Green Room

Olympic opening ceremonies and the death throes of a civilization

posted at 5:12 pm on July 28, 2012 by

I don’t think I was the only American weirded out on Friday by the bizarre “dancing nurses” segment at the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics.  There were lots of children wriggling in hospital beds, and seemingly hundreds of nurses prancing around dressed in the garments of yesteryear.  It wasn’t clear what the artist was trying to say – and then the letters “NHS” burst out in glittering lights on the field.

Oh.  This is about the National Health Service.



That realization was paired in my mind with the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to commemorate the 11 Israeli athletes killed by Yasser Arafat’s terrorists in Munich in 1972.  The IOC’s position is that it doesn’t want to “politicize” the games.


Creepy NHS-worship at the openine ceremony, XXX Olympiad; Photo credit: J.C. Hong, AP (h/t: Thoughts from a Conservative Mom)


That position doesn’t hold up so well considering that 9/11 was commemorated at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.  In 1996, at the Summer Games in Atlanta, the IOC had a moment of silence at the closing ceremony for the victims of the Olympic Park bombing.

In 2010, at the Winter Games in Vancouver, there was a moment of silence during the opening ceremony for Georgian athlete Nodar Kumartashvili, who had died in an accident on a practice run just before the games began.

So in recent years, the Olympic authorities have commemorated the death of an Olympic athlete and the deaths of others in terrorist attacks, with a moment of silence each time in an opening or closing ceremony.  And guess what?  Last night, in the Olympic stadium, the victims of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in the London subway in 2005 were commemorated as part of the opening ceremony.  Granted, it was hard to catch; a photo montage was projected into the stadium during a lull in the prancing and acrobatics, but there was little narration to call it out.  I didn’t even notice it, and had to be told about it afterward by others who had seen it.

It is jarring to think of passing references being made to the victims of terrorism, sort of as part of the entertainment, during an event-palooza dedicated to performance and revelry.  The reason we usually have authorities solemnly asking for a moment of silence, at a carefully separated, showcased point in the proceedings, is that that’s what is appropriate for commemorating tragedy and sorrow.

But it was clearly important to the British planners to mention their dead from the 2005 terror attack in the opening ceremony.  So they did it.  For forty years, including this Olympics, no one has incorporated a commemoration of the 11 murdered Israeli athletes into an official Olympic ceremony.  Yet Olympic authorities have been assiduous about commemorating others.  Their relentless, determined failure to commemorate the Israelis in the same way is a failure to acknowledge the common humanity of Israeli Jews.

The opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games couldn’t have been more stuffed with politics if it had been a bell pepper.  The Republic of Taiwan was required to march as “Chinese Taipei,” although of course that is not what the Taiwanese call their nation.  There is no nation of Palestine, yet athletes walked under a “Palestinian” flag and were announced as “Palestine.”  The “quirky” performance segment of the ceremony involved numerous references to political events in the history of Great Britain, including, of course, the paroxysm of pagan worship, complete with cavorting women, for the National Health Service.  It was a really, really political night; if a commemoration for the murdered Israeli athletes might have been “political,” that would only have guaranteed that it would fit right in.

Watching the ceremony last night, I had a profound sense of sadness for the hollow revelry.  There was no dignified memorializing of the greatness, uniqueness, and courage of Britain’s past.  There was “irreverent, idiosyncratic” entertainment, and a very long segment of writhing self-abasement before the shibboleth of socialized medicine.

We seemed to be looking last night at a moment frozen in time before a great upheaval, like the last days of lingering sunlight before World War I.  A civilization based on entertainment and ritual political worship is headed for a fall.  But then, a civilization that singles out some humans, like Israeli Jews, to show less care for – less solidarity with – is a weak and unsustainable one.  Nothing else will go right with it.

Britain is not alone in her shallow, artistic commemorations of a dying culture.  Western Europe’s official vision of itself largely boils down to that.  I believe there are still many individuals in Europe – as distinct from the ruling precincts of political correctness and utopianism – who have the courage to forge a different future.  But as a useful vehicle for what needs to be done, the continent’s official organizations, its governments and agencies, are beyond their expiration date.  Too many of them do not serve the people now, but only indenture and discourage them.

Such a situation cannot endure.  No amount of artistic entertainment can make fear, loss of purpose, and politically correct weakness noble or inspiring, much less invincible.  The post-liberal culture and political idea of Europe are not in a position to triumph today.  They are not even in a position to survive.

Some bonus material evoking what England once was.  A poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

England and America in 1782*


O thou that sendest out the man

To rule by land and sea,

Strong mother of a lion-line,

Be proud of those strong sons of thine

Who wrenched their rights from thee!


What wonder if in noble heat

Those men thine arms withstood,

Retaught the lessons thou hadst taught,

And in thy spirit with thee fought –

Who sprang from English blood!


But thou rejoice with liberal joy,

Lift up thy rocky face,

And shatter, when the storms are black,

In many a streaming torrent back,

The seas that shock thy base!


Whatever harmonies of law

The growing world assume,

Thy work is thine – the single note

From that deep chord which Hampden smote

Will vibrate to the doom.

* G. Robert Stange, ed., The Poetical Works of Tennyson: Cambridge Edition (Boston. Houghton-Mifflin, 1974), p. 62 and note, p. 627)

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Weekly Standard online, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative.

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J.E., we did not watch last night. I have asked two different times for those who did, DID our US athletics lower Our Flag when they went before the Queen? I look all over the place and can not find an answer. Are you able to answer this? Maybe this isn’t a big deal to some, but to our home it is a huge deal if they did!

So many died for Our Flag, and I don’t want it lowered to anyone!

letget on July 28, 2012 at 5:22 PM

According to this blogger, our flag-bearer, Mariel Zagunis, did not dip the US flag.

I ended up watching, altough I hadn’t intended to, during a long phone conversation with a family member who will be having cancer surgery this coming week. From what I saw, there was no coverage of the country delegations walking past the Queen’s viewing stand. So I can’t confirm anything about this. The blogger at the link says none of the nations dipped their flags. As long as we didn’t, I think that’s what matters.

J.E. Dyer on July 28, 2012 at 5:34 PM

J.E. thank you so much for answering my question. IMO, bho has done enough bowing all over the world, we don’t need Our Flag lowered also.

I do pray your family member will be OK. It is horrible dealing with cancer for all involved.

letget on July 28, 2012 at 5:48 PM

The sad thing J.E. is that there was a moment of remembrance built into the show, complete with reference to poppies, of those lost in the “Great War” so they could have worked it in then somehow. I have heard it expressed that the British lost so many of their finest men in WWI that they literally never recovered and this is one reason they have fallen so far from their days as a world leader.

txmomof6 on July 28, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Britain is not alone in her shallow, artistic commemorations of a dying culture.

Europe is a body in a casket. Let us not allow the cancer that rotted her inside out from doing the same to America.

squint on July 28, 2012 at 6:14 PM

excellent piece JE

and to top it off, the british athletes were wearing some crappy outfits…what was up with the gold and white????

cmsinaz on July 28, 2012 at 6:45 PM

I’ve made friends with several Brits who would be proud to speak about their nation if they weren’t beaten about the face and neck every time they show so much as a glimmer of patrotism. The have a quiet detest for where Britian is now and wish there was another Thatcher. I bet last night’s spectacle must have made them climb the walls.

itsspideyman on July 28, 2012 at 6:49 PM

On this topic we are in complete agreement, J.E. 🙂

Buy Danish on July 28, 2012 at 6:53 PM

The “Chinese Taipei” label’s not new. I think the ROC would agree that Taipei is Chinese.

Those Philistines are more annoying.

Olo_Burrows on July 28, 2012 at 7:11 PM

The Republic of Taiwan was required to march as “Chinese Taipei,”

The name of the island country is The Republic of China. And yes, I cringe every time I hear them called Chinese-Taipei. This is a political act to appease the ChiComs in Beijing.

simkeith on July 28, 2012 at 7:40 PM

Hubby and I watched, expecting to be flabbergasted in some way — these spectacles are, after all, spectacles. But this wasn’t even that good a spectacle. It was as if the organizer was unaware of British history and culture except through film. Good grief, Shakespeare alone could have provided a net of grandeur to undperin a performance. But we had the scantest of nods toward The Tempest. And the references to children’s lit were almost ghoulish, not filled with any touches of whimsy.

It was, at times, even boring! Boring — how can something so big be boring?

ANyway, I agree with you, J.E., but this event failed on an artistic as well as political level.

Libby Sternberg on July 28, 2012 at 7:42 PM

It’s interesting reading Roger L. Simon’s take over at PJ Media. The NIH tribute pretty much just buzzed past him, as far as the intent of that segment, which he really wasn’t made aware of until the comments came pouring in, and admitted his past Hollywood history might have made him less aware of the ideological portion of the ceremony.

To me, the fact that the NIH segment was so oddball to all but the people putting on the show and perhaps the truest of true believers in socialized medicine means that the segment either will have no effect at all or might even have a negative one, reminding Brits about the wastefulness of their own system and Americans of the group-think and idiocy of letting government completely control the nation’s medical system.

jon1979 on July 28, 2012 at 8:28 PM

Very well written article.

I watched a few minutes of the hollow celebration and was honestly creeped out by it. It reminded me of a totalitarian society where traditions are kept as a means to hold society together, but there was no emotional connection… no meaning behind the spectacle.

I think this type of claptrap needs to be removed from the Olympics. Some small history and pomp, then acknowledge the athletes. These spectacles are nothing but pagan worship of self… aren’t we fantastic. Honestly, it was sickening.

dominigan on July 28, 2012 at 10:04 PM

The opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games couldn’t have been more stuffed with politics if it had been a bell pepper.

Now doggone it, enough is enough.

I like me some stuffed peppers. Please refrain from disparaging them in the future in such a callous manner. :>)

hillbillyjim on July 28, 2012 at 10:18 PM

Triumph of Lack of Will.

mittens on July 28, 2012 at 10:36 PM

Before anybody else makes a comment ‘like it was difficult to follow’ will you watch the whole thing the whole that might help

The BBC has no commercial ads,so flows.No wonder people would be confused if you kept having it disjointed an edited

The Amercian coverage also missed out the tribute and minutes silence for those who couldn’t be there ,including soldiers that have killed in warfare.
Those who have been victims of terrorism around the world.

When London won to host the Olympics everybody was really made up and it was a ‘feel good’day.
The following day was 7/7, so the Olympics and 7/7 are connected to us.
We went from a high to a low.
The hymn ‘abide with me’ was sung during the tribute ,it is an important hymn
to us.

So you missed out the important and moving bit because American’s would rather watch Ryan Seacrest talking to Michael Phelps.

So cheers for that

mags on July 28, 2012 at 10:39 PM

So you missed out the important and moving bit because American’s would rather watch Ryan Seacrest talking to Michael Phelps.

So cheers for that

mags on July 28, 2012 at 10:39 PM

And apparently cheers for the killers of the Israeli Olympians in 1972 as well. Their murderers’ efforts were rewarded with a place at the Games.

ebrown2 on July 28, 2012 at 11:11 PM

Triumph of Lack of Will.

mittens on July 28, 2012 at 10:36 PM

The English upper-classes only hated Hitler in the 30’s because he made their own antisemitism seem declasse by comparison.

ebrown2 on July 28, 2012 at 11:35 PM

Hmmm….seems like the Olympics are supposed to be about all the countries not just the host. Most Olympic ceremonies do honor their history and diversity, I saw almost none of that. To me it looked like Benny Hill meets Monty Python. There was nothing awe inspiring and to have just one small segment honoring people is just sad. Is that what the British really think of the Olympics, as a joke?

Deanna on July 28, 2012 at 11:37 PM

The English upper-classes only hated Hitler in the 30′s because he made their own antisemitism seem declasse by comparison.


and their ruling family are freakin’ germans anyway…didn’t that ponce who left the throne for the commoner swan his way around nazi germany , forever swooning over nazis and nazism?

mittens on July 28, 2012 at 11:51 PM

Thank you for another excellent article, JED.

I found the opening both grotesque and sad. Just as Greece is a picture of where our financial profligacy is taking us, the UK is showing us the future of cultural rot – a hodge-podge of multi-culti claptrap, lost identity, and voluntary victimization, wrapped up in a wholesale failure of the human spirit.

bofh on July 29, 2012 at 12:59 AM

The 7/7 tribute was ridiculous with some dumb interpretive dance with pieces of tape on the floor to symbolize blown up train cars and a little arab kid running around and being lifted by the dancers. Truly truly stupid.

Blake on July 29, 2012 at 1:08 AM

The opening ceremony was totally underwhelming, very disappointing. It wasn’t so much that it lacked the “wow” entertainment factor compared to Beijing but, it turned out to be a Leftist propaganda. I thought, ‘How can a once glorious super power end up like this? They’re actually proud of this?” The health care bit was creepy. It made me feel anxious about voting Obama out. To not honor the dead Israeli athletes is unacceptable. What a bunch of Dhimi’s.

Cpoy2 on July 29, 2012 at 7:19 AM

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

Those opening ceremonies were the epitome of shared misery.

ElectricPhase on July 29, 2012 at 8:42 AM

The U.K. Is full of Muslims, Londonistan is rife with crime and “no-go” areas for the police due to Muslim occupation, and you want them to commemorate israelis killed by muslims?

Lol. That is just plain funny.

The people of Britain know they have lost their country, they’re just trying to have “it” actually happen while they’re still alive. They think only of themselves, without a second thought of what the future holds for their progeny. As “Liberals” are wont to do.

KMC1 on July 29, 2012 at 9:42 AM

Didn’t watch, but from the summaries I’ve read and pictures I’ve seen, I guess I didn’t miss much.

I hope everyone continues hammering them for the hypocritically leaving out a tribute to the murdered athletes for the officially-stated purpose of not “politicizing” what turned out to be political propaganda.

Mr. Prodigy on July 29, 2012 at 9:43 AM

try, they’re just trying to have “it” actually happen while they’re still alive.

Should be; try, they’re just trying NOT to have “it” actually happen while they’re still alive.

KMC1 on July 29, 2012 at 9:44 AM

No wonder Matt Lauer and the rest of the NBC cronies loved it.

Southgirl on July 29, 2012 at 10:09 AM

Quickly glossed over:

In 1929, playwright and novelist Sir James Barrie gifted the Peter Pan copyright to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH) in London. Since then, the boy who would not grow up has become a cultural phenomenon and one of the world’s greatest philanthropists.

A private British citizen by being smarter and working harder built that. Wait.

Fallon on July 29, 2012 at 10:35 AM

I know an Orthopaedic surgeon that moved to America. He pays his physical therapist more than he made in England.
He learned a lot of new modern techniques in a short time here.

The nurses dressed in long sleeves and hats date the medicine where they are 50 years behind the times.

seven on July 29, 2012 at 11:24 AM

The nurses dressed in long sleeves and hats date the medicine where they are 50 years behind the times.

seven on July 29, 2012 at 11:24 AM

That’s because they were representing the formation of the NHS in 1948,for goodness sake it’s ridiculous to believe we dress like that now.
Just in case you are confused,nannys do not dress like Mary Poppins either.

mags on July 29, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Worst opening ceremony I’ve ever seen, and the most politicized. The queen was bored out of her mind, as was I.

silvernana on July 29, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Four hours of highly choreographed insanity.

My favorite part was the umbrella wielding death panel angels descending from the sky . . .

BigAlSouth on July 29, 2012 at 2:36 PM

I’m surprised that they didn’t do a musical tribute to the Liverpool Care Pathway. lol!

Blake on July 29, 2012 at 2:40 PM

I got a few glimpses of the Olympics on the television at our local bowling alley. Saturday is the day I take my handicapped brother bowling, and if it hadn’t been for that I wouldn’t have seen any of the Olympics at all. I remarked to my husband after a time that the whole thing was boring.

I find political correctness predictable and empty, and the Games hit all the politically correct buttons. Today I don’t remember much about what I saw except that it seemed to be a lot of noise and glitter about nothing much in particular.

hachiban on July 29, 2012 at 2:55 PM

Hourly doth my contempt for socialists grow…

avgjo on July 29, 2012 at 3:36 PM

Like I stated on another thread, I stopped watching after I saw the NHS BS. Looks like I didn’t miss anything.
I hope that Boyle character is happy he produced an opening ceremony the equivalent of crapola.

Sterling Holobyte on July 29, 2012 at 5:46 PM

These spectacles are nothing but pagan worship of self… aren’t we fantastic. Honestly, it was sickening.

dominigan on July 28, 2012 at 10:04 PM

Kind of like entertainment awards ceremonies, where actors/producers/directors pat themselves on the back, and mostly for producing drivel.
Really, how many awards shows are there now?! I’ve lost count.

Sterling Holobyte on July 29, 2012 at 5:52 PM

So spot on, J.E.

It’s hard to imagine how, conceptually, the plan to showcase England’s greatness devolved into a celebration of the current run of BBC dreck, but there you have it.

TexasDan on July 29, 2012 at 11:31 PM

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