The Greatest Show on Earth continues tonight so what can you expect from the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games? Well as the commentator on the ceremony I’ve been privileged to sit in on the final rehearsal and without giving too much away I can tell you it is spectacular, challenging and wonderful.
The Greatest Show on Earth continues tonight so what can you expect from the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games? Well as the commentator on the ceremony I’ve been privileged to sit in on the final rehearsal and without giving too much away I can tell you it is spectacular, challenging and wonderful. And very different to the Olympic opening ceremony.
If Danny Boyle’s references were to popular culture, pop and rock music and TV moments, those of the artistic directors of the Paralympic opening, Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey, are altogether more classical. For a start their title is Enlightenment.
Shakespeare’s Tempest runs through all the Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies as a theme. Danny Boyle took the raging of Caliban in a famous speech to inspire his Isles of Wonder. But the Tempest runs deeper through Enlightenment. We will experience tonight’s ceremony through the central Shakespearean character Miranda, played by disabled actress Nicola Miles-Wildin, while Sir Ian McKellen will evoke the spirit of her father Prospero. Miranda’s Brave New World speech is taken deliberately right out of its Shakespearean context and given new meaning. There will be other structural references for Tempest-buffs to spot – but I won’t spoil them.
As today’s newspapers reveal there will be a key role for Professor Stephen Hawking too – and therein lies the big hint about the themes of the opening ceremony. The Sun says the ceremony will “celebrate Britain’s history of science and discovery”. And it will. But it is more than a celebration. It is a journey – through scientific discovery, reason and the struggle for human rights. Think about the title again – Enlightenment – and who you might associate with it, and you will be along the right lines.
But it isn’t all stuff to make your brain hurt – there is dance, modernity and spectacle too. Some stunning performances from gifted artists who have not yet been announced. And some big, surprising moments to make you gasp. Including the lighting of the Paralympic Flame. It could not be a more exciting way to open the biggest and best Paralympic Games yet – 166 countries, 4200 athletes over 11 days; that might just start to transform the way we think about disability, achievement and our own humanity.