London 2012: The wonderful opening ceremony of the 30th Summer Olympic Games
One of my goals of this year is fulfilled; to watch the live broadcast of the opening ceremony of London 2012. I have been waiting for this since 4 years ago from the end of the previous edition of this world largest sporting event, Beijing 2008 that uplifts the standard and scale of the games to the highest ever level that made it far more challenging for London 2012 to stage a better one. The opening ceremony of London 2012 concluded few hours ago and can be considered a successful ceremony produced from a much smaller budget as compared to the huge cost allocated for Beijing 2008 memorable out-of-this-world ceremonies. It is almost impossible of not trying to compare the former with the latter, and due to that, London 2012’s opening ceremony which is themed as ‘Isle of Wonder’ is a bit of disappointment.
One of the main reasons of my poor feedback over the ceremony is particularly over the performances delivered on the approximate first 90-minutes of the ceremony. The key stunt that marked the start of the ceremony is plainly too simple, by just ringing the so-called world largest tuned bell without any dramatic actions. As compared to Beijing 2008 opening stunt in the ceremony that comprised of a huge group of drummers with uniform play of light and sound to create an absolutely unforgettable countdown to the big start of the ceremony, London 2012’s standard on this part is already way way behind. By the way, the venue, the newly-constructed Olympic Stadium which is not aesthetically pleasing in design looks so much better with the lighting at that very special night.
Something different and unique is delivered this time in London 2012’s opening ceremony. Is that a good thing? Not really. Why? The stadium is transformed into a land of grass indicating the British countryside with some notable village-like structures as well as live animals that were only slightly featured in the broadcast. For me, there is nothing special or distinctive on the theme of countryside that the nation tries to showcase to the world from this ceremony. However, it feels good to see some ‘greens’ in the stadium, especially the man-made hill created as a podium for speech as well as for placing of flags of all the participating nations after the parade of athletes. And I found out that there isn’t any ‘true’ performance going on in the first part of the show, with only few visible separate clusters of people dressed in similar theme wondering around and doing minimal things that I don’t find interesting and it’s very unorganized. There seems to be small things here and there but it’s very messy all around.
Next, the scene changed to accommodate to the new theme; Industrial Revolution. On this segment, Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning artistic director of the ceremony intended to inform the world that Great Britain was once the greatest ‘factory’ of the world. Few tall chimneys extended out from the base of the stadium. An interesting moment observed from this section is a stunt showing industrial workers working on producing and firing metal in a shape of a huge ring. Then, the ring raised up and alongside with other arriving metal rings floating in the stadium, formed the iconic symbol of the Olympics; the five adjoining rings brightly-illuminated with fireworks. There is finally a breathtaking moment that gets the roaring applause from the 80-000 strong crowd of audiences in the stadium. Other than that, there is nothing else from that part of the performance that captures my attention while I remembered very well that Beijing 2008’s opening left us in total awe in every parts of the performances delivered.
I find it a bit weird that the opening ceremony began with such scenarios, and after that, I didn’t had any high expectation of the next segments anymore. Hmm…next silly thing arrived. Over few hundred hospital’s beds are brought into the stadium. It is a segment in tribute to the national health service. Luckily, there is some sort of sequence and drama involving those beds that are accompanied with light to tell out the imaginative mindset of kids. Giant representatives of famous fictional villains in British’s film industry like the Childcatcher from 101 Dalmations, Captain Hook from Peter Pan and biggest of all; Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter. Ahh, even the writer of the successful ‘Harry Potter’ book series, J.K. Rowling had a role on stage. The famous villains were then vanquished by Mary Poppins characters descending from stadium roof carrying brightly-illuminated umbrellas.
The approximately 90-minute performance show ended with final segment showing the best of British music particularly in the past decades. This part is quite playful with variety of costumes of fun-themed colours and different types of dance and in youngster-dominating atmosphere. However, things don’t seems to be that systematic, balanced or organized. Furthermore, I find that there is unnecessarily too much of singing of songs which are quite time-wasting. Those could have been replaced with other themes (like showing the best of the country in technology, landmarks, etc) to make up for a better show instead. This is an opening ceremony, not a concert! This section of performance also included the power and fame of thee current cyber-dominating world and it’s good that the inventor of world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee is honoured at the end after a group of bike riders with brightly-illuminated wings attached came out in a sequence, surrounding the center stage. I believe that part should be longer as planned with bike stunt sequence but it had to be called off due to restriction of time imposed to the opening ceremony.Too bad.
The weak thing from all the performances observed is that the visual impact failed to reach to the spectators in the stadium and over billion of audiences worldwide; with absence of stunts or formations in huge scale or proportion, lacks of organization in sequences, too much of built-up sets placed, confusing appearance of so many little things at once with no concentration on a particular point, and some boring or unappealing imageries shown in the broadcast. It’s good to have some close-up to get visuals on more details and for a sense of human touch but I prefer ‘huge’ thing that would steals the show. Before that, there are some interesting scenarios; one showing Daniel Craig portraying as the iconic James Bond character skydiving with the doubles of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II from a flying helicopter that had fly over the city of London earlier to the stadium with then leads to the arrival of the Queen herself, another one presenting a little humour or laugh with presence of famous British comedian, Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean with showing of a short funny clip of him related to sport. I felt that part is a bit too fast and insufficient to really entertain us. Well, his presence had already surprised us. There is also a part interrupting the performance segment by showing the olympic torch being carried over on a beautifully-illuminated boat crossing over River Thames and through the famous London Bridge Tower with David Beckham, a famous good-looking footballer standing in the boat as well. Well, there are many superstars involved. It is heard that Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and some other famous Hollywood artists attended the opening ceremony as well but with no roles in the performances.
Then, came the parade of athletes that took around one hour and thirty minutes of the show. Athletes of 204 participating nations and one extra from independent olympic body entered the stadium, with athletes from Greece seen first as usual in tradition that puts the country of host to the inaugural modern Olympics, Greece at front in parade. The last to enter would be the strong-number of athletes from the host nation, Great Britain. They are received with the loudest cheer and applause as expected. National anthem and flag of Great Britain and the Olympic anthem and flag are played and raised before the speeches by Chairman of London 2012 Organizing Committee, Mr. Sebastian Coe and President of International Olympic Committee, Mr. Jacques Rogge. Luckily, the speeches are short yet inspiring with beautiful phrases spoken. Then, it’s time for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II to officially declare the games open before a set of fireworks exploding out over the stadium.
The olympic torch finally arrived in the stadium after travelling few thousand miles over the host nation. After several passing of the torches around, a group of seven teenage athletes as final torchbearers (not a single final torchbearer) light up some small copper petals which then runs through to the others in some distance (all 205) which were then all engulfed in flames. That is not the end yet. All those copper petals are raised on stalks to form a single huge flame, looking like a burning flower. Well, that is really cool! The olympic flame is to remain in the stadium during the course of the games before it will be turned off at the closing ceremony two weeks later.
Finally, the three hours and thirty minutes ceremony came to an end with an amazing flame-lighting technique and a brilliant and spectacular display of fireworks all over the Olympic Park and the stadium itself. The fireworks are impressive despite in lesser amount compared to the amount used for Beijing 2008’s ceremonies. That ended the ceremony beautifully well after a series of not-so-amazing performances.
So, overall, the beginning of the ceremony is plainly simple that leads to performance of lower standard (sorry for saying this way, but this is very true compared even to previous games before Beijing 2008), but finally there is a thing that saves the night; fascinating olympic flame lighting and stunning fireworks display. If I am to give points to this ceremony, then I can only afford to give 70 out of 100. For Beijing 2008, I gave 90 (the highest ever, the best). Even the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games (smaller sporting event) got 88 points from me for its distinctive opening ceremony two years ago. Anyway, London 2012’s opening ceremony is still good and is not to be missed. Wao…what a lengthy write-up I have produced regarding the just-concluded opening of the games despite me being very exhausted already at this moment as I didn’t sleep almost the whole night just to catch the live broadcast of the ceremony. How nice and awesome it would be if I am watching it from a seat in the Olympic Stadium itself, being there in the venue which would heighten my experience of watching the extravagant show, but the ticket is too costly.
Hmm…now we’ll see the staging of the games in many sports contested for the following two weeks before it brought down its curtain to make way for the next Summer Olympics, Rio 2016 to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I have to wait another four years from now for Rio 2016 turn. But for now first, go London 2012! Inspire the generation! Eventhough the opening ceremony isn’t really that successful or breathtaking based on my perspective, but it’s still a good effort from Great Britain. Thumbs up…
(The images used on this post are not mine and are all from the following source: http://sports.yahoo.com/photos/olympics-london-2012-opening-ceremony-slideshow/, click on this link for more lovely images of the ceremony)