I know this is alittle late to talk about, I was gonna write about this last night but I was asked out to go and see Dark Knight Rises (really good btw). Besides, for me to talk about this opening ceremony, it would have had to have been agonizingly bad, or one of the most awe inspiring things I have seen. I can tell you now, the London Olympic Ceremony was definitely the latter.
If you are in the UK, chances are you already watch this on Friday. This is more of a retrospective for those who may not have seen it, or people that actually enjoy my opinion. As I write this, I am rewatching the recording on Iplayer, so here is my thoughts and feelings of one hell of a ceremony. I warn you now, this is gonna be a long read.
So before the ceremony itself, we have the pre-show with folk rocker Frank Turner. I originally missed this bit and and was pissed cause I love Frank Turner. Search for him on Youtube, hes quirky and upbeat, my kind of thing. Anyway 9.00 and the show starts, a countdown begins with pictures of numbers from street signs and door numbers around London make up the countdown. As the show begins, a video package starts up showing the Isles of Wonder, the origins of the river Thames. The video package goes along the river, passing famous landmarks as it heads into London itself, sampled in with well known music from the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Eastenders theme tune. Then shit gets real when Muse is played and the video heads into the Olympic Stadium. Another countdown starts with bursting balloons and the show inside the stadium begins.
To kick it off, Bradley Wiggins, winner of the Tour De France 12, rings the bell to begin the performance. The stage is designed as a representation of rural England, with cricketers, Morris dancers and all things rustic, set to the music of choirs. Each one singing the anthems of the 4 nations, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Island. The only sound at this point is the singing choirs, to set the scene of the quiet and tranquil setting, which is to be heavily contrasted by a character in a horse and carriage entering the stadium.
Issinbard (no I dont know how to spell that) Brunel, played by Kenneth Branagh, gets out of the carriage and gives a speak from Shakespeare's, The Tempest (my dad tells me thats where it is from, but he may be wrong). This is to kickoff the next park of the performance, the light darken as drummers come into the stadium, as the tranquil setting is overshadowed significantly. This is representing the Industrial Revolution, where Britain became became the superpower of engineering back in the 19th Century. The once green and grassy set is transformed in seconds into the backdrop of large chimneys rising out of the ground. Hundreds of actors dressed in Victorian working uniforms, poor into the stadium as smoke and steam bellows out of everywhere. By now, the stadium is bathed in orange light. Machinery is everywhere, giant cotton looms and large mechanical wheels turning. The center of the scene is the construction of a large metallic ring, glowing red as if it was forged by steel during these times. The ring is hoisted up into the air and is joined by four more glowing rings, above the stadium. They join together in the air to create the Olympic rings, as they rain down sparks. The stadium is now drenched in calming blue, contrasting the fiery rings in the sky, as the only sound to be hard is a calming whistling. Fucking brilliant, and thats only part 1.
Another video package begins, showing Buckingham Palace. A man enters, with it being no other then Daniel Craig as James Bond. He goes to meet the Queen. No, not an actress playing the Queen, THE ACTUAL FRIGGING QUEEN, SHE ACTUALLY ACTS IN THIS SCENE!!!! Well I say "acting" but still, its was cool. They leave the palace and enter into a helicopter, flying around the City of London. It cuts to the stadium with the same helicopter live, hovering over the stadium. Bond is about to jump out but is beaten to it by the Queen as they both parachute into the Stadium, to the music of the Bond theme song. Ok it wasnt actually the Queen in the helicopter but believe me, it was funny to see. This is where the real Queen enters the stadium, and the flag is hoisted up. Now what follows is the part that nearly made me cry with joy. It was the singing of the National anthem which normally I wouldnt care about, but it was who sang it. It was by "Chaos", the childrens choir of the deaf. Believe me, they sounded utterly wonderful, it really gets to you
Here comes the next part of the ceremony, a celebration of both UK literature and the National Health Service, set to the music of Mike Oldfield. And then the smooth jazz starts. The stage is filled with glowing trampoline beds as nurses dance around the stage. I WANT A GLOWING TRAMPOLINE BED, I WANT IT CAUSE OF REASONS!!! The dancing fades out as the children, bouncing on this beds are put to sleep, with the glow of the beds the only thing to be seen in the stadium. A narrator begins to read from Peter Pan, the narrator being the one and only JK Rolling. Then this is where the crazy shit happens, again. Rising from one of the beds, FUCKING VOLDEMORT, 20 FEET TALL!!!!! The next bit shows the famous villains from British literature, including the Child Catcher and Cruella Deville. Then to save the day, over 30 Mary Poppins' flying down on umbellas to clear all the villians away, yes I did just type that, no I'm not high. Thus ending part 2 of the ceremony, a well deserved tribute to our health service. Its not the best but its free.
Up next, is the London Symphony Orchestra, performing the classic theme to the film, Chariots of Fire. However, the attention is turned to the keyboard player, who is none other then Rowan Atkinson, reprising his role as Mr Bean. I startled my mum by how much I was laughing at the reveal. Explaining what happens in this scene would take away from the comedy so if you can find this part on Youtube, watch it, its so funny.
Next comes, for me personally, the weakest part of the performance. This is a performance to showcase the digital age, with people using games consoles, mp3 players, social networking etc etc. Music from the past 40 years is showcased here to represent youth culture through the decades, includes hits from the Jam, The Who, T-Rex and the Sugarbabes. Yea I groaned in pain when I heard the Sugarbabes too. This is the part where its not that easy to describe. The visuals are just so colourful and fast paced that I couldnt write it all if I tried. All I can say is over 30 songs from British music are played, each with costume changes to show the style, from Bowie glitter rockers, to leather studded punk rockers. What thing I can describe is when Firestarter by the Prodigy plays and fire is shot up from the ground and a rave begins, thats was the highlight for me. Then Dizzee Rascal starts playing, literally, hes there at the stadium. Normally I'm not a fan, but in this case it fits. Plus I love the idea of Olympic officials watching this getting up and raving along. As this section ends, in the middle of the stage, reveals Sir Tim Bernes Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. Stand up and show some respect you heathens!!
Up nexxt, is another video package. This one showing the relay on the Olympic torch traveling around the country. It ends with the live showing on the torch on a speedboat heading to the stadium, driven by English football star, David Beckham. We will come back to this later. But next is the tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks in London, back in 2007. A muro is shown with portraits of all the victims of that attack. The stage is darkened with the only light being from an large sun like sphere in the middle of the stage, as dancers perform in powder for some haunting but beautiful visuals. All while set to the singing of R&B star, Emile Sande. There were many jokes that I had in my head at this scene, but I dared not utter a single one.
Now this is the part that lasted for fucking ages, the entrance of the athletes. This was an eye opener though, as there was so many countries I have never heard of. I learnt more countries then I ever did back at school, bloody Geography classes. One thing that should be noted that with each country, alongside the flag bearer, is another person carrying a strange copper funnel. This will be explained later. Another note that should be made is all this time, as over 200 hundred countries come out into the stadium, there is a long row of drummers who for almost an hour, are drumming a rhythm. They must have been bloody knackered. When all the athletes are out, we have the Arctic Monkeys play their big hit, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, followed by a cover of Come Together by the Beatles. During this cover, over a hundred cyclists, rigged with glowing wings, ride into the stadium. I have no idea what this part was to represent, but it looked pretty so screw it. The highlight being one of the cyclists doing there best ET impression by riding the bike in the air.
Now here comes the crap part, the speeches by the Olympic Committee, completely boring so lets move on.
Fireworks are shot for the rising of the Olympic flag, carried in by various representatives of peace and aid work. This is also where I learnt that there is a Olympic national anthem, not very catchy but hey. This is followed up by the arrival of the Olympic torch. Now the one who would be lighting the cauldron has been a hot topic here, with everyone having a different idea of who it would be. Turns out everyone was wrong, as the cauldron would be lighted by not one, but seven unknown young athletes, chosen by some of the greatest UK athletes. The seven head into the center of the stadium, where a large spiky structure sits. This is where the copper funnels come into play. The structure has long poles sticking out, each one connected with one of the copper funnels. The seven chosen athletes, each with their own torches, run to the structure. They each pick a funnel and light it. The fire spreads to each one of the funnels, until each one is lit. The poles then all rise together to point upwards, they come together as the flames join. The fires burn together and the cauldron is let, starting the games.
The ceremony ends with the a mass sing along of Hey Jude, performed by of course, Paul Mccartney.
Ok so that was a dam long run through of the ceremony, as theres a good reason why I wrote about. It was because, for the first time in my life, I had national pride. I was proud to be British. The ceremony showed where we came from, our music, our culture, our humour and our pride. It was funny, inspiring, somber, tear jerking, nearly every emotion was represented here. I expected nothing else from Danny Boyle, director of Slumdog Millionare and Transpotting. So if you can watch the full thing, either as a DVD release months later or find it on Youtube, I highly recommend that you watch this if you havent already.
As I said, watching this was the first time I was proud to be British, well done Opening Ceremony, Beijing in 2008 hasnt got shit on you.