World press entranced by 'utterly British' Olympics opener

28th July 2012, Comments 0 comments

The world's press Saturday gushed over the "utterly British" opening ceremony for the London Olympics, even if some foreign viewers may have struggled to keep up with its quirky sense of humour.

From Asia to Europe and from Australia to the Americas, there was praise for the showcase devised by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, which featured Queen Elizabeth II in a starring role alongside super-spy James Bond.

While the Washington Post said it "sometimes seemed like the world's biggest inside joke", the New York Times said the ceremony held together despite being "slightly insane".

"Britain presented itself to the world Friday night as something it has often struggled to express even to itself: a nation secure in its own post-empire identity, whatever that actually is," the NYT said.

About one billion people around the planet watched and more than 80 world leaders and royals were in the stadium for the show, which kept Boyle's promise to showcase British history but with a dash of the nation's offbeat humour.

Papers around the world featured pictures of the blazing orange Olympic rings seemingly descending from the skies into the stadium.

In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald said Boyle's showpiece "did not take itself too seriously, but was never trivial. It was irreverent, but never disrespectful."

Sydney hosted the Olympics 12 years ago, and The Australian newspaper said Boyle had sought to match the city for creativity and "deploy the wit and the self-awareness that the Chinese lacked" at the 2008 Beijing Games.

The Press Trust of India news agency said London "presented a vibrant picture of Great Britain's rich heritage and culture". It noted that the song "Abide With Me", which featured in the show, was a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi.

French newspapers fell under the spell of a show permeated by a typically British sense of humour -- and showed no sign of sour grapes despite Paris losing out to London in 2005 in the bidding to host the Games.

"We love these Games!" sports daily L'Equipe said -- in English.

"The ceremony offered yesterday to the entire world by the British was unusually bold, poetic and funny," it added.

"History, magic and emotion," added the daily Le Parisien.

Germany's Bild, the biggest selling daily in Europe, said on its Internet site: "Wow, what a spectacle!"

Die Welt paid tribute to the queen after she filmed a segment with James Bond actor Daniel Craig, remarking that the "new Bond girl is 86."

In Italy, Corriere della Sera, the country's best-selling broadsheet, highlighted the ceremony's ability to poke fun at itself, in contrast to the Beijing Olympics.

"The country hosting the Olympics is not a young emerging power but an old glory, capable of irony," it said.

La Repubblica, a left-leaning daily, said it was a "pleasure to discover that these 'Brits' still cling to hope" in a time of international worries, while La Stampa said it was a mix of "humour, class and culture".

Austrian daily Der Standard's view was coloured by the eurozone crisis, saying: "Whether the 34 million euro bill is worth it remains to be seen, but the extra-extra-large opening ceremony was certainly impressive."

Portuguese daily Politico preferred the London ceremony to the "totalitarian" Beijing opening four years ago.

European papers were particularly fond of a tribute to Britain's state-run National Health Service, with children wearing pyjamas bouncing on 320 giant hospital beds.

US papers joined in the chorus of praise.

The Wall Street Journal said that some elements of the ceremony "might have been lost on the global TV audience" -- especially the section on the NHS.

But the Washington Post said the in-jokes did not matter, and said they were the product of a country that was "seeking to redefine itself through these Games after nearly a century of managed decline".

"If the opening ceremonies of the London Games sometimes seemed like the world's biggest inside joke the message from Britain resonated loud and clear: We may not always be your cup of tea, but you know -- and so often love -- our culture nonetheless," it wrote.

The New Yorker said simply: "Danny Boyle wins the Gold".

Meanwhile, at home, Britain's often sceptical press all ran upbeat headlines.

"Brilliant, breathtaking, bonkers and utterly British," wrote the Daily Telegraph, while the hard-to-please Daily Mail went with "Blast-Off!".

© 2012 AFP

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