After watching the spectacle of Beijing 2008 unfold from a bar in Hong Kong, I decided that I would one day watch an Opening Ceremony in person. I never expected that my first Opening Ceremony would find me in the press tribunes; nor did I expect London’s to be remotely comparable to Beijing. And Danny Boyle did not disappoint.
I thought it was an incredible show, because London didn’t even try to live up to 2008’s precedent. They simply did their own British thing, celebrating the host city and country, and it was charming and quirky and incredibly entertaining to watch.
I’ll warn you now: this is a photo-heavy post.
Before the ceremony: Media lining up for the bus to the stadium; being led into the press workroom at the stadium while props were being prepared backstage before the show.
Above: While the audience filed into the stadium, people in overalls walked around in circles carrying clouds, adding to the idyllic meadow feel of the opening scenes.
Below: My setup for the evening: Camera, water, internet; and yes, we were given 3D glasses.
Pre-show entertainment included giant inflatable balls being bounced through the audience.
And of course, after a week of beautiful weather, we finally got our first taste of English rain.
At 20:12, the ceremony started with a fly past by the Red Arrows.
When the countdown to going live reached 5, each number saw a pack of balloons — held by a group of children — being popped along with the countdown. Then Bradley Wiggins, fresh off winning the Tour de France, officially opened the ceremony by ringing the world’s largest harmonically tuned bell.
The industrial scenes, which led to the floating, colliding, smoldering Olympic rings, was one of my favorite parts of the entire ceremony.
Then came the following part about the NHS, featuring a large Voldemort and Child Catcher battling multiple Mary Poppins, ending with a giant NHS baby. I love Julie Andrew characters and I love Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but man, the giant Voldemort was unexpected.
The next scenes paid tribute to British music, television and film, while also celebrating Sir Tim Berners-Lee, British inventor of the world wide web — the giant flashing motto, “This is for everyone” was as much about the Internet as it was about the whole Opening Ceremony and upcoming Games.
Then came the performance dedicated to loved ones who had passed — I later read this was meant to be a tribute to those who died in the 7/7 bombings, and that NBC had cut this part and the US audience instead saw a clip of Ryan Seacrest interviewing Michael Phelps.
Parade of Nations
Above: The Czech Republic (wearing galoshes and holding umbrellas), North Korea, France, Ireland, Singapore, and the USA (so four countries that mean something to me; the other two I threw in for fun.)
Above: The section to my left was full of dignitaries and special guests; some would stand and wave as their country’s athletes walked past.
Below: The Parade of Nations is notoriously long. So keep the ceremony on time, besides the fast-paced music, they also had guys energetically encouraging the athletes to keep moving as quickly as possible.
As Great Britain came out, David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ played and confetti filled the stadium. It was pretty spectacular; I can’t imagine how amazing that must have felt for Team GB. Then came the fireworks:
Opening of the Games
After IOC President Jacques Rogge and LOCOG chair Seb Coe made their speeches, the Olympic flag was raised and the Olympic torch arrived (thanks in part to David Beckham on a speedboat). The flame was lit together by seven promising young British athletes, representing Great Britain’s hopes for the future.
Paul McCartney closed out the ceremony, which I LOVED. I grew up listening to almost nothing but the Beatles with my dad, so to hear ‘Hey Jude’ being sung live by McCartney himself was a truly special moment — the perfect finish to an Opening Ceremony I’ll always remember.