The London 2012 Olympics – An Opening Ceremony Like No OtherAugust 4, 2012
It’s just over a week since we had the opening ceremony of the Olympics, here in London. It’s late, dear reader, I know, but I still wanted to give my take on it. An estimated 4bn people worldwide watched it live. American audiences had to wait for NBC to broadcast it a few hours later. I heard they made a pig’s ear of it, but more on that later.
Here in Blighty, we had to endure a two-hour show before the ceremony, full of fluff and nonsense. However, it began with this brilliant ode to London featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, also known as Sherlock. This should’ve been the intro to the opening ceremony.
The film director Danny Boyle, who was charged with creating this event, used a mixture of live stage acts and short film sequences to give us a flavour of British history and achievements. It seemed a bit messy at times and was quite frankly bonkers in places, but somehow as a whole it worked, and having now seen it twice, I like it even more. So let’s have a quick run through.
First, we had a film sequence of a very fast journey through the British Isles, followed by children’s choirs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, underpinned by England’s Jerusalem, singing their national anthems. The rural scene with sheep and ducks then gave way to the Industrial revolution, led by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
It must be in the contract that parts of Olympic opening ceremonies should look like scenes from The Wicker Man, with large gatherings of people in a circle, offering up sacrifices. This was no different. The part where the five rings came together certainly looked that way to me, but it was magnificent, nevertheless.
Then another film sequence featuring James Bond and what I thought would be a look-alike for The Queen. When she turned around and I realised she was for real, I nearly chocked on my cava. Then she ‘jumps’ out of a plane with Bond and ‘parachutes’ down. What a top bird! Err… I mean, well done, ma’am. Well done.
Next up was a sequence featuring the NHS and Great Ormond Street children’s hospital (with real staff). They were jiving and dancing around. It was all very jolly. But then it suddenly darkened as the children’s literature section within this sequence unfolded. Children’s nightmare characters like Cruella Deville and Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter made an appearance. Then a group of Mary Poppins, with open umbrellas, came down from the sky to save the day. All was well. What a sweet gig for those kids, just being themselves in front of a massive audience, bouncing on trampoline beds and being tucked up for sleep.
I can’t stand Mr Bean, but I will concede he did well with his Chariots of Fire sketch. Next came four decades of British music illustrated by a love story. Modern technology and social networking featured strongly in this sequence and every decade was suitably represented. It had all my favourite artists and tracks and Dizzee Rascal, local boy from my borough (big up Tower Hamlets!) performed ‘Bonkers’, his best known hit. These massive ping-pong ball heads on jumping stilts made an appearance in the middle of all this. They were supposed to represent punk. OK, then:
At the end of this sequence, the big house in the middle of the stage was raised to reveal Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Internet. He could’ve made lots of money out of it, but he gave it away, because, as he said: “This is for everyone.” The NBC presenters didn’t know who he was!
A film sequence of the torch relay around Britain followed, ending with a young future athlete holding the torch at the front of a speedboat heading towards the stadium, with David Beckham driving it! Could he look any more cool?
Finally there was a tribute though dance to those who were killed in the terror attack in London in July 2005. I heard the following day that NBC saw fit to show Ryan Seacrest instead! We would never have done that if a tribute to 9/11 featured at an opening ceremony. Shame on you, NBC. Shame on you!
And now to the athletes. It’s always interesting to see countries you’ve never heard of and get an idea of the many new countries and territories springing up in the wake of revolutions. They always look so happy, especially the smaller countries. I always give a special cheer for them.
More entertainment, with the Artic Monkeys and cyclists with wings! Speeches followed and then the lighting of the big one. The big theme of this ceremony, I feel, was about celebrating the common man and having a line of construction workers who built the stadium saluting Sir Steve Redgrave as he brought in the torch was a nice touch. Having seven young future Olympic athletes, nominated by past British Olympians, as the final torchbearers was inspired. They lit up the 200 metal petals on the ground, which then started rising until they met at the top as one massive flame. Fantastic!
And then there was Sir Paul McCartney. I have nothing against him personally, but he gets wheeled out for every event and pageant going now, which does neither him, nor us any favours. It was not his best night. The fireworks were fab and I was expecting to hear them from Pie Palace, but I must be in a parralel universe because my friends from as far away as Islington could hear it, but I couldn’t hear a thing.
We may not be the biggest hitters on the medal tables, but I’ll tell you this, ladies and gentlemen, we know how to party! I don’t know the type of people they usually call on to create the opening ceremony, but using a film director for this one may prove to be the game changer for ceremonies of the future.
If America ever gets the chance to host the Olympics again, let Tarantino have a go at the opening ceremony. Now, that I would pay good money to see.