London 2012 had a big Opening Ceremony to follow after Beijing’s in 2008, which was hailed as the most spectacular in Olympic history in many corners. So how would the British compete against the huge display that the Chinese put on?
The Beijing Ceremony was praised for its regimented choreography — with thousands of participants who were completely in sync with each other. There was no faulting the teamwork and coordination of those involved, and the fireworks were like nothing ever seen before.
However, it wasn’t just Beijing that London was competing against on Friday evening. Most modern Opening Ceremonies strive to show off latest innovations and technologies at the time, with the 1984 Games in Los Angeles being no different. Bill Suitor “landed” in the Los Angeles Coliseum on a jet pack, propelling himself in front of an audience of thousands to make a dramatic entrance almost three decades ago. With a precedent like that, London had to include plenty to ensure that the worldwide audience was continually captivated and blown away.
With the London Opening Ceremony in the books, it is safe to say that they truly lived up to and enhanced the Olympics’ recent legacy. The Ceremony was a story of British heritage and heartache. It was a celebration of the country’s success, inventions and its people.
The very first sequence illustrated the transformation of Britain during the Industrial Revolution, and did so in a way that no one had ever seen before. It was a reminder to all of where Britain came from and how it developed into the power it is today.
The ceremony also included humor, with the famous British sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek attitude displayed through appearances from Mr. Bean and, even more marvelously, Queen Elizabeth II herself taking part in a short skit with none other than James Bond.
There was a celebration of the digital age, highlighting the master that is Tim Berners-Lee, alongside a short history of British music, with some dancing punks on pogo sticks thrown in for good measure! There were even a few delicate moments too with dance sequences played out alongside the strong but graceful voice of Emeli Sande.
British sporting icons such as David Beckham and Steve Redgrave played their part, but more moving was the lighting of the cauldron, the responsibility for which was granted to younger sporting hopefuls, clearly an attempt to inspire a new generation of Olympians, eschewing a celebrity or sports star to show that the Olympics are as much about the future as the past and the present.
The cauldron itself was a masterpiece, made up of over 200 copper petals to represent all the competing nations. Designed by Londoner Thomas Heatherwick, the individual petals then rose up to join together and form the spectacle that was the finale to the Opening Ceremony.
Every part of the Ceremony had a background and a story. It was awe-inspiring due to the volunteers that participated and the well rehearsed sequences. But it was the message that they were displaying that ought to have won hearts all over the world. It’s possible that it showed London in a whole new light — a positive, intelligent, fun light.