Sunday, September 16, 2012

Live Blogging the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremonies

July 27, 2012

The Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics is dubbed "Isles of Wonder." The show is directed by Danny Boyle.  $42M budget (less than the $100M budget for Beijing) was spent for this spectacle.  The volunteers had 284 rehearsals! Anticipation was high as to how it could top the Beijing extravaganza four years ago.  I was hoping that the show would be much better than their uninspiring (ok, ugly) logo (reportedly worth £400,000!).

Bradley Wiggins, the first British winner of the Tour de France just last Sunday, rings the Olympic Bell to open the ceremony.  This 23 ton bell is supposed to be the largest harmonically-tuned bell in the world, made in the same Whitechapel Bell Foundry as the Liberty Bell and Big Ben.

The field in the middle of the stadium is an Old English Village with trees and houses and hills, where country folks were playing cricket. On a VTR, we see scenes from Ireland, Scotland and Wales with children's choirs singing folk songs.  Kenneth Branaghsteps out of a horse-drawn carriage and recites a passage from Shakespeare's "The Tempest" on the hill.

As a vibrant lady (deaf Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie) and her band played drums, a tree atop a hill is elevated and more people climb out of it. These people roll the turf away, and chimneys come out from the ground as the field transforms into anIndustrial Revolution scene.  Metal workers come out and work on five circles of fire. As the chimneys go back into the ground, the five Olympic rings are raised and united above, spewing fireworks unite on top of everything.

A VTR showing James Bond Daniel Craig escorting the Queen into a helicopter and flying over the city.  They even fly over a statue of Winston Churchill who wave at them.  An actual helicopter flies above the Stadium.  In a big surprise move, the "Queen" who jumps out of the plane and floats in a British flag parachute!  The real Queen Elizabeth II(in the same pink dress) comes out with the Duke of Edinburgh onto the Royal Box.  The Union Jack is carried to a flagpole and raised. The UK National Anthem sung by choir of deaf children wearing pajamas.  

The British National Health Service is features with a number with dancing nurses and doctors tucking children into bed. JK Rowling comes out reading Peter Pan!  Big replicas of story book characters like Captain Hook, Queen of Hearts, Cruella de Ville, and of course Voldemort come out.  A flock of Mary Poppins fly down over the field to drive out the Dementors and villains, as children dance with glee.  The final image of a huge metal (?) baby sleeping on the field is very weird though.

When he was bored stiff playing his one single note in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's performance of Chariots of FireRowan Atkinson drifts off and dreams about running on the beach (to the tune of Chariots of Fire).  He gets left behind, so he hitches a ride with a car to win the race, in true Mr. Bean fashion!  He awakens and  messes the final note on the keyboards to the feigned disgust of the conductor. Hilarious!

We then see scenes in a typical British household, folks watching television, as the teens go out to party on the town. All the scenes with the cellphones and cameras were a little pointless.  However, we get to hear a series of famous British songs like:  "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, "Back to Life" by Soul 2 Soul, "Sweet Dreams" by Eurythmics, "Firestarter" by Prodigy and "Uprising" by Muse.  Scenes from classic British films (like "Oliver" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral") were being shown in the background.

Sir Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, was given the spotlight.  Interesting, but seemingly unconnected with the other parts of the program.

There was then a nice montage of Olympic Torch Relay scenes.  Ever dapper David Beckham was shown driving a speedboat on the Thames bringing the torch to the stadium.   There was solo number by a Scotiish singer Emili Sande from Zambia singing Abide with Me, interpreted in dance by some Bollywood style dancers.  

It was now time for the athletes parade!  205 countries!  There was even a group of so-called Independent Olympic athletes.  Every nation has at least ONE female athlete for the first time in history.  The parade seems less formal than I recall from previous Olympic opening ceremonies, with athletes carrying camcorders and walking out of line.  

Maria Sharapova carries the flag for Russia.  Novak Djokovic carries the flag forSerbia Pau Gasol takes over Rafael Nadal to carry the flag for Spain.  Stan Wawrinkacarries the flag for Switzerland, not Roger Federer.  The blue boots worn by the Czech Republic team caught attention, but looked strange.  Eye-catcher of the parade is a gorgeous lady in red in the Paraguay team.  She turned out to be Leryn Franco, a javelin thrower.  The USA has 538 athletes including their Dream Team.  So that is how their controversial "made-in-China" uniforms look like.  The host team UK has 558 athletes led by cyclist Chris Hoy.  Aside from the members of the British royal family, among the dignitaries I recognized cheering their team on were Queen Sophia of Spain, and First Lady Michelle Obama from the USA.

There was a light show on the whole stadium while a rock band Arctic Monkeys play"Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor".  They segue to play "Come Together" while human "doves" with illuminated wings were riding bicycles going round on the track.  A lone winged biker then takes to the air to end the number.  That looked dramatic, but it just stopped there and did not lead to anything else.

There were inspirational speeches by Sebastian Coe, Chair of the Organizing Committee; then Jacques Rogge, IOC President.  The Queen herself opens the 30th Olympic Games of the Modern Era open.  The Olympic flag is then carried in by 8 flag bearers, then raised with the Olympic Anthem.  An ailing Muhammad Ali makes an dramatic appearance!

Outside, the Olympic Torch relay resumes as David Beckham's motor boat lands on a dock to transfer the flame to the runner who will bring the torch into the stadium, Stephen Redgrave, a senior British rower.  Inside the stadium, Sarah Stevenson leads the athletes for Oath of Sportsmanship, as did representatives of officials and coaches.  After the oaths and a relay that traversed 12,800 miles, the Olympic Flame finally enters the Stadium!  The flame is transferred to group of current young athletes carry it around the track. There was also a gathering of surviving British Olympic medallists of all time on the field.

During the Athletes Parade, each team had a child carrying what looked like a copper vessel.  It turned out that these were actually the lamps which would comprise theOlympic Cauldron.  Seven young athletes first light a number of  lamps on the ground.  The flames spread to neighboring lamps arranged concentrically, which then all elevate and come together on the top as the Olympic "cauldron" in the middle of the field!  It was really difficult to top the spectacular cauldron lighting staged in Beijing, so the London guys should be commended for thinking out of the box! Amazing colorful fireworks went up all in, around and outside the stadium.

Sir Paul Mc Cartney comes out and sings "Hey Jude", and led the everyone in a sing-along. This ends the 4 hour long spectacular opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics.

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