Picture the scene: mad lefty Irishman Danny Boyle speaks to a panel of landed prime ministers, landed wannabe prime ministers, bureaucrats, eurocrats and Seb Coe, a menswear salesman pretending to be a Lord.
His proposal? That, as the eyes of the world rest on London and a thousand dignitaries deliberate where to put their cash, we open our hard-won Olympic games with a kind of New Labour Cirque Du Soleil. There will be Mike Oldfield, there will be peasants, sheep, fluorescent bird costumes and the Arctic Monkeys. The NHS will be celebrated, the Empire ignored. Mark Rylance will figure more prominently than Sir Paul Mccartney. This will cost the taxpayer more than the bonuses of every top city CEO combined.
Hats off to him for his salesmanship, hats off to them for saying yes. Immediately before the ceremony, 43% thought the Olympics worth it. After, this had risen to 52%. The ceremony was praised widely for its idiosyncrasies, irreverence and out-and-out barminess- all recognised as particularly British qualities. Whereas Bejing 2008’s opening ceremony was seen as an assertion of global prowess, London 2012 responded to the needs of the Now! Economy, the need to address an uncertain world with humility, humanity and humour.
The lesson for business leaders? Risk pays. We’re all too often letting caution dominate what we do. The flipside of Danny Boyle’s maverick ideas is the IOC’s over regulation of everything from the brands that are allowed into the Olympic Park to the athletes’ use of Twitter, the constant warnings of overcrowding in London that have led to a huge loss of footfall for central London shops, restaurants, theatres and bars. By all means, stick to your bread and butter 80% of the time. But allow a little risk into your life- embrace the 20% Maverick Factor. After all, if even the Queen is willing to jump out of a helicopter on a parachute for the sake of Brand Britain, what could you do?