Constructing the opening ceremony for Glasgow 2014 was always going to be a near-impossible task. Danny Boyle’s London 2012 Olympics extravaganza managed to celebrate those parts of Britishness which, it turned out, pretty much everyone wanted to celebrate. But Scotland is currently a nation literally undecided about its past, present and future: how do you work out what unites us? How do you make it make sense to an international audience – and, in a hashtag-obsessed age, make it buzzworthy enough to make an impact?
After the Red Road flats debacle and the derision heaped on the official parade outfits, the organisers must have realised their chances of pleasing everybody – or even anybody – were probably as high as getting a warm sunny evening for the ceremony.
But the sun did shine and while there will be many heaping abuse on the event, it certainly succeeded in terms of creating talking points and being so downright silly that, love it or hate it, the nation was temporarily united in open-mouthed amazement.
While television viewers endured a pointless hour of shouted interviews with sportspeople, the Parkhead pre-show’s highlight was a touching appearance by Esperanza, the ska band who were playing at Clutha Vaults on the night of the disaster last year.
But the show proper began with a camp panto number led by Karen Dunbar and a gabbling John Barrowman. Less a song than a shouted list, it crammed in dancing Tunnock’s teacakes, an inflatable Nessie, whisky, Dolly the sheep, Oor Wullie, shortbread, Scottish inventions, Sherlock Holmes and Barrowman being hoisted above a peculiarly-shaped bed of heather. It had a self-conscious air of getting all the old clichés out of the way and seemed to say: “Wha’s like us? Damn few and they’re all mental.”
Weird, embarrassing, corny, sincere and funny, Glasgow 2014 will provide fodder for stand-up comics and cultural debaters for years to come. What else did we expect?