The opening ceremony of the summer Olympics is a spectacle separate from the Games proper that offers the host country (and host city) the opportunity to showcase itself proudly to the world. How national pride manifests itself is an index of how a host sees itself or how it wishes to be seen by the world. Most infamously, Hitler and Goebbels exploited the Berlin Games in 1936 to make sinister and mendacious claims about the superiority of the Aryan race and the peaceful intentions of Nazi Germany. The Tokyo Games in 1964 and Beijing in 2008 gave Japan and China platforms from which to proclaim their modernity and economic dynamism. The spectacular ceremony of the 2000 Games in Sydney was Australia’s dramatization of its evolution into a modern multicultural society. In this paper I look at film director Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics and examine what kind of images of British heritage and identity it constructed and projected, particularly given the shifting and contested nature of modern British identity and culture in a post-imperial, multicultural, and less than united Kingdom.
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