Danny Boyle’s coded Olympic Ceremony message to the Tories?

I watched the Olympic opening ceremony tonight with a kind of dread. The bits I’d heard were going to happen seemed to threaten to be either unbearably twee or just tragic – a ‘celebration’ of the NHS, for example, at a time when the government is busy dismantling and giving it away.

But as I sat, watched, listened and tweeted, I started to see it as a coded message to our robber-government. Was it intentional? Well, let’s just say that if it wasn’t, it was the most spectacular ‘Freudian slip’ in history! So, what was the message?

What made us great is gone or going

Industry, manufacturing, epically-depicted miners rising from the mists of memory, engineering – strikingly portrayed and all tragically reminiscent of things that Tory (and occasionally Labour) governments have actively destroyed or allowed to wither on the vine.

The NHS tribute, strikingly lit and heroic – something we still think we have but whose roots the government has severed with its Health and Social Care Act, so that we’re watching it die but without most of us realising it. The scene of nurses making what looked like a time-out signal while famous villains ran amok among them was painfully meaningful and apt. Tragically, those hundreds of kids getting free access to a hospital bed while tended by ample numbers of nurses are soon likely to be a thing of the past – and as if to signal that, at the end of the segment the lights went out, one by one, on the NHS.

Servicemen and women paraded, inspiring pride and admiration – and the realisation that the government is reducing the armed forces to a shadow of their former selves, while hoping for the oxymoronic miracle of a ‘professional volunteer army’ (I kid you not, I heard that on the radio today!).

The spectacular steel-making scene, culminating in the ‘manufacture’ of the Olympic rings. Quite amazingly well done – but as bitter as gall to realise that what steel-making we still have is courtesy of Indian, Thai and Dutch companies.

The songs

Now I probably didn’t catch every relevant one, as I was trying to tweet those I did catch to others to share the significance, but here’s what I did get:

The Jam, ‘Going Underground’: ‘You choose your leaders to place your trust, but the lies all come down and the promises rust‘. Except we didn’t choose our current ‘leaders’ – but the sham of their promises couldn’t be clearer. ‘NHS is safe in our hands’, ‘No top-down reorganisation of the NHS’, promises of investment, maintenance of numbers in policing & health, protection of ‘front-line’ services and many others – all lies, all now rotting on a scrap-heap.

New Order, ‘Blue Monday’: ‘How does it feel to treat me like you do?‘ A question from every disabled, disadvantaged, unemployed and demonised person, every public-sector worker, every pension-bereft Briton to David Cameron, Ian Duncan-Smith, Andrew Lansley and the whole coalition government.

The Who, ‘My Generation’: ‘People try to put us down‘. Rising inequality, tax-cuts for the rich, spending-cuts for the poor, the demonisation of the poor, unemployed, disabled. Could anything be truer?

Queen, ‘Bohemian Rapsody’: ‘I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me…caught in a landslide, no escape from reality‘. Need I really explain the aptness of this?!

The Sex Pistols, ‘Pretty Vacant’ – could there be a truer description of our shallow, vacuous government?

The Eurythmics, ‘Sweet Dreams’: ‘Sweet dreams are made of this – who am I to disagree?..Some of them want to use…some of them want to abuse you‘. Again, need I say more?

Muse, ‘Uprising’ – a call to action?

The house

In the finale, unseen forces from above remove a man’s house from over him, leaving him exposed to the elements. As eloquent a picture of the robbery of the ordinary man or woman by those who are over them and should be protecting them as you could wish for.

Some of the scenes seemed to imply a continuation that couldn’t be shown.

The scenes of the industrial revolution, if continued chronologically, should have gone on to the closure of the factories and the cheap import of everything from China while British workers lose their jobs – and probably should have culminated in flame and pitchforks massed and moving up Downing Street.

If the NHS scenes were really current, one in three of the nurses would have disappeared, while the rest had their pensions stolen and suddenly unveiled Serco and Virgin badges on their uniforms.

But I guess you can imply a lot more than you can actually show, in an Olympic opening ceremony.

Did Danny Boyle include all these things on purpose, pointing a coded finger at Cameron as he sat watching with Samantha in the stadium? I don’t know. Probably not, although I’d love to think he did.

But either way, the messages are true. We’re a great country that is being degraded, stripped, emaciated and robbed by an unworthy clique for its own ideological and financial ends. If we’ll just see – then maybe, just maybe, we can write our own ending – one that will be worth a parade…

(If you want to send a message to this government that we have love out NHS and dont want it to become ust a memory, and that we have no confidence in them, their mentality, their ideology, then please take the time to sign these petitions:



Thank you!)

63 responses to “Danny Boyle’s coded Olympic Ceremony message to the Tories?

  1. That was very on the ball as usual , skwalker . It did occur to me when watching the NHS tribute if that was a subtle sideswipe at the ” dark side ” .
    That , combined with the song choices enumerated above , certainly makes you wonder what , if any , political sympathies DB has ???

  2. With Lefties around, everything is political. It was supposed to be about sport, not whingeing socialists.

    • The Olympics is about commercialism at least as much as about sport, but thanks for the comment!

      EVERYTHING is politics. And that’s just how it should be.

    • If everything isn’t political to some extent, then what is it? Meaningless?

      If it was ‘all about sport’ why are people organized into ‘Nations’? In fact, why are some ‘nations’ that aren’t nations (or allowed to be nations) in the normal sense represented?

      It may be that Right-wing ideologies rely on not thinking about these things, but ignorance of them is hardly a virtue.

    • One day when your old and disabled you’ll be thanking lefties for trying to make sure you’ve at least got a roof over your head…

  3. Just before the Jam, they played “Push the Button” by Sugababes and OMD’s anti-nuclear “Enola Gay” – then there was a track I think was Rizzle Kicks (maybe “When I was a youngster”) and during the Jam track, the dancers temporarily made the CND logo. Also, during the opening video, as the camera was panning the City part of of the Thames, the Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen” was playing. There was also a possible dig at the Queen – when the childrens’ story villains were rising, I heard a quick “Orf with his head” – the refrain of the Red Queen in Lewish Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”.

  4. Interesting analysis. Surely there must have been some sort of gov approval process to the ceremony, or someone in power monitoring it – if so, why allow this criticism? I can’t see Blair or Labour ever allowing veiled criticism of themselves like this

  5. I was thinking of writing a similar post myself so I’m glad you did it.

    I think Boyle, with well known left wing views absolutely DID do all of those things on purpose. It became too much to be coincidence. I even thought the Jam song might be Eton Rifles at one point.

    I am sooooo thankful to him this morning. He reached that audience none of us can manage on our own and he did it for all of us.

    • I didn’t know he did have left-wing views, but I’d worked it out eventually lol.

      Great stuff – and if it gets everyone talking about stuff that would usually be lost in the ‘noise’, fantastic

  6. One other thought, could you do this analysis from a different perspective? Ie there was enough luxury / richness / elitist / right wing sentiment in the ceremony – eg Queen /Becks / 007 etc

    Its this contradiction quintessentially what being British is about. Its patriotism, not politics

  7. A great deal of these comments occurred to me too Mr boyles is a very socially aware guy and this event showed in a very subtle way the true mood of the people of our country .

  8. I knew Danny Boyle was left wing. Apparently he was pretty much left to his own devices to put the opening night together, I’m not sure if the government quite new what he was up to. Either way you cannot avoid metaphors, somewhere between the actuality and what we speculate lies the truth.

    Anyway I’m pretty happy that we can say all this stuff out in the open and argue the point. The government can take it, they are professional targets, they can take a few arrows, it is archery today isn’t it:-)

  9. Great show, and doubtless shot through with politics of the predictable kind from end to end.

    As a right winger, I enjoyed it greatly – especially the worship of the NHS which had me ROTFLMFAO with its sixth-form, unquestioning faith.

    Well done Danny Boyle – kinda’ what we expected politically, but a brilliantly executed spectacle and credit to everyone involved. Sincere congrats.

    So, let’s get down to some raw sporting competition. The lefties had better leave now – there are winners and losers in the next bit so you’ll hate it.

    We’ll all be back for another feel-good closing ceremony, and you’ve set the bar pretty high there. I do think a bit on that other great state industry, British Leyland, would be a fitting end. Perhaps Red Robbo could put out the flame at the end? That’d be rather apt.

      • Loved the show!

        But listen to anyone in the media in the “creative” or comedy sectors, and they’re all right-on left wingers straight from central casting.

        My point is that it’s what anyone would have expected,like a Ben Elton gig in the Thatcher years. Funny, but achingly predictable. “arts sector has predominately left wing sympathies!”. Not exactly headline stuff, is it?

        I thought you were employing irony when your original blog post suggested the message was somehow coded, but i realise you’re deadly serious and are presenting this as some brilliant insight for the benefit of those who didn’t get the joke. If you think that was in any way coded, don’t apply for a job at GCHQ,since despite your self-proclaimed pattern recognition skills, this was in plain text and you’re still deciphering it.

      • If you can find anywhere in that post where I claimed a brilliant insight or even said I was presenting something that others couldn’t see for themselves, then you have a point. But I didn’t – I just described how I went from dreading something embarrassing to seeing how Boyle had done something brilliant.

        Your comments started off quite interesting, but you’re starting to just sound like a knob.

      • “Your comments started off quite interesting, but you’re starting to just sound like a knob”

        Ooh – not very Christian of you.

        I would still disagree: you talk of your initial dread, granted, but then talk about “coded messages” and go on to explain what you think those were. See para 2.

        I merely commented on that, contrasting it with your very interesting blog profile, but if that’s somehow off-limits then I do apologise.

      • It’s not a question of off-limits. There are some posts where I do write that I think I’ve spotted something others mightn’t, but this wasn’t one of them.

        The message was coded of necessity – it had to get past primarily Tory vetting and get approval. But it wasn’t so covert that people couldn’t spot it if they had eyes to see. That’s why it was genius – Boyle’s not mine.

        As for ‘not very Christian’, we might have different opinions of what’s ‘Christian’ and what isn’t. You were sounding like a bit of a knob. Sometimes I do, too – as a rule I try to apologise once I realise it.

        If you want to have a proper discussion, I’m all for it. I was just feeling a little disappointment that you made some good points at first but then seemed to opt for mockery and sarcasm – and not just toward me, but toward other commenters. If we can avoid that and actually discuss stuff, I’ll be very happy.

      • If I’ve offended you or anyone else with my writing style, then I apologise unreservedly.

        Your initial comment dismissed mine as “unsurprising” because there is, apparently, no argument for the right to make.

        Do you really believe there’s only one point of view? No. Didn’t think so! You have your view, and I mine, but the fun is surely in debating it, not the self-congratulatory posts and dismissal of others’ points of view?

        I will revert to my first thought that you didn’t regard it as a “coded” message and were being ironic. It was so blatant, even an ESN MP got it: the choice of the CND logos was just one of the many other clues!

        Still say it was a fantastic spectacle. Just don’t think it will change anything in the long run, or that the NHS should not be changed either.

        That’s all!

  10. I agree… And I think it was intentional. The lights in the NHS went out one by one… Message clear! Well done to him!

  11. Yes what an institution the NHS is to British society. Created 60 years ago, and it`s survived through recessions,booms and busts. Yet it is still here serving the British people.

    The NHS is the greatest political achievement in British history. A legacy of 60 years created by a Labour government. Many countries have copied its sucessful modal. The right wing tories continue to attack it, always have and always will, because the NHS makes them feel inferior. The tories know they never have and never will achieve what Labour created 60 years ago. What great legacy have the conservatives ever achieved? Nothing.FULLSTOP

    • There is no boom and bust anymore. Gordon saw to that. That’s another labour achievement to add to your list.

      • Dude, the thread is about the NHS. My post is about the NHS and its existance. Labour made some mistakes as do the tories, but that`s another debate for another day. Try answering my last question…Simply conservatives will never create a legacy like the NHS. In business terms it works, a modal that`s lasted 60 years and many countries admire its modal.

      • Well said, mate. Pity some either don’t care about people’s welfare as a whole, or else fall for the lies of those who don’t and who want to be even richer at the expense of everybody else.

      • Lee S

        Nope – nothing. Nada. Rien.

        The right has definitely failed to come up with a single great state monopoly. Shameful.

        When I look at all the countries which have copied the NHS lock, stock and barrel, I must concede it to be the best possible system of healthcare.

  12. I don’t think the show was anywhere near as simplistic or as literal as your clunky and two-dimensional interpretation says it was. If you believe that Danny Boyle was using the Olympics to have a pop at the Tories, you’re in the same company as the foolish Aiden Burley, MP, who complained about exactly the same thing on twitter last night (but from a line-toeing Tory perspective) and who was roundly condemned for it. Is that what you intended?

    I usually like your blog, but on this occasion I think you’ve misjudged the meaning of the event you are attempting to analyse through the imposition of a political view that does not take into account any sense of aesthetics or representation or performance. (And yes, I can discuss this in more detail with you if you would like to.)

    • Burley was worthy of condemnation for his reaction. He recognised what was there but dismissed it as rubbish because he and his party were nailed by it. I applaud the sentiment and the subtlety with which it was crafted to both get approved by Coe & co, and to convey its message.

      Happy to discuss further, but I don’t think it was a simplistic reading – I don’t think the consistency of the song selection allows an interpretation that doesn’t recognise the thrust of the message. Why don’t you write one you consider complex and three-dimensional and we can compare notes?

      Thanks for normally liking my blog, btw.

  13. Add the Pink Floyd lyrics to “Eclipse” to the meaning you so aptly point out.

    All that you touch
    All that you see
    All that you taste
    All you feel.
    All that you love
    All that you hate
    All you distrust
    All you save.
    All that you give
    All that you deal
    All that you buy,
    beg, borrow or steal.
    All you create
    All you destroy
    All that you do
    All that you say.
    All that you eat
    And everyone you meet
    All that you slight
    And everyone you fight.
    All that is now
    All that is gone
    All that’s to come
    and everything under the sun is in tune
    but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

    “There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”

    • And, of course, Eclipse is never played on its own – it is always played as the second and linked part to Brain damage, whose video depicts insane politicans and their warmongering and ideological fanaticism get in the way of doing their job!

  14. Agree with the gist of your post, but just a wee nitpick: the “volunteer” part of “professional volunteer Army” is meant in the sense of “not a conscript Army”

    • I know. But the two terms still don’t really mix – what Cameron & Hammond mean is ‘a reserve army we can call on when we want without having to pay them full-time, but who’ll magically be as competent and well-trained as a full-time army’.

      • There’s a very interesting article in the latest Private Eye about how reservists (TA) would ultimately cost us far more than full-time soldiers.

      • Since we’re slowly getting out of Labour’s illegal wars, we can run down the military a bit more. After all, that’s money we could be spending on the NHS, isn’t it?

      • Military experts seem agreed that we’re reducing beyond the necessary level of preparedness – who knows what might happen in the future?

        And you know as well as I do that any savings will go into either reducing taxes for the wealthy, or else reducing the deficit, which should really be done by a more proper, effective and avoidance-proofed taxation.

    • The largest employer of TA folk is the Civil Service. Many private sector businesses will not employ staff who can disappear for months on end or may never come back. 20% cuts in CS but 100% rise in TA? Impossible

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  16. Great observation on the Opening Ceremony SKWALKER1964

    “it was the most spectacular ‘Freudian slip’ in history! So, what was the message?”

    And so it was.

    But sadly missed by The Guardian’s resident anarchist writer Ally Fogg who seems completely to have lost the plot.  

    Here he is in full flow:
    “Oh my god, what an embarrassment! What a disaster! …..Ooh look, it’s a giant golden spliff… spark it up mate.”


    Hahaha. It’s official. Britain is completely fucking hatstand. Completely bonkers.

    SKWALKER1964 yyou ask:

    “Did Danny Boyle include all these things on purpose, pointing a coded finger at Cameron as he sat watching with Samantha in the stadium? I don’t know. Probably not, although I’d love to think he did.”

    In my opinion, of course he did and not so much as a coded finger, as a writing on the wall?

    • But sadly missed by The Guardian’s resident anarchist writer Ally Fogg who seems completely to have lost the plot.

      Here he is in full flow

      Thanks for the amusement caused by the ‘Guardian’s resident anarchist’ :description, but you might like to note my ‘oh my god what a disaster’ comment was posted about two hours before the thing even began, and was intended to anticipate the comments that were to follow. It was what we in the trade call “a joke.”

      Still, nice to know that even after all these years my faithful little puppy is still tracking my comments all over the internet in order to smear me on random strangers’ blogs. You’re such a charmer, Bitey.

  17. Although I loved the opening ceremony, your cryptic messages are a trifle fanciful. The choice of songs was probably just a cross section of music. You could criticise his lack of reggae, bhangra and calypso , if you choose to. It was
    a celebration of everything that we love, but I don’t imagine Danny Boyle had the time to read every lyric of every song. The Tories are mean spirited and evil, but using a Muse song called Uprising is not a call to arms. More a contractual obligation.

  18. As an American who feels that National Healh Care is a human right that we here are still in dire need but can’t get beyond the two party quagmire of our political system, I was very impressed with Mr. Boyle’s message. Reading your piece has made it all the more clear. Kudos.

    • Thank you! I’m always amazed at the readiness of too many US citizens to fall for the self-interested lies of the rich who tell them that a socialised health system is somehow un-American and impingeing on their freedoms. It’s good to know some don’t!

  19. Pingback: Reflections on a busy weekend: Boyle, Olympics, the NHS, Tory reaction – and hope.. | skwalker1964·

  20. It was incredibly honest! It told our history and our current situation in allegorical way. It was artistic and political at the same time. I think the man is a genius! I wonder if people beyond our shores understood! Who cares it was meant for us the people – it definitely gave me a boost.

  21. Pingback: Olympic closing ceremony: ‘Feel good and forget!’ (pp. D Cameron!) | skwalker1964·

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