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Reflection

London Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony

I can’t go through this celebrative Olympics summer just at my doorstep by not talking about it!

Here’s what happens throughout the opening ceremony:

  • The Olympic cauldron is seen alight as fireworks are set off during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games (Reuters)

True to the London Games’ motto of ‘Inspire a Generation’, organisers put unknown youngsters in the global limelight rather than established sporting greats in the closing act of a madcap four hours of comedy, spectacle, noise and emotion.

The ceremony on a cool, cloudy but dry London night kicks off 16 days of sporting thrills and spills up and down the country, as more than 16,000 athletes from 204 countries vie for the Holy Grail of sport – Olympic gold.

Celebrating her 60th year on the throne this year, the Queen played a starring role in a ceremony which film director Danny Boyle turned into an unabashed celebration of the host nation stamped with an unmistakeably cinematic style. Early on in the show, which ran well over time, Her Majesty appeared in a short, tongue-in-cheek film also starring Daniel Craig in his role as James Bond. Wearing his trademark tuxedo, 007 enters Buckingham Palace and the queen, with two corgis at her feet, turns from a writing desk and says simply: “Good evening, Mr Bond”.

The moment drew a huge cheer from the crowd, not used to seeing Her Majesty play such an informal part in proceedings, and coincided with a resurgence in the royal family’s popularity following the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

I thought Bond is going to be first to jump off the helicopter, but instead the queen parachuted first from a helicopter above the stadium, built on the Olympic Park in a once derelict area of London’s East End, before schoolchildren sang the national anthem and the Union flag was raised. “I declare open the Games of London celebrating the 30th Olympiad of the modern era,” said Queen Elizabeth, the 86-year-old monarch, followed by a fanfare and explosion of fireworks.

The ceremony, inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, began with Britain’s first Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins ringing a giant 23-tonne Olympic bell.

Played out before world leaders, European royalty and dignitaries including US First Lady Michelle Obama, the show switched to the playful recreation of an English rural idyll with grassy meadows, fences, a water mill and maypoles.

A cast including shepherdesses, sheep, geese, dogs and a village cricket team filled the stage during the one-hour prologue to the show that included a dramatic, low-level fly-past by the jets of the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows stunt team.

After “England’s green and pleasant land” came the “dark Satanic mills” of William Blake’s famous poem.

Titled “Pandemonium”, the next phase saw the grass uprooted and fences torn down to be replaced by a blackened landscape of looms and foundries that conjured the Industrial Revolution.

To the deafening beat of hundreds of drummers, giant chimneys rose from the ground and began to belch smoke as a small army of volunteers, dressed as 19th century factory workers, forged one of the five Olympic rings.

The giant orb was raised to the sky to join the four others, letting off a fountain of sparks and drawing gasps from many in the audience.

All around, especially designed “pixel” light boxes installed next to every seat accompanied each scene and created giant images of waves, flags and words.

In the second of three “acts”, Boyle paid homage to the National Health Service, an emotive subject in Britain where people hold the right to free health care close to their hearts.

Hundreds of dancing and roller-skating nurses and doctors pushed beds on to the now empty stage and when the beds were illuminated, they spelled “GOSH” for the cherished Great Ormond Street children’s hospital in London.

Giant representations of famous villains from English literature, including JM Barrie’s Captain Hook, JK Rowling’s Voldemort and Ian Fleming’s Childcatcher, rose from their beds. They were quickly vanquished by dozens of Mary Poppins characters descending from cables criss-crossing the stadium roof, carrying brightly illuminated umbrellas. I love Mary Poppins when I was younger (and still do) and the scenes of hundreds of Mary Poppins descending from the sky was awesome!

Comedian Rowan Atkinson, adopting the globally recognised character of mischievous Mr Bean, brought the house down as he joined the London Symphony Orchestra playing a single note throughout the score of the Olympic film “Chariots of Fire”.

The final act, starring hundreds of young nightclubbing dancers, was a journey through popular British culture over the last five decades featuring music from everyone from the Sex Pistols to Queen and the Jam to the Who.

Sitting at a computer outside a small house on stage was Tim Berners-Lee, the Londoner who invented the worldwide web and enabled the explosion of social networking that is playing a major part at the London Games.

Mid-ceremony he tweeted to his almost 83,000 followers “This is for everyone” which also projected across the spectators.

Next came the parade of athletes, with the Greek team keeping up Olympic tradition and leading out thousands of competitors dressed in colourful national costumes. They marched around the stadium in double-quick time, urged on by the up-tempo beats of the Bee Gees band and others. Libya and Egypt represented a new chapter in their histories after the tumultuous events of the Arab Spring while the first ever female Olympic athletes from Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar made appearances.

Britain, dressed in white and gold and hoping to repeat its medals success of Beijing in 2008, entered last to thunderous roars and the thumping strains of David Bowie’s lyrics “We Can Be Heroes” as ticker tape floated down from the roof. Boxing’s most famous fighter Muhammad Ali briefly appeared to hold the Olympic flag, looking frail, wearing dark glasses and leaning on his wife.

The Olympic torch, ending an 8,000-mile odyssey across the country, was driven in a speedboat up the River Thames by former England football captain David Beckham and handed to Britain’s most successful Olympian Steve Redgrave.

He then passed it on to seven youngsters – Callum Airlie, Jordan Duckitt, Desiree Henry, Katie Kirk, Cameron MacRitchie, Aidan Reynolds and Adelle Tracey – who performed a lap of honour before approaching the centre of the stage. Surrounded by thousands of athletes, they lit some of the 200-plus copper petals which rose on stalks to form a single burning “flower”.

Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney rounded off a night when music played non-stop, and at concerts across the capital, with a nostalgic sing-along of his old band’s hit “Hey Jude”

My wow moments was looking at the orb joins together and rain down fireworks from the top and also when the last bit when the 200+ copper petals, representing the participating countries, lifted up and come together to represent the Olympic flame. Hundreds of Mary Poppins descending from the sky was also beautifully done. I thought David Beckham on the speedboat zooming across the Thames while the fireworks along the banks lit up as he went along was an amazing sight as well.

I live 80km away from the Olympic Park and I wasn’t there in person to watch the opening ceremony. But I think I got the best seat of the night, in front of the TV. I hope you had a chance to stay glued to the TV Friday night, 27 July 2012, because it is the where all my movie and story books characters come alive and where history is made.

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

11 thoughts on “London Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony

  1. I think you have written up a very concise post of the opening of the games 🙂 I too was glued to my tv set, minus the moments when I had to send a tweet containing something like “Voldemort!!” or “Mr Bean xD”. It was truly a brilliant opening, well staged by Danny Boyle. Can you believe that there are actually people who thought it was boring? 😦

    Love that close-up of the “Queen” 🙂

    Posted by Chinoiseries | July 29, 2012, 1:45 pm
    • Chinoiseries,
      I suppose for people who don’t grew up with English Lit or do not get the essence or spirit why hospital beds are there for example, it is bound to lose its meaning for them. 🙂
      I for one am very grateful that we have our NHS, which for many a times have saved my life. 😀

      Posted by JoV | July 29, 2012, 2:23 pm
  2. Wow! I confess I missed the entire opening ceremony – in fact, I didn’t even read a newspaper over the weekend. But I got a great glimpse of it from your post. Awesome. Jaw dropping awesome.

    Posted by SM | July 31, 2012, 2:07 pm
  3. I got up extra early on Saturday morning to watch it (started at 5AM our time) and was glad I made the effort – I’m sure I missed some of the cultural references but I managed to work out most of them and as a whole I thought the ceremony was great – lots of fun, a little sadness and a great big celebration of many things I think of fondly when I think of Britain. For me the only slightly sour note was the ending as I thought poor old Paul McCartney sounded pretty bad but I loved the Mary Poppinses too and the torch lighting and I have to admit the Mr Bean bit was very funny (even though I’m not a huge fan of the character).

    Posted by Bernadette | July 31, 2012, 11:00 pm
    • Bernadette,
      Let me know which cultural references you have missed and I hope to fill you in. I think what Danny Boyle (with the help of the volunteers) have successfully done is to encapsulate Britishness in 2 hours of performance and I think that is an amazing feat. Lol re: Paul McCartney. 😀 The news reported that the “big” stars who participated at the Olympics are being paid £1 as nominal fee for contractual obligation but agree to waive their fee to perform for the Olympic opening ceremony. Quite an emotional opening ceremony. I hope the closing is just as good! Thanks for dropping by Bernadette, always a pleasure to have you here.

      p/s: when I was younger, Mister Bean used to make me laugh a lot. Less so now, but it is my boys who laugh out loud when they see Mr. Bean antics! 😀

      Posted by JoV | August 1, 2012, 11:04 am
  4. What a comprehensive narration of the opening ceremony!
    I didn’t have the time to watch it as it started at 4am in Malaysia and I only managed to catch parts of the ceremony online.
    Thanks to your post, it enabled me to know in details now. 🙂
    Will find time to catch up on the highlights later on YouTube.

    Posted by Marvin | August 1, 2012, 3:11 pm
    • Marvin,
      Glad to be of any help. I thought few years down the road I may forget (like I did for some parts of the last Olympic opening). If I forget, at least I know that I wrote it somewhere…. in this blog!
      Thanks for stopping by.

      Posted by JoV | August 1, 2012, 7:42 pm
  5. I loved the opening ceremony. I think the more I thought about it afterwards, the more I like it and I will have to watch it again on BBC iPlayer. I loved all the references and the humour. I loved how they displayed the flag on the grassy mound. It felt very different and unique. I think we definitely planted our mark. It was made out of love and pride of our people. It may not have been polished or perfect in the way perhaps the Chinese one was (admittedly I never really saw that one) but it was something that felt like Ours.

    People who don’t like it, I imagine they might be of an older more rigid generation like my aunty who didn’t. Or the type of people who like to complain endlessly about the NHS but then what happens when they get ill or they need a knee replacement that’s worth about £10,000? Do they go private or do they get it for free? Oh yeah, they get it for free. The NHS might not be perfect, some of the criticisms might be legitimate, but it is still a great thing that we have and I’m proud of it.

    Posted by Fiona | August 1, 2012, 8:48 pm
    • Fiona,
      One thing I love about Britain is how green the country is. The grass mound signifies that. When I heard there is going to be sheep and cow, I was anxious how it would turn out to be. Technically, the rings and the petal cauldron were flawless. I hope there are more wow moments from the Closing ceremony. Thanks for dropping by!

      Posted by JoV | August 1, 2012, 8:56 pm
  6. loved it ,I thought it was best opening ever I just felt it reflect the uk so well ,all the best stu

    Posted by winstonsdad | August 6, 2012, 8:15 pm

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Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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