there, Paddy? You heard that 1948 of the

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"Austerity Games". I think this is about dexterity. I have been very

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moved. I know we're meant to be cynical, but as I walked here, I

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headed to the pub, because obviously there is a stadium, there

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is a second stadium it's called people outside without tickets. And

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I looked there, as it began. And I saw the countdown, and I saw the

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people watching, trying to work out what we think of ourselves, so when

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the Queen was then parachuted in, apparently, when Mr Bean played

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Chariots of Fire, when the 7/7 victims were themselves some how

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remembered, this crowd was very caught up at all times, trying to

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work out. The world's watching us, but perhaps, what do we think of

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ourselves. Extraordinary scenes outside the stadium as well as

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within. You mentioned the cynicism, or the scepticism, did you see

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people struggling with whether they were going to mock it, make fun of

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it or embrace it. Was that something you felt in the pub?

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that is what people said to me. There was a Frenchman behind me, he

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was having a joke with me, he later accused me of spilling my beer on

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him, but there was a sense of, well show us what you've got, is it just

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cynicism, or is it a thousand years, is it the inventor of the internet.

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Is it people, is it places, can you possibly punk your leader? You took

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the Queen and you apparently showed her in a helicopter. We know the

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Chinese couldn't do that, with all the Communist Party, but what we

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don't know, I suppose, is whether we did have a single message, and

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you have got lots of very bright people. But let me tell you, as I

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walked to your Newsnight studio, there are people in the road

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sharing their laptops with each other. They are gathering around,

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they want to see something, for goodness sake, at least it's not

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Liberty, that's what I heard! -- LIBOR, that's what I heard.

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Let's get on to the question of message, what did we take away, how

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did we do and what did it all mean? In the Newsnight living room, we

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were told the best place to see it was from the living room. We have

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the former Paralympic swimmer, and the singer song righter Mika, the

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columnist, Grace Dent, and critic Laurie Penny, who thinks the whole

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thing is a waste of money and Dan Jones. We will come to that in a

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second, let's quick off with the message, you said you were watching

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it and enjoying t you found it odd? I found it a little bewildering,

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historically was a mish-mash and jumble, everything mashed up

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together. We had the Industrial Revolution, Shakespeare, the

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Internet, everything thrown in. It struck me as a foreigner's eye view

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of British history. To watch it as a native of these Isles felt very

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confusing. Did you understand how the history was chosen. We started

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in the green and pleasant land, presumably so we could then play

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Jerusalem, and then there was this very selective look at history of

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100 years? It was a choreographed history, certainly, It felt like

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the greatest hits, Now That's What I Call History 57. I don't think

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there was a narrative, I don't think there was a point in looking

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for a serious narrative, it wasn't an exposition rather than that.

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What about you? I loved it, I saw a narrative, I'm sorry to be dragged

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away from it. I felt emotional from the moment I got here when the Red

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Arrows went over the studio. I felt emotional seeing the Suffragettes

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coming on and the time given to the NHS, the whole thing with the Queen

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and James Bond, I've really enjoyed this. To say there wasn't a

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narrative. It has been a slight mess at times, with people running

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on and off, that is what we do in Britain. Sometimes it is a bit of a

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chaos, but there is a message there. The message at the moment, for me,

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is just how kind the British people are. They have all went out and

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done that for free. So many people have given their time. What do you

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make of the spectacle, the choreography of what we saw. There

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was that sort of dependance on video and live, was the balance

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found? Actually, I personally loved it, I thought it was funny, full of

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heart, I thought it was full of all the right things that it needed to

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be. Especially after Beijing. I think that the videolinks were

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probably the star, but they were so good because they were made

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relevant, by all the theatre that happened inbetween. What's so good

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about it was that actually it was anarchy but it was functional

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anarchy. This mass, bizarrely, you had thousands of people on this set,

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but it felt more human than any other Olympics ceremony I have ever

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seen. There was everyone, there was no stars showing up for the fact of

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showing up, everyone that came had a part. James Bond, Mr Bean, the

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Queen, everyone had a reason for being there. It took its time. I

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think it was really charming. I think theatrically it was really

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impressive, it was disarming. I wasn't prepared to enjoy it and

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find it funny. I did. The Chinese did a spectacle that was clinical

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and beautiful, and choreographed to the most minute precision, and you

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know, they did all this beautiful stuff with orchestrated concrete

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blocks, and we did it with NHS beds and a lot more heart. It was

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completely a success. There were a lot of political messages coming

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through, we saw the NHS, the Suffragettes, the immigration, what

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was your take on that? I thought this was brilliant, actually, I

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have to say, I was deeply surprised by it. I thought it was, what

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surprised me was how dark it was, essentially. You did have at one

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stage Voldemort coming on and attacking the NHS, it is not that

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subtle. There was all the messaging at the start, the green and

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pleasant land, the singing of Jerusalem, then the Industrial

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Revolution, the dark and fiery, and the choosing of the Shakespeare

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quote, that was very interesting. The bit that was read out was a

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quote from Caliban, who is obviously the slave character in

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The Tempest, it was one of the most perfect bits you could have chosen

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to read out at the beginning of the Olympic ceremonies, "be not afraid

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this Isle is full of noises, so when I woke I cried to dream

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again.", I thought it was very deep, intellectual and dark. It was

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brilliant fun. I was disappointed when the athletes came on. I was

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like, oh no, it's sports. We are playing the middle bit, where it

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was a sort of Mary Poppins, children jumping on the hospital

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beds, and quite interesting, in a number of parts, I know, in London

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what I see on the social websites, people started chanting NHS, it

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became a political moment. Would you have seen this as a left-wing

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message coming through? I think it has been done very cleverly. I

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think the spectacle has been staged so that anybody can see what they

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want to see in it. I think a lot of people were very heartened by the

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inclusion of the NHS. This is something a lot of people are proud

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of in Britain. When we have been having a lot of messaging about

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British pride wha, Britain is about, suddenly we have -- and what

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Britain is about, suddenly we have something nearly everyone is proud

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of in Britain, the National Health Service, which is under attack at

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the moment. Under financial pressure. It is kind of like it is

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the biggest sociocultural thing to shout about. This health service is

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a perfect global platform to shout about it in the way they did. I

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liked that a lot. I will come to you Rachel, Laurie was saying she

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was disappointed when the sporting bit came on. Oh yeah, this is about

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sport, I forgot. There was even a sense when we saw the chariots of

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fire, and Mr Bean pushing through, that it is a country that doesn't

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want to take itself too seriously. Is that a message as a sportwoman

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you want to take away right now? think it is good that they are

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showing all different sides, but obvious low, as a sports person --

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obviously as a sports person we see the Olympics and the Paralympic as

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the pinnacle of a person's career. You have worked very hard to get

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there. To an athlete the opening ceremony isn't about comedy, and

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fun, it is about realising that you have become an Olympic athlete, I

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have become a Paralympic athlete, the moment where they walk out is

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where it really hits you, wow this is what I have trained all that

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time for. Would you liked to have seen a little bit more sparkle,

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maybe even finesse, rather than that sort of fallback, if you like,

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on to a very British trait of humour? I think it had the mix of

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both. You had all the music, and you had a lot of sparkle within

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that. That kind of brought out a lot of the atmosphere for the crowd

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to really get behind, and hopefully start now supporting the athletes

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and really get them going. Then the comedy was for the other people,

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sat at home, who maybe aren't into the sport. This opening ceremony

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allowed everybody to get involved, because it had all the different

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contrast. When it played for laughs, Grace, it was also playing to our

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exports. Mr Bean is probably the easiest character to export around

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the world, because you don't need language, right? There is no

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denying how important Mr Bean is around the world. He there is no

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denying that, we can't get away from that! I think it is just, but

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it is true, he is everywhere you go, people know him. To me, I saw Rowan

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Atkinson, I thought amazing, he is a bit of a national treasure sure.

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When he started to do the Mr Bean bit it lost it for me, I was never

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a fan. The crowd loved it. It lost it for you because? Personally

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because, a little bit corny. I have never been the person to sit down

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on a bank holiday and watch a Mr Bean special, there is a lot of

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people in the audience that watch Mr Bean. The point is, this is

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about showing the underdog as well, we are very good at helping losers,

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and I'm wondering whether you know that is necessarily the message we

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want to project now? I think there were lots of profoundly moving and

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very funny moments. I thought it was an opening ceremony that hung

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together. I didn't think there was a lot of sport in it, I was

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surprised by that. Quite often with the opening ceremony of a sporting

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event you would have a sporting motiff, but at the same time it is

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bigger than sport, it is the greatest party on earth. I just

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felt things were sort of jumbled, there were great bits you could

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"cherrypick", I loved the bit about the NHS, that was Danny Boyle

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sticking his neck out. That was important and historically the most

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impressive moment in T we had a quick run through of green and

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pleasant lands, the industrial heritage of East London. But that

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NHS bit would have really resonated with a lot of people. Sticking his

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neck out because he would have upset people with that? A lot of

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people. He is also pointing out what an important part of British

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history that has become. I don't think a lot of people would

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necessarily always look to 1948 and think about it as history. The last

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games were 1948, the establishment of the NHS. Was it, would you take

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away a left-wing reading of British history. It wasn't a celebration of

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Thatcherism, it wasn't, it was quite selective in the, if you like,

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its protest movements more than anything else? Absolutely, even the

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Queen, her part of it was to play the site kick of Bond. I think

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plaudits to Elizabeth II, what a sense of humour, and game approach

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to T to take part in that. I think that was really the wow moment in

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the way as well. It is sort of a left-wing approach, but I didn't

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think it was overbearingly so, so much that it would have turned

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people off. It was an inclusive ceremony. Inclusive was something,

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interestingly enough, was what Danny Boyle spoke about earlier. He

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said he wanted an intimacy about it, and not just spectacle, what about

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the music, Mika, there were a few areas where you thought you were

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going to get a tune, and you got, dare I say it, a medley. Did that

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jar for you, or did it work? actually think the music was quite

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good, given the circumstance, often with Olympic ceremonies the music

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can come across as extremely corny. The world were a lot of songs in

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that mash-up, it was constantly changing. I think dizzy rascal

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probably had the most sustained presence during that thing. It was

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subsequently a bit of a pay-off, he had a presence and made a point.

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Was it too much? It was a little bit jukeboxy before the Dizzie

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Rascal moment. The weakest part for me was the bit about the phone and

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the woman. I thought that was corny, in many ways. I just thought it

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wasn't very necessary. It was essentially a huge excuse for them

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to bringen to Tim Berners-Lee. focus shifts and then you have

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Emilie Sande singing with this extremely beautiful choreography in

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the most simple form, that was eat motional climax of the piece. The

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interesting about it is Danny Boyle approached this -- emotional climax

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of the piece. The interesting thing is Danny Boyle approached it from a

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cinematic man, he made statements that intertwined with each oh the

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most important thing about what he does in his films and what he

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achieved in the ceremony is it was disarming. We looked at the social

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network stuff there, and the phone and the tweets and all the rest of

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it. Do you understand, would you call that quintessentially British?

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Yeah, I would. I would, sure, OK, fine, there were scenes in it, you

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had Wayn, he's World cut into it. It is clash, it is patchwork, it is

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these are the London Games they represent the UK, he did this

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strange tripy, slightly stonery opening ceremony, by other people's

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standards and other countries would be considered way too uncommercial,

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but fundamentally that is British. You had a lesbian kiss in there

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from Brookside, little details of that, would that have happened

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anywhere else in the world, I don't think so, personally.

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Grace? I was going to say I thought the phone part was possibly the

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weakest bit. I loved the idea of celebrating youth and celebrating

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everything we have achieved in music, and celebrating the way we

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party, the way we have fun, I thought that was amazing. I don't

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understand, the mobile phones with everybody communicating with each

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other, that was let down slightly, because it looked like a mobile

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phone advert, but a very bad one. From 15 years ago. Does Twitter

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really look like that. Nowadays mobile phone companies spend so

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much on adverts, suddenly it was a bit. It came together suddenly we

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were all sitting watching and then Dizzie Rascal appeared, and it was

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amazing. Hold those thought, we are going to cross back to Paddy again,

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because Paddy the ceremony is in full swing, I know Grace will

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particularly want to know what she's been missing. Take us through

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a few of the highlights of what we might not have seen, and any news

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on the torch? Grace and Mik a -- Mikah will be horrified to know one

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of the African teams came on to strains of the Pet Shop Boys. It

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took everybody by surprise. There are reports from BBC London

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colleagues that there have been some arrests of cyclists making a

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peddling process, we don't know, many more details about that. One

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Conservative MP on Twitter saying it was a bunch of old lefties, and

0:24:040:24:08

not enough about Shakespeare. I think it does emphasise that you do

0:24:080:24:12

need to have an argument about what kind of Britain we are, and all the

0:24:120:24:16

chattering classes can get very excited. But the whole point of

0:24:160:24:20

this ceremony is to hand over after seven years from an old bus in

0:24:200:24:24

Beijing to the faster, higher, stronger athletes, who have given

0:24:240:24:28

their life for this moment. In the end, the rest of us just shut up

0:24:280:24:32

and watch people performing at the peak of their life's performance.

0:24:320:24:35

Paddy, thank you very much. Peak of your life's performance,

0:24:350:24:40

you know what that feels like, Rachel. You have been part of these.

0:24:400:24:43

It was very noticable how many young kids were in the whole

0:24:430:24:47

ceremony, the whole event, really, because that's the key part of the

0:24:480:24:53

legacy, isn't it? That is what we said, when we won the bid to host

0:24:530:24:59

the games, it was lot about legacy. To say that everyone who has taken

0:24:590:25:03

part in this event tonight are volunteering, to get young children

0:25:030:25:06

to volunteer, that is such a big thing. We have that throughout the

0:25:060:25:11

whole games, with the games makers as well. They are really doing what

0:25:110:25:15

they said and creating legacy. this is about the next Britain,

0:25:150:25:18

what is that Britain, what does this ceremony tell us about our

0:25:180:25:22

country, do you think? I think it told us we are trying to work out

0:25:220:25:28

what we are. It is a process at the moment. You only have to look

0:25:280:25:33

around and raet read a newspaper, there is great sense -- and read a

0:25:330:25:36

newspaper, there is a great sense of uncertainty about the British

0:25:360:25:40

character and what it is and will be. That was reflected in the

0:25:400:25:44

ceremony, there was a confusion and jumble and no path. You were

0:25:440:25:48

agreeing with that, you were brought up in Lebanon? I represent

0:25:480:25:52

that. I was brought up in Lebanon, France and most of my time in

0:25:520:25:56

London. I am this patchwork, I speak two language, but then again

0:25:560:26:00

so do millions of people here, and identify themselves as a Londoner.

0:26:000:26:04

I identify myself as not only a Londoner, but part of the UK. I

0:26:040:26:07

agree with you. I think it is definitely trying to figure out

0:26:070:26:12

what it is. That was represented. You said before that you were

0:26:120:26:17

surprised and impressed with it. You came to the Olympics with a lot

0:26:170:26:21

of angst and anger about the money being spent and what we were doing,

0:26:210:26:25

in austerity times, right? That is not necessarily the case. I think

0:26:250:26:32

definitely that was worth the money. That was a fantastic show. I think

0:26:320:26:35

it illuminate a great deal about what Britain is saying about itself

0:26:350:26:38

at the moment, which is, we are not sure. This is a time of angst and

0:26:390:26:42

uncertainty, and there are lot of different stories to be told, it is

0:26:420:26:45

about people. That is what I found really, really interesting about

0:26:450:26:48

this show, is, despite the huge numbers of people involved, you

0:26:480:26:53

know, the camera came in tight on individual people, individual

0:26:530:26:58

stories, some of them quite corny, but loot of people's individual

0:26:580:27:02

stories in real life tend to be corny. Would you say it is about a

0:27:020:27:08

proud Britain? I thought there was a great deal of humility about T I

0:27:080:27:12

was impressed is there wasn't a celebrity overload. Watching the

0:27:120:27:16

torch go around the country, I saw Jennifer Saunders running with it

0:27:160:27:20

the other day, I thought, fine, isn't it this about ordinary people

0:27:200:27:24

having a chance to carry the torch. In the ceremony today there were

0:27:240:27:29

very few celebrities. They said all the nurses were actually nurses?

0:27:290:27:35

thought there was a sense of had you millity to the whole --

0:27:350:27:39

humility thing. It was taking the piss out of itself, it had the

0:27:390:27:46

bravery and humility to take the pis out of itself -- piss out of

0:27:460:27:51

itself, even the Queen. foreigners and those watching go

0:27:510:27:55

away and say that is a Britain struggling with its self-confidence,

0:27:550:27:59

is that a bad thing? Will they, I don't think they will. We weren't

0:27:590:28:02

struggling there. Going forward, though, one thing I have noticed

0:28:020:28:07

over the last few weeks, months, it is a Britain dragging back the idea

0:28:070:28:11

of the flag, dragging back the idea of being proud of being British,

0:28:110:28:15

and for our own purposes, or nice and good people's purposes. We can

0:28:150:28:19

be proud to be British. And all of us, the whole multicultural society

0:28:190:28:24

here, doing it right now, here. is interesting what the flag has

0:28:240:28:27

now done, and the sense of Britishness has really become, I

0:28:270:28:30

don't know if you feel that? I was on the train down to London today,

0:28:300:28:35

and there was so many people coming in, flag leggings, and flags all

0:28:350:28:39

over them. And with the Jubilee as well this year, you just think,

0:28:390:28:44

people are going absolutely crazy for this new fashion of wearing the

0:28:440:28:49

flag and the GB. I'm sorry we have run out of time. You lot haven't,

0:28:490:28:54

come and join us in the Green Room, we will finish off the winddown,

0:28:540:28:58

that is all from Newsnight tonight. We leave you with a glimpse of how

0:28:580:29:03

far we have come since we last hosted a top-teir international

0:29:030:29:10

sporting tournament who can forget George, the wobbly dragon, a broken

0:29:100:29:16