The glories of last year, and the greater things yet to come

I just rewatched the first half hour of last year’s opening ceremony, given that it was repeated last night on bbc3. I still seem to be obsessed with it, sad git that I am; it just seems so special to me, as we all know that such a moment will probably never come again, in our lifetime at least. As the commentator noted at one point, these ceremonies will live on in our collective folk memory for a generation.

They are special because they are unique. It seems to me that what happened last year can never be repeated or replicated, for the moment you do so, something is lost. Take, for example, my favourite bit – the meeting of bond and the queen. I have written before that it would be cool to see more such juxtapositions. However, if you think about it, that film is only special because it is unique: only the 007 character occupies that cultural position, the same combination. The bond franchise is unique in world cinema – fifty years old, it crosses generations, yet evokes a specific nation. Only the bond character could be used in such a way because the bond franchise is like no other. This sequence is testimony to it’s uniqueness, confirming it cultural position. The second any other character is used in such a way, the dynamic changes – Bond becomes just another action hero, rendering the sequence with the queen ‘normal’, banal. I don’t want that to happen – I want this sequence to remain unique, fascinating and important. I suppose that was the danger in making it in the first place, as if others take up the meme, it becomes a joke and the original is stripped of it’s boldness. Mind you, if as I say the 007 franchise is indeed unique in world culture, that probably won’t happen – it takes a very special set of circumstances (an event like the olympics, a well-loved long-reigned monarch and an extremely well established film franchise known to all yet part of the cultural identity of a nation) to allow one to perform such a stunt. Should that happen, however, something special about last year’s opening ceremony, british culture, the queen and James Bond would be lost. The paradox, however, is that this sequence almost begs to be copied, in a way saying ”if we Brits can use our cultural iconography in this way, what can others do?”, while in a way knowing that, should that happen it would render that very iconography a joke. I see it as a brave admission to the fact that the monarchy is just as much a cultural construct as anything else; if that is so, this scene looses its boldness and is rendered onto the same level as any other piece of media. And yet the meeting of bond and the queen will live on as a unique, special moment in our cultural memory for decades. It is anything but normal. Thus at the same time as it rereads the monarchy it also maintains it’s status as something unique and special. Ultimately though, the meeting of Bond and the queen will always remain unique and iconic, as surely no other country has a similar combination of monarch and cultural megalith.

I still feel a warm glow, then, when I think about what happened a year ago today. In a way these ceremonies also strike me personally. Not only did they have my favourite filmic character securing his position in british and world culture, but my favourite wizard, physicist and song. I love how they celebrate things like british children’s literature, and the NHS in a bold, somewhat left-field statement to the world. Best of all, my wonderful fiancee starred at the very climax of the final ceremony! I still think that is something very special indeed, and want it to remain special. Yet when I enthuse about it to Lyn, when I mention how wonderful it was to see her and the Paraorchestra perform that night, she tells me off, pointing out that, while what happened last year was unique, for me to constantly go to about it is to forget that even greater things are yet to come. Lyn is right: last year was last year; as great and as unique as it was, what matters is the future. To dwell upon past glories is to stop moving forward. When Lyn pointed that out to me, I felt both ashamed and excited: ashamed that I had thought things had somehow peaked, and excited to realise that we are still climbing.

And indeed we are! We will never see a summer like last year again; we will never feel the same excitement we felt at the ringing of that bell. I don’t want to – I want 2012 to remain unique, lest it becomes ‘normal’. But in no way does that mean the greatest things are over: even greater things will come, necessarily different, building on but not repeating the glories of a year ago.

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