The London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony: highlights
It was, as Dizzee Rascal so acutely puts it, bonkers. The London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony has been seven years in the making, during which time we’ve all wondered whether our grand welcome to the world will consist of David Beckham doing keepy-uppys and Boris Johnson earnestly waving/dropping a giant flag.
However, it seems Danny Boyle’s almighty masterpiece dispelled the doubts and briefly burned any cynicism up in that giant Olympic cauldron; even if the rest of the world didn’t fully understand what was happening on the evening of 27th July 2012, we did. Here’s some of the best bits: a tribute to magnificent engineering, dazzling pyrotechnics and… Mr Bean.
(times included if you’re catching up on iPlayer here).
A frenzied, turbulent re-enactment of the Industrial Revolution ripped apart the tranquil scenes of pastoral Britain and its fluffy white clouds with demonic, steaming chimneys rising up to the clamour of drums. And was that a hint of Tolkien’s most famous creation when we saw the five rings being forged? In the centre of it all is Kenneth Branagh, who without knowing it, has probably been waiting all his life to relish the role of Isambard Kingdom Brunel striding about like the smuggest man in Britain. And thanks to Danny Boyle, I now know that I’ve been waiting all my life to see a group of top-hatted Victorian men form a dance troupe. Huzzah!
'Second to the Right' (0.38.30)
By far and away my favourite act, this was a tribute to both kid’s literature and the NHS - those three illuminated letters like a child blowing a huge political raspberry at critics of our national health service. In the countdown to the ceremony, Boyle revealed the emphasis he wanted to place on ‘the next generation’ and however sappy that sounds, I don’t know many under-25s who wouldn’t have been won over by J.K. Rowling’s appearance, or the giant Voldemort puppet that was vanquished by a Mary Poppins army. Again, more umbrellas. I sense a theme here.
'Mr Bean plays 'Chariots of Fire'' (0.50.30)
Much eye rolling happened in my house when a recital of ‘Chariots of Fire’ was announced – even if it was going to be conducted by the legendary Sir Simon Rattle. But cut to a scene of Mr Bean on a keyboard playing along (with an umbrella) and I defy anyone to remain cynical. Rather than the disciplined, formal choreography we saw at Beijing, London’s opening ceremony fully embraced British humour on several occasions, lending an unexpected quantity of warmth to the production.
'Frankie and June say... thanks, Tim' (0.56.22)
From the Industrial Revolution to the ‘digital revolution’, it really was a tale of two cities here. The explosion of British art and culture in this section showcased television, film, radio, a history of music AND narrated a modern love story AND explored the role of social media. There’s just something magnificent about a sporting event paying homage to the scientist who invented the World Wide Web. In fact, the onlt fault I had with this segment was the cheerful human interpretation of the London Underground. Hahahaah. I’ve never seen anyone smile on the Underground.
'Lighting of the flame by seven young heros' (3.33.34)
One of the main questions whilst watching the ceremony was “where is the Olympic cauldron?” with the idea of the giant tree in the stadium being set alight seriously discussed. Yet they managed to find an even more ingenious solution – the copper pestles that had been brought in by each nation competing being joined together to create one cauldron, which really captured the Olympic spirit and illustrated how the Games brings together all the participant countries. Even more amazing – athletes from the future lit the flame, fitting when our motto here is “inspire a generation”. Definitely not what the bookmakers expected.
Spot the umbrellas in the BBC's opening film for the ceremony: