London 2012 – The Opening Ceremony

There have been a few days activity in the sporting and corporate extravaganza that is the 30th Olympiad. Here’s my take on what I’ve seen so far, starting with…

The Opening Ceremony

International reception of the Opening Ceremony has been broadly positive, with some criticism from certain quarters.  Overall, Danny Boyle did a great job in my opinion, with some clear highlights and a few bits that I was less than impressed with. Of course, the whole thing started 48 minutes earlier than the published 9PM start time, with a flypast by the Red Arrows at 20:12…

The transformation from the pastoral country scene to the Industrial revolution, complete with towering chimneys and our dark, satanic mills was vislually stunning, although there were a few too many shots of Sir Kenny Branagh’s bewhiskered face when I’d have preferred to see more of  the hardware appearing. Ending it with the forged Olympic rings in mid air, searing the retina with sparks and light, was a great image to end the first segment.

Following this, we had one of the most bizarre and entertaining surprises, with the entrance of HM Queen. The video of Bond himself going to collect her from the palace and fly her to the stadium, where the two “parachuted” into the stadium, was a remarkable piece of organisation, convincing HMQE2 to wear the same dress and hat for the shoot that she did for the opening ceremony, and even giving her some lines, which she (of course) delivered perfectly. Daniel Craig did appear to be stifling a few giggles throughout the sequence.

Then…. something a little strange. A major, choreographed homage to the NHS. I’m not entirely sure why this was selected for inclusion in the show, because despite the wonderful work being done day in, day out by the staff in hospitals, trusts, local surgeries, health centres and homes up and down the country, there’s only so much you can do with kids in bed (and even as I type that, I appreciate that it doesn’t sound right on any level, even simply written down…) That these beds were also iluminated trampolines, and that some of them contained giant marrionettes of some of Britains creepiest literary baddies, only somehow made the segment worse – especially when a hundred Mary Poppins’s descended from the night sky to see them off and then join in some dancing.

Anyway, that aside, we then had the London Symphony Orchestra, playing a rendition of Vangelis’ haunting theme from Chariots Of Fire. Or so we thought. It turned out to be a vehicle for Mr Bean himself to ridicule the pomp and ceremony in a way that Benny Hill would no doubt have done twenty-five years ago, only with more saucy scantily-clad girls. However, I’ll get to the Beach Volleyball in a while….

Rowan Atkinson showed why Mr Bean is so popular around the world, with a visual comedy segment that hit just the right note – whlist he was busy hitting just the one note.

The best section of the ceremony was without doubt the musical journey through the decades. Moving from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age, shown in dance, music and movie clips, worked really well, especially with the narrative flowing through the segments as well. I knew most of the songs used, and loved the mix of video, dance moves, and classic tracks.

Then we got to the bit that we have to suffer through, but that is very hard to enjoy – the Parade of the Nations – all 204 of them. I thought that Danny had hit on a way to jazz the whole thing up, when Fiji entered to the sounds of “Jive Talking” – so we really did have the Fiji Bee Gees for a moment! Sadly this was just a coincidence, as there was no Bob Mali, no “Ghana Get A Witness”, no “Sudan’s Hall Days” and no sound of The Kinks singing “T-O-G-O, Togo!”

This went on for ages, and then it was time to light the thing. The flame appeared by speedboat (the only job they could give David Beckham that kept him out of the way, I guess) and then Steve Redgrave handed the flame to the seven young athletes nominated to light the flame. Kids in tracksuits setting fires and running away – interesting parallels to last summer’s riots there…

And so it was all over bar some arthritic crooning by Paul McCartney, who really showed why he should have hung up his performing suit and retired to his country estate of Hampshire. Not IN Hampshire, it IS Hampshire…

I’ll post again tomorrow with my take on the early sports converage – especially those sports that I really only watch once every four years.

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