There was an interesting nervous excitement as I sat down with my Twitter feed to watch the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony. This was a wholly different feeling to the Olympic ceremony, which we knew we would hate, and proceeded to watch solely in a sneeringly ironic manner (which meant that as we began to realise how good it actually was, we all felt awfully confused, stupid and ashamed).
So with the bar raised higher than on a pole vault (which I believe to be quite high, although I never did get round to watching any of the sporting events), would this warm the hearts of a bunch of cold cynics like myself?
From the outset, it was mixed – it clearly couldn’t compete with the Olympic ceremony in terms of budget or theatrics, but on the other hand, it had more potential for low-key distinctive brilliance and it’s a more naturally inspiring concept (not just incredible talent and hard work, but incredible talent and hard work despite intense difficulty in tasks able-bodied people like myself completely take for granted).
So while the ongoing theme of enlightenment values and Stephen Hawking fulfilled my feed’s appetite for geekiness, whet by Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s appearance at the Olympic ceremony, there were of course obligatory reflexive boos and jeers at the presence of David Cameron and Lord Sebastian Coe.
Keep it short Coe, one hasn’t got all night.
— Elizabeth Windsor (@Queen_UK) August 29, 2012
On the whole, however, there was a genuine feeling of authentic inspiration of the kind that simply cannot be superficially generated with a phenomenal budget. The speeches by Stephen Hawking and Sir Ian McKellan seemed to be almost universally admired (ignoring the trolls), containing plenty of inspirational soundbites ripe for re-tweeting.
Professor Stephen Hawking tells us: “Look up at the stars and not at your feet.”
— IPC (@Paralympic) August 29, 2012
‘Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious’ – Stephen Hawking
— London 2012 (@London2012) August 29, 2012
“I am somebody, I am what I am.” Any dry eyes in the house? Stunning firework display – and Ian McKellen singing + dancing along!
— C4 Paralympics (@C4Paralympics) August 29, 2012
Of course, a few sarcastic comments slipped through the net, but they’re remarkably light-hearted and usually made fun of something other than the ceremony:
Kinda want Prince Harry to parachute in with no pants on holding a pool cue and a hooker…
— Marcus Brigstocke (@marcusbrig) August 29, 2012
This ceremony just needs a good bit of Hey Jude to finish off with.
— Martin Robbins (@mjrobbins) August 29, 2012
Outside my little bubble, some of the most retweeted comments were Tom Daley’s message of support, predictable jokes in poor taste and this humorous Tube sign:
— Tiernan Douieb (@TiernanDouieb) August 29, 2012
Let’s go Team GB at the Paralympics!!!! Good luck!!!!
— Tom Daley (@TomDaley1994) August 29, 2012
And of course, it wouldn’t be right for politics to stop for the evening – while most politicians’ tweets were blandly but benignly supportive, it went without saying that someone would stick their foot in it: this time we saw Edwina Currie with the following blunder:
Italians are gorgeous even in wheelchairs. Love ’em
— Edwina Currie (@Edwina_Currie) August 29, 2012
Other political figures were using the opportunity to point out some of the wider issues surrounding the games (largely about the games’ controversial sponsors ATOS, and the Government’s cuts to the Disability Living Allowance):
— UK Uncut (@UKuncut) August 28, 2012
Hard to listen to David Cameron talk about changing attitudes to disabled people while he slashes disability living allowance
— Brian Duggan(@TheBrianDuggan) August 29, 2012
Yet again, Twitter proved it can provide a brilliant commentary (although, not to implicitly offend the as-ever brilliant Jon Snow), and despite predictable British pessimism, we’ve proven we can put on a pretty good show.