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Final rehearsal on 25 July for the opening ceremony two days later
|Date||21:00, 27 July 2012 (+01:00)|
|Time||9 p.m. BST|
|Location||London, United Kingdom|
|Also known as||Isles of Wonder|
|Footage||The ceremony on the IOC YouTube channel|
Final rehearsal on 25 July for the opening ceremony two days later
|Date||21:00, 27 July 2012 (+01:00)|
|Time||9 p.m. BST|
|Location||London, United Kingdom|
|Also known as||Isles of Wonder|
|Footage||The ceremony on the IOC YouTube channel|
|Part of a series on|
The opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games took place on the evening of Friday 27 July in the Olympic Stadium, London. As mandated by the Olympic Charter, the proceedings combined the formal and ceremonial opening of this international sporting event, including welcoming speeches, hoisting of the flags and the parade of athletes, with an artistic spectacle to showcase the host nation’s culture. For London 2012 the Games were formally opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The spectacle was entitled Isles of Wonder and directed by Academy Award-winning British film director Danny Boyle, with music specially written by electronic music group Underworld.
Prior to London 2012 there had been considerable apprehension about Britain’s ability to stage an opening ceremony that would reach the standard set by the Beijing Summer Games in 2008, where the ceremony had been noted for its scale, extravagance and expense, and been hailed as the "greatest ever". The Beijing ceremony had cost £65m whereas London spent an estimated £27m (out of £80m budgeted for its four ceremonies), which was nevertheless about twice the original budget. However, the 2012 ceremony was generally seen as a tremendous success, praised by numerous publications and spectators as a "masterpiece" and "a love letter to Britain".
The ceremony began at 21:00 BST and lasted almost four hours. It was watched by an estimated worldwide television audience of 900 million, becoming the most-viewed Olympic opening ceremony in both the UK and US. The content had largely been kept secret until the performance itself, despite involving thousands of volunteers and after two public rehearsals. The principal sections of the artistic display represented Britain's Industrial Revolution, National Health Service, literary heritage, popular music and culture, and were noted for their vibrant storytelling and use of music. Two shorter sections drew particular comment, involving a filmed cameo appearance of the Queen, and a live performance by the London Symphony Orchestra joined by Rowan Atkinson. These were widely ascribed to Britain's sense of humour. The ceremony featured children and young people in most of its segments, reflecting the 'inspire a generation' aspiration of London's original bid for the Games.
The BBC released footage of the entire opening ceremony on 29 October 2012, edited by Danny Boyle and with background extras, along with more than seven hours of sporting highlights and the complete closing ceremony.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) approached Danny Boyle to be the director of the ceremony in June 2010, and he immediately accepted. Boyle said that the four things that made him take the job were that he was a big fan of the Olympics, he lived within a mile of the Stadium and so felt invested in the area, his late father's birthday was on the date selected for the ceremony, and he felt his Oscar 'clout' would enable him to push through what he wanted to do. He has stated that it "felt weirdly more like a ... kind of civic or national responsibility" to take the job.
Boyle acknowledged that the extravagance of the opening ceremony for Beijing 2008 was an impossible act to follow — "you can't get bigger than Beijing" — and that this realisation had in fact liberated his team creatively. In an interview Boyle observed "the key things are obviously I’m not going to try and build on Beijing, because how could you? We can’t, and you wouldn’t want to, so we’re going back to the beginning. We’re going to try and give the impression that we’re rethinking and restarting, because they’ve (Olympic opening ceremonies) escalated since Los Angeles in 1984. They’ve tried to top themselves each time and you can’t do that after Beijing." Beijing's budget had been £65m, whereas London's final budget was £27m, which was twice the original provision; the London stadium had the same number of seats as Beijing's, but was half the size. This intimacy of scale meant that Boyle felt he could achieve something personal and connecting.
The different sections of the ceremony were designed to reflect aspects of British history and culture, with the title Isles of Wonder partly inspired by Shakespeare's play The Tempest, and in particular Caliban's 'Be not afeard' speech, and partly by the G. K. Chesterton aphorism: "The world shall perish not for lack of wonders, but for lack of wonder."
In July 2010 Boyle started brainstorming ideas with designer Mark Tildesley, writer Frank Cottrell Boyce and costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb. They considered "what was essentially British", with the non-British Larlarb able to represent what the world thought Britain meant. Cottrell Boyce had given Boyle a copy of Pandaemonium, (the capital of Hell in Paradise Lost) by Humphrey Jennings, which collated contemporary reports from those who witnessed the industrial revolution. In Olympic opening ceremonies, it had become the tradition to 'produce' the Olympic rings in a spectacular manner during the show. Cottrell Boyce commented "Danny had a very clear idea that in the first 15 minutes you had to have a great, startling image that could go around the world; it had to climax with something that made people go, Oh my God!". Boyle decided that "the journey from the pastoral to the industrial, ending with the forging of the Olympic rings", would be that image. The ten distinct chapters on which they worked were gradually compressed into three main movements: the birth of the modern world in violent transition from a "Green and Pleasant Land" to the "Pandemonium" of industrial revolution, a salute to the NHS and children's literature, and a celebration of pop culture, technology and the digital revolution.
When Boyle returned to work on the Ceremony in the spring of 2011 he asked Rick Smith of Underworld, with whom he had worked on several film projects as well as his recent theatrical production of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, to be the ceremony's musical director. At the same time the team moved to the Three Mills studio complex in east London, where a 4x4 metre scale model of the stadium was built. For security reasons, a single CGI-assisted version of the ceremony was kept on editor Sascha Dillon's laptop. Anyone needing to see it had to come to the studio.
The cast included professional performers and 7,500 volunteers. Boyle considered the volunteers "the most valuable commodity of all". In November 2011 they auditioned at Three Mills, and rehearsals began in earnest in spring 2012 at an open-air site at Dagenham (the abandoned Ford plant), often in foul weather conditions. Although key contributors had to sign non-disclosure agreements and key elements were codenamed, Boyle placed immense trust in the volunteers by asking them simply to "save the surprise", and not leak any information.
Further volunteers were recruited to help with security, marshalling, and supporting the technical crew. Mark Rylance, who was to have taken a leading part, pulled out after a family bereavement and was replaced by Kenneth Branagh three weeks before the ceremony.
As part of the preparations the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world, weighing 23 tonnes, had been cast in brass under the direction of Mears & Stainbank by Royal Eijsbouts of the Netherlands and hung in the Stadium. This was inscribed with a line from a speech by Caliban in The Tempest: "Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises". In preparing the ceremony Boyle gave significant emphasis to the London 2012 theme 'inspire a generation' and devised a programme relying heavily on children and young people, and built around themes that would relate to the young. 25 schools in the six original East London host boroughs were used to recruit child volunteers for the performance. 170 sixth formers (16–18 year olds), between them speaking more than 50 languages, were also recruited from colleges in the host boroughs.
In June 2012 Boyle had given a preview that promised a huge set of rural Britain that would include a village cricket team, farm animals, a model of Glastonbury Tor, as well as a maypole and a rain-producing cloud. The intention was to represent the rural and urban landscape of Britain. The design was to include a mosh pit at each end of the set, one with people celebrating a rock festival and the other the Last Night of the Proms. Boyle promised a ceremony in which everyone would feel involved; he said, "I hope it will reveal how peculiar and contrary we are – and how there's also, I hope, a warmth about us". Some of the set was designed with turf of real grass and real soil. The use of animals (40 sheep, 12 horses, 3 cows, 2 goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, 9 geese and 3 sheep dogs, looked after by 34 animal handlers) drew criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Boyle, who was being advised by the RSPCA, assured PETA that the animals would be well cared for.
The overwhelming majority of the music used in the ceremony was British. The opening ceremony team worked next door to the office of the musical director of the closing ceremony, David Arnold. Each team would hear the music the other team was hoping to use in their respective ceremonies and there would be a scramble to claim a song first. A.R. Rahman, who worked with Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, said he had composed a Punjabi song 'Nimma Nimma' for the ceremony, to showcase Indian influence in the UK, according to Boyle's wishes. More Indian music, Ilaiyaraja's song from Tamil-language film Ram Lakshman, had also been chosen for the medley. Paul McCartney was to be the ceremony's closing act.
Sebastian Coe was instrumental in asking the Queen to take part in the film sequence. Director Danny Boyle first pitched the idea to Coe, who loved the idea. Coe asked Princess Anne, who is a British representative in the International Olympic Committee and a member of LOCOG what she thought of the idea, and she told Coe to ask the Queen. So he took it to his friend the Deputy Private Secretary to the Queen. Boyle had two plans: that either a lookalike would be used for the Queen, or that a world-class actress such as Helen Mirren would play her, and filming would take place in a house that could double as Buckingham Palace. He was surprised to hear back that the Queen was happy to play herself. The filming of the Queen's part took place in late March and "Happy and Glorious" was one of two films along with the opening sequence "Isles of Wonder" produced by the BBC. The opening sequence to the Isle of Wonder at the source of the Thames was taken on the third attempt.
Changes were still being made to the programme in the final days before the ceremony: a BMX bike section was dropped due to time constraints, and the "Pandemonium" and "Thanks, Tim" sections were edited down.
Two full dress and technical rehearsals took place in the Olympic stadium, on 23 and 25 July, in front of an audience of 60,000 volunteers, competition winners and others connected to the Games. Danny Boyle asked them not to 'spoil the surprise' (#savethesurprise) for the billions who would watch on the Friday night.
Seated in the Royal Box were the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and other members of the British Royal Family. They were accompanied by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, David Cameron, the Prime Minister, with his wife Samantha Cameron, and by former Prime Ministers John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and by London Mayor Boris Johnson. Officials of the Olympic movement included Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC, and Sebastian Coe, Chairman of the LOCOG.
International guests included Queen Sofia of Spain, Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand, First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima of the Netherlands, Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson-Miller, Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard, President of Singapore Tony Tan Keng Yam, Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, the President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
At exactly 20:12 (8:12 pm) the Red Arrows performed a flypast over the Olympic Stadium and then the concert in Hyde Park. This concert featured artists selected to represent the four nations of the United Kingdom: Duran Duran, Stereophonics, Snow Patrol and Paolo Nutini.
The prologue featured Frank Turner who performed three songs ("Sailor's Boots", "Wessex Boy" and "I Still Believe") on the model of Glastonbury Tor. He was joined by Emily Barker, Ben Marwood and Jim Lockey, as well as his regular backing band the Sleeping Souls.
The prologue also included a performance of Edward Elgar's "Nimrod" from the Enigma Variations by LSO On Track, an orchestra of 80 young musicians aged 7 to 17 from ten East London boroughs with 20 London Symphony Orchestra members. This prologue celebrated Britain's maritime heritage and was accompanied by extracts from the BBC Radio Shipping Forecast and maritime images on the stadium big screens, with the audience holding up blue sheeting to simulate the sight and sound of the ocean.
The ceremony began at 9pm after a one-minute '60 to 1' countdown film made up of shots of numbers, such as on house doors, street nameplates, London buses and market labels.
A two-minute film Journey along the Thames, directed by Danny Boyle and produced with the BBC, opened the ceremony. To the sound of "Surf Solar" by Fuck Buttons, the film followed the River Thames from its source to the heart of London, juxtaposing images of contemporary British life with pastoral shots. The characters Ratty, Mole and Toad from The Wind in the Willows were briefly seen, as was a Monty Python hand pointing towards London displayed on umbrellas, and an InterCity 125 train passing the Olympic rings as crop circles in the fields. Passing Battersea Power Station a Pink Floyd pig was flying between its towers; the clock sound from another Pink Floyd song "Time" was heard passing Clock Tower at the Palace of Westminster. The soundtrack featured music clips including the theme tune of The South Bank Show, "London Calling" by The Clash, as well as the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" along the route of the band's infamous cruise during the Queen's Silver Jubilee. After lifting to an aerial view of East London mirroring the title sequence of the British TV soap EastEnders (the drum beats that precede the closing theme are heard), the film flashed back down through the Thames Barrier, then switching below surface where the London Underground was seen (and "Mind the gap" heard), as well as historic footage of Brunel's Thames Tunnel, and the Rotherhithe Tunnel. A sequence filmed outside the stadium shortly before the ceremony followed, to display posters from all the modern Summer Olympics except 1900 Paris, 1936 Berlin, 1984 Los Angeles, and 1996 Atlanta, to a recording of "Map Of The Problematique" by Muse. This ended with three cast members filmed live who were holding up posters for this year's competition.
There was then a 10-second countdown in the stadium, with children holding clusters of balloons that burst simultaneously with the audience shouting out the numbers.
Bradley Wiggins, who had won the 2012 Tour de France five days earlier, opened the ceremony by ringing the stadium bell. Four upper-atmosphere balloons were released, each expected to carry a set of Olympic rings and a camera up to the mid-stratosphere.
At the beginning the stadium contained a rural scene including the model of Glastonbury Tor, a model village and a water wheel, replete with live animals (removed shortly before the ceremony began), and actors portraying working villagers, football and cricket players. This represented the ancient and mythical past. Youth choirs began a cappella performances of the informal anthems of the four nations of the UK: "Jerusalem" (for England, sung by a live choir in the stadium and beginning with a solo from 11-year-old Humphrey Keeper), "Danny Boy" (from the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland), "Flower of Scotland" (from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland), and "Bread of Heaven" (from Rhossili Beach in Wales – sung in English). These were inter-cut with footage of notable Rugby Union Home Nations' tries and England's winning drop goal from the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final and live shots from the stadium. During the singing the cast mimed various rural activities, this section of the performance billed as "a reminder and a promise of a once and future better life".
As the last choir performance concluded, vintage London General Omnibus Company stagecoaches entered, carrying business men and early industrialists in Victorian dress complete with top hats, led by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (played by Kenneth Branagh). The 50 men stepped down from the carriages and surveyed the land approvingly. After walking onto the Glastonbury Tor, Brunel delivered Caliban's "Be not afeard" speech from Act 3, Scene II of Shakespeare's The Tempest, reflecting Boyle's introduction to the ceremony in the programme. The speech by Brunel signified an aspiration of new industry or a new era in Britain and anticipated the next chapter of the ceremony.
This section encapsulated British economic and social development from rural economy through Industrial Revolution to the 1960s.
Proceedings were suddenly interrupted by a loud shout, recorded by volunteers during the rehearsals, followed by drumming (the pre-recorded dumming amplified by 965 cast members drumming on inverted household buckets and bins) and Underworld's "And I Will Kiss", led by Evelyn Glennie. The three-tonne oak tree on top of the Glastonbury Tor lifted, and industrial workers emerged from both the Tor's brightly lit interior and the entrances to the stadium, to swell the cast. So began what Boyle had called the "biggest scene change in theatre history" and something he had been advised against attempting, with 2,500 volunteers taking part in this section of the ceremony. As the cast rolled away the grass and other rural props, seven smoking chimney stacks with accompanying steeplejacks rose from the ground, along with other industrial machinery: five beam engines, six looms, a crucible and a water wheel (one of the few items left from the rural scene). Boyle said that this section of the ceremony celebrated the "tremendous potential" afforded by the advancements of the Victorian era. It also included a minute of silence in remembrance of the sacrifice and loss of life of both the World Wars, featuring British 'Tommies' and poppies. Unprompted, members of the audience stood during this as a mark of respect.
Actors paraded around the stadium representing historical groups that changed the face of Britain: the woman's suffrage movement, the Jarrow Crusade, the first Caribbean immigrants arriving in Britain on board The Empire Windrush, a 1970s DJ float, Nostalgia Steel Band, and The Beatles as they appeared on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Also included were real-life Chelsea Pensioners, the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, and a group of Pearly Kings and Queens. Workers began casting an iron ring. As the noise level and tension built, driven by the relentless rhythm of the music and the drumming, participants mimed repetitive mechanical movements associated with industrial processes, such as weaving.
Four glowing orange rings high above the stadium began gradually to be carried toward the centre on overhead wires, and the ring seemingly being cast and forged on the stadium floor began to lift. The five rings came together high above the stadium, still glowing and accompanied by steam and firework effects to give the impression that they were newly forged. When the five rings formed the Olympic symbol, they ignited and rained fire, in silver and gold. This image of the rings in flame became the iconic image of the ceremony, reproduced in newspapers and web stories around the world.
A short film directed by Danny Boyle and produced with the BBC, called Happy and Glorious (after a line in the national anthem), featured the character James Bond, played by the current Bond actor Daniel Craig, entering the front gate of Buckingham Palace in a London black cab. His entrance (accompanied by an arrangement of Handel's 'The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba') is noticed by Brazilian children in the throne room (a nod to Rio de Janeiro, the host city of the next summer Olympic games). Bond escorted Queen Elizabeth II (who played herself, acknowledging Bond with the words, "Good evening, Mr Bond") out of the building and into a waiting AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter. The helicopter flies across London skirting a route next to the Thames River towards the Olympic stadium. The helicopter flies above the cheers of a crowd on The Mall, going past London landmarks Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, the Palace of Westminster with an animated Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square, the London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral, the financial district City of London (with the 30 St Mary Axe building in the background), and then passes through the towers of Tower Bridge, accompanied by the Dambusters March. The film finished with Bond and the Queen apparently jumping from the helicopter above the Olympic Stadium accompanied by the James Bond Theme. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, along with Rogge, were then introduced to the audience in the Stadium. The Queen was wearing the same dress as in the film, as if she had just arrived with James Bond.
The Union Flag was raised by members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, while the first and third verses of the national anthem were performed a cappella by the Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children.
In the scenes where the Queen gets into and is sitting in the helicopter, she was doubled by actress Julia McKenzie. For the parachute jump, the Queen was played by BASE jumper and stuntman Gary Connery, who wore a dress and hat identical to that worn by the Queen. Bond was played by Mark Sutton.
The first part of this sequence celebrated the National Health Service (NHS – "the institution which more than any other unites our nation", according to the programme), with music by Mike Oldfield. 600 dancers, all of whom were NHS staff, along with 1,200 volunteers recruited from hospitals around the UK, entered with children on 320 hospital beds, some of which functioned as trampolines. They started a short jive routine. Watching from the tor were specially invited hospital staff and nine child patients from Great Ormond Street Hospital. The beds' blankets illuminated, and the beds were arranged into a child's face with a smile and a tear (Great Ormond Street Hospital's logo) and its acronym "GOSH", then into the initials NHS, turning into the shape of a crescent moon as the children were hushed to sleep and read a book by an adult/nurse.
The sequence then moved on to celebrate British children's literature. J. K. Rowling began by reading a section from J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan (whose copyright was given to Great Ormond Street Hospital). The Child Catcher then appeared amongst the children, followed by large puppet representations of children's literature villains: the Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, Cruella de Vil and Lord Voldemort. Minutes later, 32 women playing Mary Poppins descended on flying umbrellas as the villains deflated and the actors resumed dancing. The music for this sequence included partially rearranged sections from Tubular Bells (played in part on a giant set of tubular bells at the rear of the stage), Tubular Bells III and, after the villains were driven from the stage by the Mary Poppins characters, In Dulci Jubilo. During this performance the children in pyjamas jumped up and down on their brightly lit beds, creating a memorable image amid the darkness of the stadium.
The sequence concluded with the introduction, in the centre of the arena, of a pale, gigantic baby's head, with a rippling sheet where its body should be. This apparently celebrated the Scottish pioneers of obstetric ultrasound imaging.
Simon Rattle was then introduced to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Vangelis's "Chariots of Fire". Rowan Atkinson appeared, in character as Mr. Bean, comically playing a repeated note on a synthesizer. He then lapsed into a filmed dream sequence in which he joined the runners from the film Chariots of Fire, beating them in their iconic run along West Sands at St Andrews by riding in a car, rejoining the race and tripping the front runner.
This sequence celebrated British popular music and culture paying homage to the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 21st century. To the accompaniment of the BBC newsreel theme 'Girls in Grey' and the theme song from The Archers, a young mother and son drove up to a full-size replica of a modern British house in a Mini Cooper. The 1987 "don't worry about a hurricane" weather forecast by Michael Fish was shown on the big screens as rain suddenly poured on the house. In the centre of the arena, another house, three times larger, was used as a projection screen on all four sides to show clips from various British TV programmes, music videos, and films, including A Matter of Life and Death − June is named for its protagonist and a clip from the film figures prominently at her first meeting with Frankie − as well as Gregory's Girl, Kes, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Boyle's own Trainspotting. A large group of dancers, centred around Frankie and June (19-year-old Henrique Costa and 18-year-old Jasmine Breinburg) on a night out, performed to an assortment of British popular songs arranged broadly chronologically, beginning with "Going Underground" by The Jam, suggesting their ride on the London Underground. Throughout the sequence cast members were seen to send text messages to each other or place social networking status updates on the Internet. Frankie and June first noticed each other as a snippet from "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton plays, but when Frankie saw that June had dropped her phone on the Tube, he set off to return it (communicating through a friend's phone).
An extended dance sequence followed, with songs including "My Generation" by The Who, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones, "She Loves You" by the Beatles, "Trampled Underfoot" by Led Zeppelin, "Starman" by David Bowie, "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen (during which the sound of the TARDIS from Doctor Who could be heard), "Pretty Vacant" by the Sex Pistols (during which dancers on power jumpers wearing large heads with Mohawk hairstyles performed a pogo dance), "Blue Monday" by New Order, "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (during which Frankie, asked by June for his name, replied by revealing one of the band's "Frankie say..." T-shirts), "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)" by Soul II Soul, "Step On" by Happy Mondays, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by Eurythmics, "Firestarter" by The Prodigy, and "Born Slippy .NUXX" by Underworld, ending with a sequence where the cast sang "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" as Frankie and June walked towards each other. A sequence from the film Four Weddings and a Funeral was projected behind them; when they kissed, a montage of memorable kisses from film and real life was shown (including the lesbian kiss from Brookside, which in some countries became the first lesbian kiss ever shown on pre-watershed television). A live performance of "Bonkers" by Dizzee Rascal followed, along with a further sequence in which all the cast (and Britain's Got Talent fame dancing duo Signature) attended a party at June's house whilst Amy Winehouse's "Valerie", Muse's "Uprising" and Tinie Tempah's "Pass Out" played.
At the close the larger house was raised to reveal Tim Berners-Lee inside, working at a NeXT Computer like the one on which he invented the World Wide Web. He tweeted 'This is for everyone', instantly spelled out in LED lights attached to the stadium seating. The programme explained "Music connects us with each other and with the most important moments in our lives. One of the things that makes those connections possible is the World Wide Web". Boyle wanted to honour Berners-Lee for making the World Wide Web free and available to everyone (hence the tweet), rather than making a commercial profit from it.
A filmed sequence then showed extracts from the torch relay around the UK to the music "I Heard Wonders" by David Holmes, cutting to show David Beckham driving a dramatically illuminated motor boat down the River Thames and under Tower Bridge to fireworks, while footballer Jade Bailey held on to the torch in the boat. This section had been rehearsed on 24 July 2012 with close-up shots taken, and was directed by Stephen Daldry.
There was then a tribute to "..friends and family of those in the stadium who cannot be here tonight", including the victims of the '7/7' 2005 London bombings (on the day after London had been awarded the Games). Photos of people who had died were displayed on screens as a memorial, accompanied by an excerpt from Brian Eno's ambient work "An Ending (Ascent)".
The Parade of Nations of athletes (drawn from the 10,490 competing) and officials from 204 nations (and the team of the "Independent Olympic Athletes") was led, according to custom, by the Greek team followed by other competing countries in alphabetical order and finally the host nation Great Britain. Each of the 205 teams entered the stadium led by their flagbearer, accompanied by a child volunteer carrying a copper petal (later revealed to be part of the cauldron) and a young woman carrying a sign with the country's name in English and wearing a dress made entirely from fabric printed with photos of people who had applied to be 2012 Olympic volunteers.
The parade was accompanied by mainly British popular songs, including "Galvanize" by Chemical Brothers, "West End Girls" by Pet Shop Boys, "The Hindu Times" by Oasis, "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele, "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees and both "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "Beautiful Day" by Irish band U2, with Great Britain entering to David Bowie's song "Heroes". The soundtrack for the parade was assembled by DJ and producer High Contrast.
Music with a fast rhythm of 120 bpm was used in an attempt to keep the teams walking quickly around the stadium, and this was reinforced by the drummers in the stadium; nevertheless the parade part of the programme took 1 hour 40 minutes to complete, compared to the 1 hour 29 minutes estimated in the official media guide. Once all of the athletes were inside the stadium, 7 billion small pieces of paper were dropped from a Westland helicopter, each piece representing one person on the planet.
Each nation's flag was planted on the model of Glastonbury Tor.
After the Parade, the Arctic Monkeys performed "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" and The Beatles' "Come Together", the latter whilst 75 cyclists circled the stadium with wings lit by LEDs representing Doves of Peace. Doves are traditionally released as part of the Olympic opening ceremony, although real birds were last used in 1992. A single dove cyclist, his beak painted yellow in honour of Bradley Wiggins, appeared to fly out of the stadium.
The formal part of the ceremony was introduced by Sebastian Coe, who welcomed the watching world to London. He expressed his pride in being British and part of the Olympic movement and stated that the Olympics were "to celebrate what is best about mankind". Rogge responded by thanking London, and stating that it was the third time that London had held the Olympics, previously at very short notice when Rome was unable to do so (after a volcanic eruption), and secondly in 1948 three years after World War II. Rogge acknowledged the important role that the UK had played in establishing the "fair play" ethos of sport, and in making sport part of the school curriculum. Rogge thanked the thousands of volunteers. He pointed out that for the first time in Olympic history, every team had female participants. He enjoined the athletes to play fairly and be drug free, reminding them that they were role models for future generations. He then invited the Queen to open the Games.
The Queen declared the competition officially open, immediately followed by a fireworks display. The 2012 ceremony was the second time the Queen opened an Olympic Games, the first being the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal in her capacity as Queen of Canada.
The Olympic Flag was carried by eight people chosen from around the world as symbols of the Olympic values: Ban Ki-moon, Daniel Barenboim, Sally Becker, Shami Chakrabarti, Leymah Gbowee, Haile Gebrselassie, Doreen Lawrence and Marina Silva. The flag paused in front of Muhammad Ali, who touched it. Ali (who had lit the flame at the 1996 Atlanta Games) appeared frail, and was accompanied by his wife Lonnie. The Flag was received by a colour guard of Her Majesty's Armed Forces and hoisted to the Olympic Hymn, performed by the LSO and the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. The Olympic Oaths were taken by taekwondo athlete Sarah Stevenson on behalf of the athletes, by Mik Basi, British AIBA Referee, on behalf of the officials and by Eric Farrell on behalf of the coaches.
Continuing with the theme of British pop songs, this section took its title from the song of the same name by The Smiths. David Beckham's motorboat carrying the Olympic Flame arrived at the stadium via the Limehouse Cut. Steve Redgrave lit his torch from that on the boat, and carried this into the stadium, through a guard of honour of 500 construction workers who built the Olympic Park. He passed the flame on to one of a team of seven young athletes each nominated by a famous British Olympian to convey the 2012 Games' aim to "inspire a generation". The torchbearers were (nominator in brackets):
The teenagers made a lap of the stadium taking turns to hold the torch, while Alex Trimble, lead singer of Two Door Cinema Club, performed "Caliban's Dream" with the Dockhead Choir, Only Men Aloud, Elizabeth Roberts, and Esme Smith. This was written specifically for the ceremony by Rick Smith of Underworld.
The cauldron designed by Thomas Heatherwick was described as "one of the best-kept secrets of the opening ceremony"; until this point, neither its design, nor its location, nor the identity of the persons lighting it had been revealed. Each young athlete was greeted by their nominating Olympian, and each presented with their own torches, which were lit from the Olympic flame. The young athletes then jogged through a passageway formed between the assembled athletes to the centre of the stadium, where the 204 copper petals (each inscribed with the name of the team it had accompanied during the parade) were now seen attached to long pipes in a circular formation (the petals were to accompany each team home after the competition). The seven young athletes lit some of the petals, and when the flame had spread to all of them, they slowly rose to converge and form the Olympic cauldron.
This section of the ceremony was witnessed by 260 of Britain's greatest Olympians, including six medal winners from 1948.
A further firework display, soundtracked by Pink Floyd's song "Eclipse", was interspersed with images of memorable Olympic victories, and the audience pixels were used to show Jesse Owens running around the stadium seating area. The climax of this section was a live view of the Olympic rings 34 kilometres (21 mi) above the Earth seen from one of the balloons that had been launched when the ceremony started. The Orbit tower was then illuminated, and Paul McCartney and his band performed "The End" and "Hey Jude", with its chorus-like finale sung by the audience to close the ceremony at 00:46 BST.
The choice of music was eclectic, to showcase almost exclusively British music with pieces representing the Four Nations of the United Kingdom. The programme included classical works by British composers such as Hubert Parry, and performances by a range of UK choirs and orchestras. The focus was mainly on music of the 1960s onwards, causing one Chinese journalist to ask "Will this be the most rock and roll opening ceremony ever?".
Danny Boyle chose Rick Smith of Underworld, with whom he had worked on several film projects, as musical director. Underworld composed pieces especially for the ceremony, including "And I Will Kiss", performed by Evelyn Glennie and drummers during the "Pandemonium" section, and "Caliban's Dream" heard during the lighting of the cauldron. Underworld's original pieces were favourably reviewed. Writing in The Guardian, Michael Hann said "Underworld ... had a bit of a triumph: the builds and fades they learned in the world of dance music lent the sometimes overwhelming visual spectacle a sense of structure".
Musical motifs were used to bind the whole programme together: for example, the 'whistling' theme first heard during the minute's silence embedded within "And I Will Kiss" during the "Pandemonium" section of the ceremony returned frequently — behind the fury as the ring was being forged, emerging triumphant as the five rings came together, and again later as the main theme of "Caliban's Dream" as the flame entered the stadium and was passed to the young athletes. Bells were a theme of the opening day of the Olympics, starting at 8.12am with artist Martin Creed's Work No. 1197: All The Bells, when bells were rung across the UK including 40 strikes of Big Ben. Much of the music contained 'bell' references, linking to the large bell forged for the ceremony and evoking bells as "the sound of freedom and peace". Modified sequences based on the traditional British eight-bell peal underlay "And I Will Kiss" and carried through into the "Tubular Bells"/NHS section, with handbells and a tolling large bell featured on "Caliban's Dream" and at other points in the ceremony. A handbell chime also played at the close as the stadium emptied.
Boyle personally approached many of the artists to see if they would be interested in performing, including flying to Barbados for an hour-long meeting with Mike Oldfield. A few artists refused to participate: Elvis Costello and David Bowie both turned Boyle down, and a well-known group Boyle has not named "wanted £20,000 and would not budge", and so were not used. Artists performing at the ceremony were paid a nominal £1 fee to ensure their contracts were legally binding. Welsh drum and bass DJ High Contrast mixed and sequenced the music for the athletes' parade.
The pre-recorded soundtrack Isles of Wonder was released for download on iTunes at midnight of 28 July with the 2-disc CD released on 2 August 2012. Within two days the download album had topped the iTunes album charts in Britain, France, Belgium and Spain, and reached No. 5 in the United States, as well as being at No. 5 in the British album charts. Rick Smith's concluding comment in the CD covernotes was "The isle is full of noises. The soundtrack writes itself."
|Piece||Artist||Written by||Notes||Start time (BBC iPlayer)|
|"Sailor’s Boots"||Frank Turner||Frank Turner||Played during the prologue, not on iPlayer|
|"Wessex Boy"||Frank Turner||Frank Turner, Nigel Powell||Played during the prologue, not on iPlayer|
|"I Still Believe"||Frank Turner||Frank Turner, Nigel Powell||Played during the prologue, not on iPlayer|
|"Nimrod" (from the Enigma Variations)||LSO On Track youth orchestra|
Conducted by François-Xavier Roth
Assistant conductor: Matthew Gibson
Arr. Gareth Glyn
|Played during the prologue (an excerpt from a BBC Radio 4 Shipping Forecast was played over a part) also played during Kenneth Branagh's 'Be not afeard' speech in the Pandemonium section.||00:00:00; 00:12:00|
|"The Road Goes On Forever" (One Minute to Midnight Mix) (which samples "Baba O'Riley" by The Who)||High Contrast||Played during the one minute countdown to the ceremony going live to the world||00:03:10|
|"Surf Solar"||Fuck Buttons (credited as "F Buttons")||Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power||Green and Pleasant Land filmed segment||00:04:11|
|"Eton Boating Song"||Eton College School Concert Choir and Orchestra||William Johnson Cory, Capt. Algernon Drummond, Evelyn Wodehouse||Green and Pleasant Land filmed segment||00:05:25|
|"Time"||Pink Floyd||Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright||Green and Pleasant Land filmed segment (Ticking clock/heartbeat bit as the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben are shown). Big Ben then strikes||00:05:43|
|Variations (Theme to The South Bank Show)||Julian Lloyd Webber||Niccolò Paganini|
Arr. Julian Lloyd Webber
|Green and Pleasant Land filmed segment||00:05:48|
|"God Save the Queen"||Sex Pistols||Lydon/Matlock/Jones/Cook||Green and Pleasant Land filmed segment||00:05:53|
|Theme to EastEnders||Simon May and Leslie Osborne||Green and Pleasant Land filmed segment||00:06:05|
|"Under The House"||P.I.L.||John Lydon, Martin Atkins, Keith Levene||Green and Pleasant Land filmed segment||00:06:09|
|"London Calling"||The Clash||Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon||Green and Pleasant Land filmed segment||00:06:16|
|"Pomp and Circumstance"|
Op.39: March, No 1 in D
|London Symphony Orchestra||Edward Elgar||Green and Pleasant Land filmed segment||00:06:22|
|"Smile"||Lily Allen||L. Allen, Iyiola Babalola, Darren Lewis||Green and Pleasant Land filmed segment||00:06:28|
|"Map of the Problematique"||Muse||Matthew Bellamy||Green and Pleasant Land filmed segment, played during the Olympic Games posters display; runs into the start of the live programme from the stadium with the balloon countdown from 10–1||00:06:31|
|"Jerusalem"||The Dockhead Choir|
Choir coordinator: Mag Shepherd
|Poem: William Blake|
Music: Hubert Parry
|English choir, sung live in the stadium||00:08:16; 00:10:53|
|"Londonderry Air" ("Danny Boy")||The Belfast Philharmonic Phil Kids Choir and JAM Junior Academy Of Music||Traditional|
|Filmed segment: Northern Irish choir on the Giant's Causeway||00:09:08|
|"Flower of Scotland"||The Big Project||Roy Williamson (The Corries)|
Arr. Kim Edgar
|Filmed segment: Scottish choir at Edinburgh Castle||00:09:40|
|"Bread of Heaven"||Only Kids Aloud, Only Vale Kids Aloud and the WNO Singing Club||Tune Cwm Rhondda by John Hughes|
Lyrics: William Williams
Arr. Tim Rhys-Evans
|Filmed segment: Welsh choir at Rhossili Bay||00:10:15|
|"And I Will Kiss"||Underworld, Evelyn Glennie, The 1000 Pandemonium Drummers|
LSO On Track, conducted by François-Xavier Roth
Assistant conductor: Matthew Gibson
The Grimethorpe Colliery Brass Band Orchestrated and conducted by Sandy Smith
Steel Band: Nostalgia
|Smith/Hyde||Written specially for the opening ceremony, and played live. Pandemonium section about the Industrial Revolution; an orchestral version briefly played before and after the Olympic Oaths later on in the ceremony||00:13:15; 03:30:01; 03:32:31|
|"Arrival of the Queen of Sheba"|
|London Symphony Orchestra|
Conducted by Geoffrey Alexander
|George Frideric Handel||Happy and Glorious filmed segment||00:29:00|
|"Music for the Royal Fireworks": IV. La Rejouissance||London Symphony Orchestra|
Conducted by Geoffrey Alexander
|George Frideric Handel||Happy and Glorious filmed segment||00:30:28|
|"Dambusters March"||London Symphony Orchestra|
Conducted by Geoffrey Alexander
|Eric Coates||Happy and Glorious filmed segment||00:31:08|
|"James Bond Theme" (from Dr. No)||The John Barry Orchestra||Monty Norman||Happy and Glorious filmed segment||00:33:31|
|"Fanfare of the Common Welshman"||London Symphony Orchestra||Karl Jenkins||Played as Queen Elizabeth II entered the stadium; later just before the Queen declaring the Games open: a fanfare, then another as the Olympic Flag is brought in.||00:34:32; 03:22:37|
|"Sundowner"||Blanck Mass||Benjamin John Power||Played while the Union Jack was brought in by members of the Armed Forces||00:35:08|
|"God Save the Queen" (National Anthem)||The Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children|
Signductor: Ali Wood
|Composer uncertain||Sung live while the Union Flag was raised||00:37:04|
|"Tubular Bells"||Mike Oldfield|
Alistair Mulloy, Luke Oldfield, Ash Soan
Musical Director: Robin Smith
|Mike Oldfield||Second to the right, and straight on till morning segment (NHS/Great Ormond Street Hospital); second time in this section while J. K. Rowling is reading; the monsters and villains arrive.||00:38:37; 00:43:10|
|"Tubular Bells (Part One - Swing)"||Mike Oldfield||Mike Oldfield||Second to the right, and straight on till morning segment (NHS/Great Ormond Street Hospital) jitterbugging nurses bit||00:40:09|
|"Secrets / Far Above the Clouds" (from Tubular Bells III)|
Alistair Mulloy, Luke Oldfield, Ash Soan
Musical Director: Robin Smith
|Mike Oldfield||Second to the right, and straight on till morning segment (NHS/Great Ormond Street Hospital) putting the children to bed, moon shape made with beds, Mary Poppinses/Poppi arrive and vanquish the monsters||00:42:18|
|"In Dulci Jubilo"||Mike Oldfield|
Recorder: Andy Findon
|Traditional 14th century song||Second to the right, and straight on till morning segment (NHS/Great Ormond Street Hospital) Children dance again||00:47:19|
|"Olympic Tubular Bells Coda"||Mike Oldfield||Mike Oldfield||Second to the right, and straight on till morning segment (NHS/Great Ormond Street Hospital) Piano music then orchestral as children put back to bed (again); giant baby arrives||00:48:48|
|"Chariots of Fire"||The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle|
Pianist: Iain Farrington
featuring Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson)
Arr. Howard Goodall
Orchestrated by David Butterworth
|Mr Bean live and filmed segment||00:51:11|
|"Girls in Grey"||Charles Williams and His Concert Orchestra||Charles Williams||frankie and june say ... Thanks Tim segment. This track is preceded by the pips.||00:56:27|
|Theme to The Archers ("Barwick Green")||Arthur Wood||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment. The Archers theme tune is followed by Michael Fish's infamous 1987 weather forecast.||00:56:36|
|"Black and White Rag"||Winifred Atwell||George Botsford||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||00:57:09|
|"Push the Button"||Sugababes||Dallas Austin, Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan, Heidi Range||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||00:57:18|
|"Enola Gay"||Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark||Andy McCluskey||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||00:57:49|
|"Food Glorious Food"||from the original soundtrack recording of Oliver!||Lionel Bart|
|Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||00:58:18|
|"When I Was a Youngster"||Rizzle Kicks||Alexander-Sule/ Stephens/Street/Dring/Edwards/Ray||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||00:58:52|
|"Going Underground"||The Jam||Paul Weller||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||00:59:40|
|"Wonderful Tonight"||Eric Clapton||Eric Clapton||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:00:48|
|?||?||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment orchestral piece – part of the Charlie Chaplin film score?||01:01:08|
|"My Generation"||The Who||Pete Townshend||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:01:18|
|"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"||The Rolling Stones||Mick Jagger, Keith Richards||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:01:38|
|"My Boy Lollipop"||Millie Small||Robert Spencer, Morris Levy, Johnny Roberts||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:02:00|
|"All Day and All of the Night"||The Kinks||Ray Davies||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:02:17|
|"She Loves You"||The Beatles||Lennon-McCartney||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:02:28|
|"Tiger Feet"||Mud||Nicky Chinn, Mike Chapman||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:02:51|
|"Trampled Under Foot"||Led Zeppelin||Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:03:15|
|"A Message to You, Rudy"||The Specials||Dandy Livingstone||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:03:33|
|"Starman"||David Bowie||David Bowie||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:03:42|
|"Bohemian Rhapsody"||Queen||Freddie Mercury||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:03:59|
|"Pretty Vacant"||Sex Pistols||Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, Glen Matlock||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:04:55|
|"Blue Monday"||New Order||Gillian Gilbert, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:06:02|
|"Relax"||Frankie Goes To Hollywood||Peter Gill, Holly Johnson, Brian Nash, Mark O'Toole||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:06:26|
|"Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)"||Soul II Soul (featuring Caron Wheeler)||Jazzie B, Caron Wheeler, Nellee Hooper, Simon Law||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:06:35|
|"Step On"||Happy Mondays||John Kongos, Christos Demetriou||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:06:54|
|"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"||Eurythmics||Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:06:58|
Contains samples of "SOS" by The Breeders
|Kim Deal, Anne Dudley, Keith Flint, Trevor Horn, Liam Howlett, J.J. Jeczalik, Gary Langan, Paul Morley||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:07:29|
|"Born Slippy .NUXX"||Underworld||Rick Smith, Karl Hyde, Darren Emerson||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:07:57|
|"I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles"||Music: John Kellette|
Lyrics: James Kendis, James Brockman and Nat Vincent
|Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:08:17|
|"Song 2"||Blur||Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James, Dave Rowntree||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment. Montage of kisses including the ground-breaking Brookside pre-watershed lesbian kiss in 1994.||01:09:00|
|"Bonkers"||Dizzee Rascal||Dylan Kwabena Mills, Armand Van Helden||Played live during the Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment.||01:09:12; 01:10:20; 01:11:42|
|"Nimma Nimma"||A. R. Rahman||A. R. Rahman||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:10:05|
|"Valerie"||Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson||Dave McCabe, Abi Harding, Sean Payne, Russell Pritchard, Boyan Chowdhury||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:10:42|
|"Uprising"||Muse||Matthew Bellamy||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:10:56|
|"Random Antics"||Mikey J feat. Kano||Asante/Robinson|
|"Pass Out"||Tinie Tempah||Patrick Chukwuemeka Okogwu, McKenzie||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:11:29|
|"Heaven"||Emeli Sandé||Sandé/Spencer/Khan/Chegwin/Craze||Frankie and June say ... Thanks Tim segment||01:11:57 As the house lifts up and reveals Tim Berners-Lee|
|"I Heard Wonders"||David Holmes||There Is A Light That Never Goes Out filmed segment: recap of 1948 London Olympics, merging to the Olympic torch being lit in the Temple of Hera at Olympia in Greece and its progress throughout the UK on the Olympic torch relay, ending with David Beckham and Jade Bailey in the speedboat on the Thames with the Olympic torch||01:13:35|
|"An Ending (Ascent)"||Brian Eno||Brian Eno||Played during the display of memorial photographs||01:18:29|
|"Abide With Me"||Emeli Sandé||Henry Francis Lyte|
Tune: "Eventide" by William Henry Monk
|Preceded by a single bell toll; sung live||01:19:14|
|"Welcome"||Produced by Lincoln Barrett, John Harris and Rick Smith|
Mixed by Simon Gogerly
|"I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor"||Arctic Monkeys||Lyrics by: Alex Turner |
Music by : Arctic Monkeys
|"Come Together"||Arctic Monkeys||Lennon-McCartney||Played live||03:07:36|
|"Sundowner"||London Symphony Orchestra||Benjamin John Power|
Arr. Rick Smith
Orchestrated by Geoffrey Alexander
|Played as the Olympic Flag is being paraded||03:23:06|
|"Olympic Anthem"||London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Alexander|
Brass band: The Grimethorpe Colliery Band conducted by Sandy Smith
|Lyrics: Kostis Palamas|
Music: Spyridon Samaras
Arr. Kirsty Whalley and Guy Barker
|Played as the Olympic Flag is raised||03:26:12|
|"Sundowner"||Blanck Mass||Benjamin John Power||Played as David Beckham and Jade Bailey come up the Limehouse Cut in the speedboat with the Olympic torch and hand over to Steve Redgrave, who runs with it into the Olympic Stadium||03:28:14|
|"Caliban's Dream"||Underworld, the Dockhead Choir, Evelyn Glennie, Only Men Aloud, Elizabeth Roberts, Esme Smith and Alex Trimble|
London Symphony Orchestra LSO orchestrated and conducted by Geoffrey Alexander
Soprano lead and choral score written and arranged by Rick and Esme Smith
Drum score arranged by Rick Smith and Paul Clarvis Smith
|Written specially for the opening ceremony, and played live. The music that accompanied the arrival of the torch into the Olympic Stadium and the lighting of the cauldron, ending with the soprano solo||03:33:31|
|"Eclipse"||Pink Floyd||Roger Waters||Played during the final fireworks display||03:40:53|
|"The End"||Paul McCartney||Lennon-McCartney||A brief excerpt was played live, followed by the single toll of a bell.||03:42:42|
|"Hey Jude"||Paul McCartney||Lennon-McCartney||Played live||03:43:42|
The main loading of the stadium started on 10 May 2012 and took place over ten weeks of the wettest summer in 100 years, posing considerable challenges. Dismantling the staging took just 60 hours.
The infield staging area was 2.5 metres high, and had to accommodate elements to be revealed during the ceremony, such as the chimneys and beam engines from the "Pandemonium" section, and the cauldron. The cauldron was installed and tested at night, to ensure that it remained secret.
The stadium was rigged with a one million watt sound system and more than 500 speakers. Some 15,000 square metres (3.7 acres) of staging and 12,956 props were used, as well as 7,346 square metres (1.815 acres) of turf including crops.
70,799 25 centimetre (10 inch) pixel panels were placed around the stadium, including between every seat. Each electronic panel connected to a central computer and was fitted with nine full-colour LED pixels by Tait Technology. These enabled the audience to participate in broadcasting images of a 1960s go-go dancer, a London Underground train, and a representation of the birth of the internet. The audience was also able to wave with the paddles to create a twinkling effect. These animations were designed by 59 Productions and the video animations were produced by Chinese animation company Crystal CG.
Technical director for the opening ceremony Piers Shepperd masterminded the complex change from rural to industrial during the "Pandemonium" section. Seven inflatable chimneys were made by Airworks, and varied in height (three were 22-metre (72 ft), two were 23-metre (75 ft) and two were 30-metre (98 ft) high). They were made with soft fabric, the outer layer of which had a printed brick pattern. Each contained four industrial fans at the base to inflate them, and a smoke machine near the mouth, and were hoisted into the air by wires from the overhead rigs. Life-size beam engines were constructed on the stage by teams of stage hands and members of the Volunteer Staging Team. At the climax of the "Pandemonium" section, in the Olympic ring forging scene, amber lights lit in sequence created the illusion of a 30-metre (98 ft) molten steel river, with pyrotechnic smoke and dry ice as the steam. The original grass floor surface for the ceremony was removed in the 'Pandemonium' section, to reveal a giant stylized map of London.
Working alongside the professional crew were over 800 volunteers; some were production arts students taken from drama schools around Britain. Many of these volunteers had been working on the Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies since early 2012 at the Three Mills Studios and Dagenham rehearsal sites, before moving to the Olympic Stadium on 16 June.
The BBC's coverage of the ceremony started at 7pm and continued uninterrupted until 12.50am; the BBC is a non-commercial broadcaster and so there were no advertisement breaks. The BBC's coverage was the most-watched televised event of the year in the United Kingdom, averaging about 24.46 million viewers, and peaking at approximately 26.9 million. It was the largest average audience for any broadcast since 1996 and one of the top 20 most-watched UK television broadcasts of all time. David Stringer of Associated Press described the coverage as "a success"; "so far, the BBC's ambitious – and technically tricky – Olympic plan has worked almost without a flaw." Euan Ferguson of The Observer commented that "Coverage of the Olympics so far ... has been near perfect." However, Clive James was critical of the build-up programme. The commentators for the BBC were Huw Edwards, Hazel Irvine and Trevor Nelson, the latter of whom was criticised by Andy Dawson of the Daily Mirror as floundering "like a ventriloquist's dummy pumped full of low-grade ketamine". Private talks were held between Danny Boyle and BBC commentators in the run-up to the ceremony: Boyle was unhappy with a voiceover being imposed on the ceremony, which he wanted viewers to be able to enjoy without a commentary. The BBC offered several commentary options including 'no commentary' coverage for both its TV and online transmissions.
Nearly 41 million US viewers watched NBC's coverage of the event. Criticism was levelled at its decision to tape-delay this broadcast, and not to make a live version available even to cable and web users. There were frequent interruptions by commercial breaks. Many US viewers looked for alternative ways to watch (such as the live BBC feed for the opening ceremonies), despite both NBC and the IOC vowing to crack down on unauthorized streams. More significant criticism was levelled at NBC for cutting to a Ryan Seacrest interview with Michael Phelps during the "memorial wall" tribute section, which included a commemoration of the victims of the 7/7 London bombings. This was criticised as disrespectful and insensitive. An NBC spokesman said the network left that segment out because its programming was "tailored for the U.S. audience." There was also criticism of commentators Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira for suggesting that the Queen had actually jumped out of a helicopter. There was an indication that Vieira did not know who Tim Berners-Lee was, as she commented "If you haven't heard of him, we haven't either", before co-host Matt Lauer told the audience to Google the inventor of the World Wide Web. These failings were picked up during the broadcast by users of Twitter with the hashtag #nbcfail. The commentary by Costas and Lauer during the Parade of Nations was also criticised, as it frequently included negative opinions about the country's political environment and left out information related to the athletes or more general facts about the country. This was criticised as "smug American elitism", and it was noted that the commentators spoke of some of the countries with "outright condescension".
The live parts of the ceremony were filmed by three separate broadcasters: the BBC, the Olympic Broadcasting Services (directed by the Finnish state broadcaster on behalf of the OBS), and a separate independent production company (Done and Dusted) hired by LOCOG and working under Boyle's artistic direction. This was the first time an independent production company had been used for an Olympic opening or closing ceremony. This situation led to some tension, as Boyle wanted to have more artistic control over the filming, and felt he was getting no co-operation from OBS. He criticised some of the OBS coverage during his commentary track for the BBC DVD of the ceremony. In addition, the BBC filmed some of the pre-recorded parts of the ceremony. The filming was directed for television by Hamish Hamilton, who described it as "easily the most difficult job of my life."
The BBC released footage of the entire opening ceremony on 29 October 2012, edited by Danny Boyle and with background extras, filling more than one disc of a five DVD or Blu-ray disc set, which also consisted of more than seven hours of sporting highlights as well as the complete closing ceremony. A 'BBC commentary-free' option for the opening ceremony is available on the DVD, with a commentary track by Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce. In contrast the NBC DVD only has highlights of the opening ceremony.
The Times described the ceremony as "a masterpiece", with The Daily Telegraph saying it was "brilliant, breathtaking, bonkers and utterly British". The BBC's chief sports writer Tom Fordyce called it "eccentric" and "tongue-in-cheek", saying "no-one expected ... it would be quite so gloriously daft, so cynicism-squashingly charming and-well, so much pinch-yourself fun." Two weeks after the ceremony Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian wrote that "Danny Boyle's spectacular, so beautifully executed and ingeniously conceived it lingers in the mind even as the closing draws near, stood apart from its predecessors thanks not only to its humour and eccentricity, but also because it had something to say." Writing in The Observer, Jackie Kay commented that "it seemed that Boyle had invented a new kind of opening ceremony, a concept ceremony, one that embraces big ideas as passionately as it does technical flamboyancy". The Stage said that "Danny Boyle’s spectacular and moving Olympics Opening Ceremony was undoubtedly the theatrical highlight of 2012".
Although praise came from across the political spectrum, not all on the British political right were happy. Daily Mail columnist Rick Dewsbury was critical of the Grime music and portrayal of the NHS and of mixed-race families. Aidan Burley, a Conservative M.P., denounced the ceremony on Twitter as "leftie multicultural crap." Burley's comments were dismissed by many fellow Conservatives, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
Foreign reaction was overwhelmingly positive. The New York Times said the ceremony was "hilariously quirky ... a wild jumble of the celebratory and the fanciful; the conventional and the eccentric; and the frankly off-the-wall.” Forbes called it Danny Boyle's "love song to Britain", while Sports Illustrated noted the political aspect of Boyle's ceremony, calling it "a celebration of protest and dissent". The Sydney Morning Herald said it was "an unforgettable start ... at once subversive and sublime" and The Times of India said "London presented a vibrant picture of Great Britain's rich heritage and culture." The Chinese news agency Xinhua described the ceremony as "dazzling" and an "eccentric and exuberant celebration of British history, art and culture". Chinese artist Ai Weiwei praised the ceremony for its "human touch", saying "In London, they really turned the ceremony into a party ... such a density of information about events and stories and literature and music; about folktales and movies."
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the ceremony was “wonderful and unforgettable”. Dmitry Medvedev said "It was an exceptional spectacle, very well prepared and quite rich ... it succeeded in creating a very British atmosphere ... they managed to find the right language ... to communicate." Panos Samaras of Greece's NET TV said "it was more like a big musical, a rock opera ... than an Olympics ceremony". French sports newspaper L'Équipe wrote that it "took the classic from such events and had fun with them" whilst Le Parisien said it "was magnificent, inventive and offbeat drawing heavily on the roots of British identity". Germany's Die Welt hailed the London ceremony as "spectacular, glitzy but also provoking and moving”.
Chinese news CCTV-4 said the ceremony was a "stunning feast for the eyes". South Korea's Yonhap said it was "by turns dramatic, imaginative, humorous and solemn" and "weaved the story of the country's past, present and future". Singapore's Straits Times said it was a "grand show" noteworthy for both "scale" and "authenticity". The Australian Daily praised a "glorious pandemonium devoted to London's thriving, chaotic energy ... deliberately revelling in the chaos of Britain's free society and popular culture". France's Le Figaro said it reflected "the best contributions that Britain has given to the world ... its sense of humour, its music, and of course sport". The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said it was it was a "rocking, rollicking, sometimes quiet and brooding ceremony." Qatar's The Peninsula said London did a "spectacular job" making the opening ceremony a "memorable event".
In an end of the year review, British magazine Q said "It could all have been so different. As the London 2012 Summer Olympics approached, the tide of scepticism seemed almost irreversible. There was the heavy-handed sponsorship, the draconian security, the ticketing problems, the ballooning budget, and the lurking fear that the Opening Ceremony might be, in director Danny Boyle's pungent description, 'shite'. It took less than four hours on the night of Friday, 27 July to turn the whole country around. Not only was the ceremony demonstrably not shite, it was the most surprising, moving, spectacular cultural event this country had ever seen...modern Britain, in all its berserk, multi-faceted glory."
The writer of the ceremony, Frank Cottrell Boyce, said: "People around us thought it might need defending, so I was told to do press the next morning. I was completely surprised [by the positive response]. A lot of people were surprised. But I don't think Danny was surprised. Danny never blinked. At no point did he show any feeling that it was going to be anything but amazing. And he was right."
In December 2012 the culture critic of The Guardian picked the opening ceremony as "best art event of the year". A survey of the British public conducted by Samsung voted the ceremony the second most inspiring television moment of all time, second only to the 1969 moon landing. A Digital Spy survey of more than 25,000 overwhelmingly voted the opening ceremony as the entertainment highlight of 2012.
A review of the year showed that the opening ceremony was the second most mentioned entertainment event on the internet in 2012, with just over 6 million mentions, coming second to the Grammy Awards. The BBC reported that the opening ceremony was the most requested item on its iPlayer on-demand service for 2012 programmes, with 3.3 million requests.
Danny Boyle was offered a knighthood in late 2012 for his part in the Olympic opening ceremony, but turned it down, saying "I’m very proud to be an equal citizen and I think that’s what the Opening Ceremony was actually about."
The opening ceremony was identified by some commentators as precipitating a new mood in the United Kingdom: the ceremony "had barely finished before it had become a byword for a new approach, not only to British culture but to Britishness itself. Politicians would soon be referring to it, using it as shorthand for a new kind of patriotism that does not lament a vanished Britain but loves the country that has changed. Boyle's ceremony was hailed from (almost) all sides not only for getting London 2012 off to the perfect start, but for providing a nation that had grown used to mocking its myriad flaws with a new, unfamiliarly positive view of itself ... It was, perhaps, this lack of cynicism that people responded to in Isles Of Wonder. So used to British irony and detachment, it felt refreshing to witness an unembarrassed, positive case for this country. Boyle says this was the most important thing he took away from the Olympic experience: "How important it is to believe in something. You might make a fool of yourself and people will go, 'How can you believe in that, you stupid idiot?' But if you believe in something, you carry people with you."'
Business leaders also took inspiration from the event, admiring the risk-taking, and the creative freedom, as well as the trust placed in the volunteers and workers, and loyalty inspired in them by the ceremony's key team. In February 2013 "the BBC's head of drama, Ben Stephenson, addressed a meeting of writers, commissioners and producers. Stephenson told his audience he wanted them to seek inspiration from the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, which, he said, had scale and brilliance and, above all, had succeeded not in spite of its Britishness but because of its Britishness, delighting viewers here and around the world by rooting itself in the authentic stories and spirit of these islands."
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