Jack Cohen

The opening ceremony

I enjoyed the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, although at times it was a bit hard to follow what was going on. As far as amazing effects and synchronization are concerned it did not compare to Beijing four years ago, but then China is a totalitarian state. The contrast with Britain was absolute, with organizer Danny Boyle (who directed the award winning movie”Slumdog millionare”) opting for color, action and outright chaos at times.

The beginning, with green fields and the appropriate song “Jerusalem” with the lyrics “England’s green and pleasant land” was a good start, then turning into an industrial landscape with huge smoke stacks rising high out of the ground (how did they do that?), representing the industrial revolution that started in England. But then it became somewhat unclear what was going on. There was a tribute to the dead of the wars as well as dead athletes, and it was here that they could have included a reference to the 12 Israeli athletes killed in Munich 40 years ago, but they chose not to do so. Then there was a big tribute to the National Health Service (to the Americans this is “socialized medicine” and they must have been bemused by the emotional attachment of Brits to the NHS) and also specifically to the Great Ormand Street Hospital (GOSH) for children. I assume that Danny Boyle had a personal reason for picking this, because it would not be on most Brits select list. The huge beds with children dressed in pyjamas and nurses and doctors (real ones) pushing them around with bright self-lighting mattresses and sheets was clever. But, that section seemed to end in the presence of a huge scary baby doll that reminded me of “Toy Story III” more than anything else. The bit about Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson, was an amusing distraction, with him inserted into the film of the athletes running in the sea from “Chariots of fire.”

The storyline jumped through aspects of the 60s, with thousands of coloful dancers, as well as bits dedicated to “Harry Potter” and James Bond, with Daniel Craig and the Queen helicoptering and then parachuting down into the Stadium (of course, it really wasn’t the Queen parachuting in). I thought this bit about the Queen was really stupid, and when she got there she seemed totally bored. I could not for the life of me understand why they played the slow dirge “Abide with me.” Various music groups were commemorated, including the Beatles, with Sir Paul McCartney ending the ceremony with “Hey Jude,” although why they chose that song, who knows?

In the middle of the cermony, the 204 delegations marched in in alphabetical order each behing their flag. It was nice seeing the Israeli flag and delegation. Note that “Palestine” was also represented there, but then the delegations don’t have to be recognized sovereign countries, for example, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa each had their own delegations, as well as several other “territories.” That’s why there were 204 Olympic delegations while there are only 192 members of the UN which are recognized sovereign countries.

Finally there was the unfurling of the Olympic flag and the lighting of the Olympic flame. Having it brought by boat along the Thames by David Beckham and then having the Olympic flame lit by a group of seven young athletes was a good idea. And the way they lit the 204 individual flames and then they were raised up to make a unified huge torch was very clever. But, nothing can ever beat the lighting of the torch by an archer who shot the flame across the stadium at the Games in Sydney in 2000. Nevertheless it was a great show that ended suitably with lots of fireworks.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.