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Opening ceremony reaction: Pomp, patriotism and political gaffes

Story highlights

  • British politician's opening ceremony tweet sparked a social media backlash
  • Aidan Burley, a Conservative Party MP, called the ceremony "multi-cultural crap"
  • Many online weighed the London ceremony versus the 2008 Beijing Olympics
  • Social media reaction was largely positive to director Danny Boyle's $42 million production

The world watched, as the London 2012 Olympic Games opened with director Danny Boyle's elaborate ode to England, and furiously tapped their reaction on social media.

But one comment on Twitter has sparked a political fracas on the home soil of the games, as a British member of Parliament lamented the "multi-cultural crap" of the £27 million ($42.4 million) ceremony.

Entitled "Isle of Wonder," Boyle -- the Oscar-winning director best known for hit movies "Trainspotting" and "Slumdog Millionaire" -- put together a star-studded on-field dramatization that drew on Shakespeare and Brit Pop to chart Britain from its pastoral roots through the Industrial Revolution to James Bond, Harry Potter and the Beatles.

"The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen -- more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?" wrote Aidan Burley, a Conservative Party MP who was fired as a ministerial aide in David Cameron's government after revelations he attended a Nazi-themed stag party in France last year.

"Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap. Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones!" he added minutes later.

Burley backpedaled after the strong online backlash against his comments, posting: "Seems my tweet has been misunderstood. I was talking about the way it was handled in the show, not multiculturalism itself."

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    There was a great deal of comparison being drawn between the London ceremony and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. @legallyblondekf wrote: "Ha! London sees your zillion drummers drumming in unison and raises you a deaf drummer. Your move China," referring to deaf Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie leading drummers during the London ceremony.

    Like London, a pre-eminent director -- Zhang Yimou, director of films such as the 1991 film "Raise the Red Lantern" and more recently "The Flowers of War," starring Christian Bale -- choreographed the Beijing ceremony.

    "(London's) opening ceremony was a far cry from Beijing's. Even the director of the London Olympics ceremony complained of the budget being too small, having only 27 million pounds," user Haluo-yuan wrote on Sina Weibo, the largest micro-blogging site in China, where state censors block Twitter. "There's no comparison with the formidable China."

    China's best Olympic hopes in London

    Still, commentators on Sina Weibo were largely complimentary of the London ceremony -- although many complained about getting up at 4 a.m. in China to watch the event live.

    "London's Olympic opening ceremony certainly was interesting, but it can't be said that it was superior to Beijing's. It can only be said that each had its merits," wrote Zhang Yiwu, a professor at Peking University with 3 million followers on Sina Weibo.

    "Beijing's Olympics and its immense grandeur were hosted by a developing country, by a country that had never hosted the Olympics before," he added. "Now, we can relax but must also understand to strive for new heights of dignity. There's no need for contentious feeling. Each has its own beauty."

    Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and activist, helped design the iconic Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics before he fell afoul with authorities and is now under house arrest on tax evasion charges. He wrote Saturday: "The London opening ceremony is free, relaxed and touching, smoothly switching between different time and space, expressing confidence. It's the festival of modern citizens."

    Athletes themselves were posting from inside the London arena, such as LeBron James, the three-time NBA MVP who is playing for the U.S. basketball team. James was up late into the night feeding images to Instagram from his view of the ceremony inside the stadium. "Me with one of the best the game of basketball has to offer," he wrote, tweeting a photo alongside U.S. teammate Kobe Bryant.

    Decoded: Boyle's Olympic spectacular

    Indeed, the real-time social media scrum seemed to take some of the fun out of the ceremony for viewers in the U.S., where the broadcast on NBC was tape-delayed to run during prime time hours. Gareth M. Skarka ‏@gmskarka wrote: "Hey @NBCOlympics -- there's still #openingceremony occurring. You already tape-delayed it. Howsabout letting us watch it, not interviews?"‬

    Added Charles Johnson ‏@Lizardoid: "NBC News in LA is still stubbornly pretending the Olympics opening ceremony is just beginning."‬

    After the ceremony, director Boyle tweeted: "Thank you, everyone, for your kind words! Means the world to me.

    "Proud to be British."