Olympic Action: Corgis and the Queen and Voldemort, oh my!
The 2012 London Summer Games got off to a thrilling start Friday night as the countries of the world joined together for one night of spectacle before the grueling days of competition get into full swing. The Opening Ceremonies always aim to awe and inspire, and London’s certainly fit the bill. Created by famed English film producer and director Danny Boyle, Friday night’s ceremonies were a trip through the United Kingdom’s past, and a glimpse at its future.
Our first look at the Ceremonies was a glimpse backwards, the stadium was converted into fields while children’s choirs performed songs celebrating England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. English actor Kenneth Branagh read from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the Opening Ceremonies had gotten off to a seemingly peaceful and mellow start. That tide began to change when the scenery of green pastures was rolled away while smoke stacks simultaneously rose from beneath. We were watching history in fast forward, quickly transitioning from the pastoral era to the Industrial Revolution.
In acknowledgement that while industry was booming, World War I was in full swing, performers dressed as soldiers held out red poppies in remembrance of those who gave their lives, while Industrial era workers banged on drums throughout the stadium, creating a booming and busy musical effect. The English history lesson soon ended, as the smokestacks faded back into the ground to make way for the Olympic rings that hung above the arena. In the first real spectacle of the evening, the rings lit up the sky and seemingly rained fire down into the stadium. With this, the fun had begun.
The Queen and Daniel Craig (Bond, James Bond) performed a skit in which Craig came to pick the Queen up at her home to escort her, by helicopter, to the Ceremonies. Complete with corgis and the Queen’s usual unenthusiastic demeanor, the short video was a hit. Just as the helicopter in the video neared the stadium, one appeared in real time, from which Craig and the Queen promptly jumped out of, parachuting into the stadium. For an 86-year-old, that Elizabeth sure is gutsy.
Once Elizabeth had been freed of her parachute and comfortably taken her seat, we entered into a children’s literature themed dreamlike sequence, complete with glowing beds, a reading by JK Rowling, and enormous versions of famous literary villains. The Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, and Voldemort loomed above the children performing as an army of Mary Poppins performers floated down on umbrellas to ward off the villains and their smaller minions that encircled the stage.
Rowan Atkinson made an appearance as a comical addition to the orchestra performing the Chariots of Fire theme, a nice break in all the action. It quickly picked back up with an ode to the digital era and Tim Berners-Lee, British computer scientist who created the World Wide Web. The NBC commentators rather embarrassingly admitted they had no idea who Berners-Lee was, but they certainly do now – along with the rest of the world watching the Opening Ceremonies. The stage turned into a party, as the young characters “Frankie and June” fell in love before our eyes, all thanks to a cell phone – lost by June and returned by Frankie. The characters danced to popular and classic songs from British bands and artists as classic film scenes flashed on the walls of a house that popped up in the middle of the arena. Probably every parent’s nightmare, the scene concluded with June sending out a post via social media that the party was moving back to her home.
Finally, the Parade of Nations began and we all scratched our heads as competitors paraded around in funky costumes and announced, “Wait, that’s a country?!” (Admit it, you know you thought it a time or two.) As each country’s competitors filed in, the stadium begin to fill with masses of color, a stunning aerial view of the world’s best athletes. With each country came a petal shaped copper plate, placed in a flower like formation in the arena.
Once Great Britain’s athletes had concluded the parade, the Queen declared the 2012 Games open and the sky lit up with fireworks. After making a stop at the hands of Muhammad Ali, the Olympic flag was raised. There was only one thing left to do, and the torch was on its way. The final hands to touch the torch belonged to seven of Britain’s best young athletes, the future of the Olympics. They each lit a single copper petal along the outside of this giant metal flower, triggering a domino effect, as the flame traveled inward until each copper petal was lit. The petals retracted inward, forming the Olympic cauldron before our eyes.
Fireworks once again lit up the London sky as Paul McCartney took to the stage to perform “Hey Jude” as smiling athletes sang along .
Let the Games begin.