So what was your favourite part of the opening ceremony? The history? The humour? The tribute to the NHS? The sheer spectacle?
It’s difficult to know where to begin. I thought it was brilliant. The forged rings joining together; Steve Redgrave handing the torch over to the seven young athletes; HRH and James Bond; Mr Bean… I’m not ashamed to say that I shed a tear or two.
And yes, there were parts I didn’t like that much – I thought the tribute to the NHS was over-long and if you weren’t British it was probably incomprehensible. But so what? We were told that we could never beat Beijing. Well go here and have a look. I would humbly contend that we knocked them into a cocked hat. We told a story, we connected with people – and we were brave enough to laugh at ourselves.
Of course, not everyone liked the opening ceremony. You may be familiar with the controversy surrounding the tweets of Tory MP Aidan Burley. A couple of people have said to me ‘Why so much emphasis on the NHS compared to British enterprise?’ Plenty of people pointed out that Paul McCartney may be fractionally past his best. The opening ceremony was emphatically Danny Boyle’s creation – and it was never going to please everyone.
It would have been easy for LOCOG or the Government to interfere. There must have been parts of the ceremony they would have changed.
But in the week in which the three girl members of Pussy Riot go on trial effectively accused of criticising Vladimir Putin I’m damn proud to live in a country where they didn’t interfere; where we could disagree with parts of the opening ceremony – and where we’re free to say so.
I’m also full of admiration for the fact that someone had the courage to say to Danny Boyle, “Here’s the money. Go ahead. We’ll give you free rein.” Knowing Danny Boyle’s political leanings, that must have been a very hard thing for Messrs Coe and Cameron to do…
But you can’t cherry pick the parts you like. With something like the opening ceremony, you have to accept the whole. Sometimes you have to say, ‘You’re hired to do the job. Get on and do it.’ And that holds good whether you’re putting on a show for a billion people – or running a business in North Yorkshire.
Giving someone in your business authority – real authority, which means you won’t interfere and you’ll stand by the decisions they make – can be very difficult.
But it’s like being a parent – if your children are to grow as people, you have to gradually let go. Give them more and more free rein and – above all – trust them. It’s easy for me to say that: I don’t have teenagers yet (although I can see one lurking in the shadows). But I hope that when the temptations of alcohol and girls appear I’ll remember to re-read this post. Because if our boys are to grow they have to take decisions and they have to make mistakes. And if your business is to grow you have to trust someone to make a decision – and they have to make mistakes.
It’s another business quotation that’s become a cliché, but the man who has never made a mistake has never made anything.
Stepping back and giving up some control isn’t easy – but there comes a time when it’s essential. Like LOCOG and Danny Boyle, you may not get quite what you expected – but you might just get something truly spectacular.
With that I’ll sit back and wait for the athletics, and our gradual climb up the medals table. Enjoy your weekend – and let the grass grow. It’s only once every four years…