Greg Dixon 's Opinion

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

TV review: Pride and prejudices

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Britain's National Health Service was mysteriously represented in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games as a 'highlight' of the country's history. Photo / AP
Britain's National Health Service was mysteriously represented in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games as a 'highlight' of the country's history. Photo / AP

The closing bars of Hey Jude had barely been warbled by a life-like Paul McCartney at the opening ceremony of London 2012 last weekend before the calls began to knight the guy responsible for it all, film director Danny Boyle.

"Bonkers, bold, brilliant" prattled the Telegraph. "Madcap, surreal, moving," declared the Guardian. "Pageantry, parody and Pistols ... it was perfect," alliterated the simple-minded Sun.

One British Labour MP even claimed the opening ceremony was a Trojan horse. "Wonderfully progressive socialist sentiments and ideas were smuggled into the opening romp," wrote Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West and bore for Africa. Meanwhile, a non-progressive and unsentimental Tory, one Aidan Burley, called it "leftie multicultural crap".

Of all those words I think the only one that I'd agree with is "crap". However, I'd put a "mostly" in front of it.

God, but what a lot of tosh people talk about the most over-rated, over-priced set-piece affair in modern history. And I couldn't help thinking that the money London 2012 spent on this couple of hours of rubbish entertainment - it was $52 million if you didn't know - might have been better spent on Britain's staggering National Health Service, which for reasons known only to Boyle and one socialist MP, was included in the opening ceremony's highly selective highlights of Britain's history.

I also wonder how much of that huge pile of filthy lucre Kenneth Branagh got for declaiming a minute or two of The Tempest before wandering about smiling like a Cheshire cat (not in the ceremony, sadly) while holding a cigar and impersonating a smug capitalist bastard? The mind boggles.

Anyway there were, of course, moments of visual excitement in Boyle's overplayed, overwrought and over-long (Christ, I'm turning into The Sun) opening ceremony - I'm thinking mostly of the dark, satanic smoke stacks that rose from nowhere - and the one good set-piece joke - James Bond and the Queen - but really what the hell was Boyle and his cast of thousands on about?

You certainly weren't going to find out from Prime and Sky commentator Stephen McIvor, who seemed to think his job was to chime in with verbal banalities to match the visual ones. "Three hundred and twenty beds!" he babbled during the NHS bit, "that's a lot of laundry, ahahahaha".

The vague framework seemed to be Britain's journey - God, how I hate that word - from Industrial Revolution to Digital Revolution. What have either got to do with sport?

For some reason there was a minute's silence for all those who had died in the two world wars, which was nice, but not a second of silence for all the poor millions who suffered and died under Britain's colonial yoke. But of course Olympic opening ceremonies do history in the same way the movies do history, which is to say as a vehicle for the director's "vision" (read: prejudices).

It was a waste of money, pure and simple. Is it too much to hope that the IOC might say enough is enough and put an end to these overpriced pieces of nationalistic tub-thumping posing as "art"? Yes it is.

If I'm sounding a little grumpy about the whole thing, it was because I'd watched the Absolutely Fabulous Olympic special on TV One the night before. I had no idea what it was about either, though it was even more manic than usual and about as funny as usual, which is to say not at all. At one point Edina bellowed, "Why are you here and why are you so old?" You might say the same of Ab Fab.

It was some small relief to finally watch some sport on Sunday, but then I realised during New Zealand's 1-0 triumph over Australia in the women's hockey that even when we're winning, hockey must be one of the world's least aesthetically pleasing sports, even if the women have nice legs. You can't even say that about the rowing or the shotput though.

But of course we'll keep watching if there's a New Zealander in it.

That's the Olympics for you: two weeks of watching sports that, at any other time, you'd rather poke your eyes out than sit through.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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Greg Dixon

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

It has been said the only qualities essential for real success in journalism are a rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability. Despite having none of these things, Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon has spent more than 20 years working as a journalist for the New Zealand Herald and North & South and Metro magazines. Although it has been rumoured that he embarked on his journalism career as the result of a lost bet, the truth is that although he was obsessed by the boy reporter Tintin as a child, he originally intended to be an accountant. Instead, after a long but at times spectacularly bad stint at university involving two different institutions, a year as a studio radio programme director and a still uncompleted degree, he fell into journalism, a decision his mother has only recently come to terms with. A graduate of the Auckland Institute of Technology (now AUT) journalism school, he was hired by the Herald on graduation in 1992 and spent the next eight years demonstrating little talent for daily news, some for television reviewing and a passable aptitude for long-form feature writing. Before returning to the Herald in 2008 to take up his present role, he spent three years as a freelance, three as a senior feature writer at Metro and one as a staff writer at North & South. As deputy editor of Canvas, his main responsibility is applauding the decisions of the editor, Michele Crawshaw. However he prefers to spend his time interviewing interesting people -- a career highlight was a confusing 15-minute phone interview with a stoned Anna Nicole Smith -- and pretending to understand what they're going on about. He has won awards for his writing and editing, but would have preferred a pay rise.

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