The Olympic opening ceremony was something special. Didn’t see it, don’t worry The Daily Shift’s Kevin Bolger did…
Some 7,500 volunteers were involved in the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics, with over 150 hours of rehearsal time between them. While I’m sure this must have taken a toll on their personal lives, you can be sure the memories will last forever. They truly created something magnificent on such a grand scale that if you weren’t one of the lucky 80,000 in the stadium you were glued to the TV set.
Over 1 billion people tuned in from all over the world to see the London Olympic ceremonies and they were not to be disappointed. The ceremony began with a virtual tour of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom. First Northen Ireland with a rendition of “Danny Boy” on the Giants Causeway.
They then moved from there to Scotland, then to Wales and finishing in London. A breathtaking montage of the greatest sites and sounds these small Islands have to offer accompanied by haunting choir music. After this had finished the ceremonies begun inside the stadium and what we saw next was perhaps the best history lesson of all time. Sound the giant bell.
It started with a soliloquy from Irish actor Kenneth Branagh from William Shakespeare’s last play “The tempest” on top of a huge artificial hill that had been erected for the purposes of demonstrating the agricultural age. The quote “Be not afeard the Isle is full of noises” was inscribed on the giant bell. The volunteers in the stadium played the parts of the citizens working the land and gentlemen listening with great interest to what Mr. Branagh had to say. This signalled the beginning of the Industrial age and what happened next was awe inspiring.
Quick as they could the volunteers began to remove the giant artificial fields from the stadium in a manner that had been clearly rehearsed to a fine point. Then and only then did the giant smoke towers begin to rise from the ground. Huge pillars to signify the beginning of the industrial revolution. Suddenly the field workers were replaced by iron smiths and the crops with huge cog wheels. Out came the suffragettes to fight for their human rights. It would seem no stone was left unturned (Well to an extent, if you know what I mean).
Amidst all the smoke and dirt the camera focussed in on a single red rose. Clever camera work was certainly paramount at the ceremony to optimize how it looked for those at home. Everyone seemed to know exactly when they would be on the camera. A credit to Danny Boyle who put this all together. Now queue the fire.
Out of nowhere it would almost seem a giant steel ring appeared in the middle of the stadium and began to glow red hot as if in a foundry. Its important to note, this wasn’t real molten steel simply clever lighting, but still. Steel workers banged their hammers as the drums rang louder in a fiery crescendo. Now the other rings appeared, but not from the ground. No, these rings appeared floating overhead, glowing red hot as the one before.
Commentators on the BBC reported that the stadium actually smelled of termite and fire as the forged rings moved in to formation. Slowly the ring on the floor began to rise to the sky to join the rest until they met, high above the ground in the centre point of the stadium. And then a flash, as the rings joined together in a mass flurry of sparks raining down on the ground below. Truly a breathtaking spectacle.
That was not the end of it though. Next a video montage appeared as Daniel Craig played his part as James Bond. In Buckingham Palace he searched and found none other than Queen Elizabeth. The two joined courses to a helicopter which began to make it’s way to the stadium and the skit ended with the two of them jumping out of the helicopter to the sound of the James Bond theme music. Again, I know this was not actually the Queen skydiving from the helicopter, but still.
At the introduction of the Queen the Chaos singing choir for deaf and hearing children began the National Anthem “God save our Queen”. It was a really special occasion for all those children involved and the vision of Mr. Boyle to make this a giving experience did not end there as 300 patients from the Great Ormonde Street Hospital (GOSH) accompanied by Mike Oldfield and workers from the NHS began a really special and heartwarming tribute to the NHS and GOSH, two of the great institutions of the United Kingdom. Pillows began to glow and the camera zoomed in on one child to begin the epic fantasy scene.
Here children’s literature and movies came to life as a giant Lord Voldermort rose to the sky and began to blast his wand while Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s Child Catcher joined in on this nightmare scene. This was until of course good old Mary Poppins descended on her umbrella to save the day. This opening ceremony truly becoming an exhibition of the depth of culture in the UK.
The star studded ceremony continued as none other than Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean made an appearance in the London Symphony Orchestra with Ser Simon Rattle conducting the classic, Chariots of Fire. Mr. Bean delighted the crowd as he joined in on the symphony with his piano. Having grown up with Mr. Bean on TV this was a truly nostalgic moment for me and I was delighted to see they even took the time to develop the first Mr. Bean episode in quite some years, showing a training montage which involved Bean getting a taxi to the finish line and tripping up his opponent.
Next came a montage of the digital age. A celebration if you will of modern society and in the background you could hear clips from many famous TV programmes of the modern era including Kevin from Kevin and Perry saying “It’s so unfair”, his infamous catchphrase. This was followed then with some modern music ranging from Rizzle Kicks to The Who. “My generation”, “Can’t get no satisfaction”, “she loves you”, “bohemian rhapsody” and David Bowies “Starman” among others rang out across the stadium which was now acting as a giant LED.
Everyone in the stadium had a small light emitting pad that they could hold up to help be part of the games. The graphic designs were amazing. This was a truly magnificent touch to an amazing opening ceremony. Dizzy Rascal proceeded The Prodigy singing his song “Bonkers” in what must be the highlight of his career so far. Finally this ended with a tribute to Ser Tim Bernsley-Lee, inventor of the world wide web. This led to many people tweeting their thanks to the man who made twitter possible.
After what was a truly epic history lesson, a video montage began showing the journey the Olympic flame has taken on it’s way to London, finishing up with golden balls Beckham jumping on to a speed boat to speed up the Thames towards the stadium. The identity of who was going to carry the flame in the end still unknown.
After a fitting tribute to people who have died this year “The memorial wall” finally the countries began to make their way out. This was a largely tedious affair with over 200 countries involved, many of whom their existence was debatable. Katie Taylor then made her way out hoisting the flag for Team Ireland and the roar from the crowd was chilling. Clearly the Irish have travelled in force as only Team GB got a warmer reception at the ceremony. They entered the arena to the tune of David Bowie’s Heroes.
Finally the flame arrived and the giant rings now descended on top of the hill where they joined together to create a giant cauldron. The flame lit and rose as U2′s “Streets have no name” rang out across the stadium.
Finally the night ended with Paul McCartney singing Hey Jude live putting an end to one of the greatest opening ceremonies of all time.
China had the fireworks and the awe, but London had the swagger. London, we love you. Let the games begin!