The Olympic opening ceremony is traditionally a very grand affair, and creator Danny Boyle did not let us down. There were was such a large cast involved that it became hard to think who had actually not taken part.

The London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony last night welcomed the finest athletes from more than 200 nations for the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games, marking an historic third time the capital has hosted the world’s biggest and most important sporting event. This fact was mentioned by both Lord Coe and Jacques Rogge in their speeches, made just after a four and a half hour long spectacle of recent British history.

Following the declaration of the opening of the Games by Her Majesty The Queen, the spectacular finale of the Ceremony saw the Olympic Cauldron, formed of 205 copper petals representing the competing nations coming together in London for the Games, ignited by seven young Torchbearers nominated by a cavalcade of Britain’s past and present Olympic and sporting greats. This truly was the “Oh how did they do that?” moment, and capped a ceremony full of wondrous sights that any TV commentator was struggling to add value to.

Olympic Ambassador David Beckham who played who played an important role in bringing the Games to London,  and Jade Bailey, a young footballer tipped to become one of the sporting stars of the future, both starred earlier in the show in video clips. The film showed them as they brought the flame on the final leg of its 12,000 mile journey to the Stadium by speedboat from Tower Bridge. As well as David and Jade the cauldron lighting included Olympic Torchbearers, and former Olympic athletes, Lynn Davis, Duncan Goodhew MBE, Dame Kelly Homes DBE MBE (Mil), Mary Peters DBE, Sir Steve Redgrave CBE, Shirley Robertson and Daley Thompson.

The ceremony reflected the key themes and priorities of the London 2012 Games, based on sport, inspiration, youth and urban transformation.

LOCOG Chair, Lord Coe said:- ‘The athletes competing at the Olympic Games have arrived in London to give the performances of their lives. We wanted to provide a very British welcome for them and the rest of the world. Danny Boyle has created a show of memories and moments that will last a lifetime for people across the UK and the world.’

The Ceremony celebrated Britain’s connections to the global community and culture, and included globally known British stars of song, stage, screen and sport such as Sir Paul McCartney who closed the Ceremony, David Beckham and Daniel Craig – who in his most recognised role as James Bond accompanied her Majesty the Queen in a mission to get to the Olympic Stadium. This coupled with an appearance from Mr Bean was the comedy highlight of the show. To actually get the Queen to act alongside her beloved Corgis and her most famous Secret Agent was pure genius on the part of the brains behind the event.

Oscar winning British director, Danny Boyle, and his creative team took audiences gathered in the Olympic Stadium, at London 2012 Live Sites in towns and cities around the UK and more than a billion television viewers in villages and neighbourhoods around the world on a spectacular and emotional journey through British time, culture and society.

The theme of the Ceremony was ‘This is for everyone’, and celebrated contributions the UK has made to the world through innovation and revolution, as well as the creativity and exuberance of British people.

From the industrial to the digital revolution, the Ceremony celebrated how Britain has contributed to the world.

In one moving segment, the sell out audience joined as one in a minute’s silence, remembering fallen heroes who have died in conflicts across the world.

Using new pixel technology to create a light show within the stadium audience never seen before, aerial choreography and 12,956 props, over 100 times more than a West End musical, the London 2012 Ceremonies Team transformed the Olympic Stadium into a series of historic, contemporary and modern settings that reflected the cultural changes and revolutions of British society.

The Ceremony began with a scene of Britain’s ‘Green and Pleasant Land’ and the ringing of the world’s largest harmonically tuned bell by gold medal winning Olympic medal winner Bradley Wiggins, and a reading from Caliban’s speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest was spoken by the character of Isambard  Kingdom Brunel, Britain’s most revered engineer, played by British actor Sir Kenneth Branagh.

The set was spectacularly changed by more than 2,500 volunteer cast to represent the period of Industrial Revolution. In the section of the show titled ‘Pandemonium’, Milton’s invented word for the capital of hell in ‘Paradise Lost’, the section celebrates a time that unleashed potential in British people, the growth of cities and a working base, and produced an Education Act which gave the opportunity for everyone to read and write.

The Ceremony also celebrated Britain’s free health service, the National Health Service (NHS), in a section that featured hundreds of volunteers from hospitals and surgeries across the UK, including London’s famous children’s hospital Great Ormond Street. This sequence included a celebration of Britain’s place as a leader in children’s literature and the importance and delight of reading and writing with a passage from JM Barrie’s classic ‘Peter Pan’ read by the most successful author in history JK Rowling, and references to universally popular characters born in British fiction including Mary Poppins, Captain Hook, Voldemort and Cruella de Vil. The sight of all those young children in their pastel coloured pyjamas was both artistic and somehow very fitting.

The Ceremony also paid tribute to Britain’s contribution to a modern revolution – the internet revolution. A sequence that featured British music from the 60’s to now, culminated in the appearance of British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the worldwide web and ensured it was placed in trust and protected against ownership so it could be free for the world.

The London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony featured a volunteer cast of more than 7,500 volunteer performers who gave up their weekends and evenings to take part in a total of 248 rehearsals at two east London rehearsal sites and at the Stadium. On average, adult volunteer performers rehearsed for 150 hours each. The children volunteers were drawn from 25 schools in the six east London Host Boroughs and the 170 16-18 year olds, from six colleges in the Host Boroughs speak more than 50 languages between them.

Artistic Director of the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Danny Boyle said: ‘Our show was really the volunteer’s show. If you want to judge us as an island, these people are the best of us, and we hope the feeling of the show was a celebration of their generosity.’

Tubular Bells creator Mike Oldfield said: ‘I am immensely proud to be involved with this momentous event and in helping to bring Danny Boyle’s vision to reality. The opening ceremony will see the London 2012 Olympic Games off to a spectacular flying start.’ Tubular Bells was used as a backdrop for a large chunk of the relatively calmer action, and Oldfield himself played guitar on stage.

Tim Berners-Lee said: ‘The Opening Ceremony is a fantastic show, a tribute to the athletes who have worked so hard to get here. It is a great honour to be involved with it. Every Olympic Games is a very special event, but this one is particularly for me being in the city in which I grew up.’

Dizzee Rascal who also performed live said: ‘It is exciting to be part of the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. It is a good time for the UK and I am glad they asked me to perform one of my greatest tracks to represent the country. Huge respect to all the athletes who are taking part and let’s get the party started.’

Emeli Sande said: ‘I am extremely proud and humbled to be part of the amazing ceremony which will allow the world to see some of the best up-and-coming and established talent the UK has produced.’

It is very hard to describe the whole spectacle as there was just so much to see. Now as the first official day of the Games dawns, our attention will turn to the sport. Today Mark Cavendish will take part in the cycling event which will pass Hampton Court Palace and parts of Surrey before ending on The Mall, probably ensuring a good view for The Royal Family who were all in attendance last night.

Photo Anthony Charlton

 

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