It would be churlish to do anything other than praise the technical brilliance of the Olympic opening ceremony. The choreography and the execution by both the professionals and volunteers were terrific. The whole atmosphere of spontaneity also hit the right notes. Despite this, the content was highly questionable. We know from the IEA/Liberty Fund publication The representation of business in English literature that there is a subtle anti-business bias in literature and the arts. This was certainly apparent at the opening ceremony.
We start with a rural idyll with well-dressed people playing happily in the countryside. They are then ripped from their roots as the horror of the industrial revolution takes place. There is no sense of the uncertainty, dreadful poverty, disease and malnutrition of rural living of the time giving way to migration to cities to lead a better life where, despite the difficulties, many more people had food on the table and some degree of certainty.
I don’t wish to make the opposite error of suggesting that rural poverty gave way to an industrial idyll, but the reality is one of progress and a pretty grim life in pre-industrial Britain. The ceremony moved on to highlight protest movements. Not the Anti-Corn-Law League which did so much to reduce the poverty of working people, but the suffragettes, trades unionists and, later on, quite extraordinarily, CND.