The European Politics Blog

London 2012 Opening Ceremony

The London 2012 Opening Ceremony was broadcast at 9:00 pm, on 27 July. The opening ceremony played out like a classic British theatrical masterpiece. I didn’t know what to expect from the ceremony really, because I’ve always had my inhibitions about the news that Danny Boyle was going to be directing it; I’m not a big fan of his films. I still haven’t gotten around to catching the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, so it wasn’t even possible for me to clue in all the hype and comparisons which was all over the BBC and Sky News. It was a bit questionable as to why Boyle particularly chose the Industrial Revolution as the starting point of showcasing British history. Was it just because it had to play out over the course of a few hours ? Perhaps so, but I’m glad he did because it was one of the best parts of the ceremony.

The show kicked off with an ensemble cast recreating the Revolution with Isambard Brunel and workers in factories and heavy-coal industries. The scene then slowly transcended to the First World War, migration of people to Britain following the break-up of the British Empire, the Second World War, and the special role that NHS played throughout the time. The poverty-stricken industrial age depended on the hospitals across the country during its dark days. And the many soldiers who fought in the wars, the many first aid workers from the British Red Cross, played a monumental role in shaping a victory for Britain as much as anyone else. Boyle created a great homage to all of this.

Fast-forward to the present day, there was an appearance by Great Ormond Street Hospital or GOSH as its often known, with famous characters from children’s novels, both good and evil, like Mary Poppins or the villain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, crashing the gathering. Tim Berners-Lee dropped by as well, and there were music performances by Paul McCartney, Emilie Sande and the Arctic Monkeys, with Sir Simon Rattle conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and Rowan Atkinson, to play Chariots of Fire. There was a modern dance and culture special, predominantly choreographed with the young in mind. There were snapshots of the Facebook culture, spontaneous romances, house parties and concerts.

If I had to say which part of the programme I least liked, I would have to say it was the Queen taking flight with the aid of a parachute. It was so unrealistic and not at all humorous. I liked that Steve Redgrave was present in the lighting of the Olympic flame and that David Beckham carried the torch to Redgrave on a motor boat, but I thought rather than have relatively unknown young people, who represent the aspirations of the youth, it would have been better to have Redgrave, Beckham, or an accomplished athlete do the once-in-a-lifetime honour.

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