While British director Danny Boyle did not feature a baby-on-the-ceiling, á la Trainspotting, during the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, he did have dancing NHS nurses, farm animals, the industrial revolution, Tim Berners-Lee, Abe Lincoln-like figures and a huge Voldemort to scare everyone. Who cares if people were confused— everyone in England loved it!
The Telegraph's Jim White thrilled, "There was something else that was not evident in Beijing: self-deprecation. Every opening ceremony has traditionally been bedevilled by inflatables. Here, steered round the perimeter road by gaggles of attendants, they were clouds. Yes, the pointless cumuli smiled, Britain is a country obsessed with its weather." The Guardian's Richard Williams' also called it a "deliriously enjoyable, occasionally bemusing, supremely humanistic creation."
The NY Times' Sarah Lyall, who covers Britain, wrote, "It was neither a nostalgic sweep through the past nor a bold vision of a brave new future. Rather, it was a sometimes slightly insane portrait of a country that has changed almost beyond measure since the last time it hosted the Games, in the grim postwar summer of 1948."
And the Times' television critic Alessandra Stanley pointed out, "Bad taste is also a part of the British heritage. The imagery mixed the glory of a royal Jubilee with the grottiness of a Manchester pub-crawl. Britain offered a display of humor and humbleness that can only stem from a deep-rooted sense of superiority."
The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney called it "eccentric" and thought the music was great, "Among the pearls of the evening, galvanizing use was made of The Clash’s “London Calling” and The Jam’s “Going Underground.” But the Frankie and June chapter also served as a decade-by-decade salute to the British music industry that will no doubt cause a stampede on iTunes. From The Who and The Rolling Stones through The Kinks and The Beatles and then on into the glam-rock years with Mud, David Bowie and Queen, the choices were terrific. The Specials popped up, as did more Pistols as we moved into the punk era (what other country in the world would have the self-irony to include “Pretty Vacant” on its Olympics soundtrack?). Then came New Order, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Soul To Soul, The Eurythmics, The Prodigy and Amy Winehouse. Bliss." (But he had some issues with omissions like Dusty Springfield and Oasis.)
Most foreign press enjoyed the show. However, some spectators at the stadium were confused. One tourist from Spain told USA Today, "We don't understand anything, because it's all about England. And it should be international," and her friend said, actually, they did get one part, "Only Mr. Bean."