When the winning city for the 2012 Olympics bid was announced in Singapore, Britain rejoiced for 24 hours. The following day, the 7/7 atrocity took place in the capital and the mood of the country flipped to sadness and anger. For a number of reasons, this Olympics will be etched into the memories of the host nation more than any other.
This is the 30th Olympiad and the 3rd occasion with London as the host nation. 4 years ago, it was Beijing and by any standards, the spectacular show the Chinese put on is crushingly difficult to follow. As always in the build up to such events, there have been wobbles along the way.
When Boris and Beckham in a bus rolled into the 2008 closing ceremony for the handover, I cringed. All Beckham had to do was kick a ball into a massive goal mouth and when he missed – I cringed again. It all looked so amateur in contrast to the drilled professionalism that surrounded them.
The Opening Ceremony for 2012 was a closely guarded secret. Indeed, when we took a helicopter over the Olympic park a few weeks before the ceremony, the flight restrictions were legion, apparently in place to stop photography of the rehearsals of the opening ceremony. Inside the stadium, there wasn’t much to be seen when we made our all too brief fly past. The base of the arena looked like the rolling fields of the British countryside.
We watched the opening ceremony nervously, hoping against hope that we didn’t embarrass ourselves on the world stage. we needn’t have worried – it was so good, we watched in again last night on BBC iPlayer. The opening was a bit shaky, with frolicking and wobbly Maypoles, but the choirs singing Jerusalem and Flower of Scotland raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
The Industrial Revolution kicked in and top hatted gentlemen in their hundreds made their way in. Uprooting trees and rolling back grass to make way for the vast belching chimneys. Pools of red-hot steel were poured into gullies to form large rings, Olympic rings. Once made whole, they were lifted skyward, triumphantly forming one of the most famous logos in the world.
A helicopter picked up James Bond and Her Majesty the Queen from Buckingham Palace and whisked them over the impressive London skyline and they parachuted into the stadium wearing Union Jack parachutes. The London Symphony Orchestra played Chariots of Fire with the help of Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean in one of the funniest sequences of the show. A tribute was paid to the digital age with Sir Tim Berners-Lee tweeting live from stage.
With our heritage of creative industry, music was always going to feature heavily in the opening ceremony. There were some strange choices I thought. Mike Oldfield and the Arctic Monkeys rather than the Rolling Stones. No Elton John or Cliff Richard for example. No Take That or the Spice Girls.
The athletes parade was enjoyable, but interminably long. It seemed to take an hour just to get through countries beginning with the letter ‘A’. There were many countries that I had never heard of and as the host nation, we had to wait until last. In we came along to David Bowie’s “We could be Heroes”.
One of the most poignant things I have seen for some time was the tribute to those who lost their lives in the 7/7 bombings. A haunting rendition of “Abide with me” as the photographs of the 56 victims flashed past in a montage on-screen. May they be remembered and let’s hope that nothing like it ever happens again.
Good luck to all our athletes. Proud to be British.
- Blackheath Big Screen starts tonight (blackheathbugle.wordpress.com)
- London Olympics 2012: let’s get the party started – Telegraph.co.uk (telegraph.co.uk)
- Enough moaning, let’s embrace the greatest show on Earth, says Lord Coe (telegraph.co.uk)
- All eyes on London and spectacular Games opening (dawn.com)
- [STATS] BBC iPlayer Performance Pack May 2012 (litmanlive.co.uk)