28 Jul 2012

Cinematic ceremony launches London 2012

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins kicks-off an all-singing, all-dancing opening ceremony which charts Britain’s social and cultural history from Bond to Bean, via the NHS.

The Olympics extravaganza begins (R)

Launching the official opening to the Olympic Games, Bradley Wiggins stepped up to the podium to ring the Olympic Park stadium’s huge ceremonial bell.

His identity was kept secret until the very end. Similarly, little about Danny Boyle’s vision for the opening ceremony was revealed beforehand, aside from its promise of eccentricity. And it didn’t disappoint.

Starting off with a pastoral scene from “Ye Olde Britain”, performers dressed in bonnets danced around maypoles. Sir Kenneth Branagh, dressed as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, entered the scene reciting Caliban’s speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Children’s choirs from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales then sang their country’s national song filmed on location, before the audience was taken on a trip back in time to the history of Britain’s miners and then the suffragettes. Chelsea Pensioners, Jarrow marchers and a band wearing the brightly-coloured Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s uniform joined the parade.

The audience was treated to a glimpse of James Bond (aka Daniel Craig) at Buckingham Palace with the Queen herself, before the pair jetted off in a helicopter and appeared to parachute into the stadium. The Queen and Prince Philip then emerged from the audience in the stadium and were given an official welcome.

As anticipated, the NHS was given an all-singing, all-dancing tribute, with nurses jazz-dancing around beds and an appearance from patients and staff from the Great Ormond Street hospital.

The ceremony then took an explicitly musical turn taking in the Beatles and the Kinks via some colourful cultural references to 60s and 70s pop culture before Dizzee Rascal himself took to the stage. Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) also made an apearance to conduct (or not conduct) the philharmonic orchestra.

Read more: What can we expect from the opening ceremony?

The Olympics extravaganza begins (R)

‘My nerves are not important’

Hours before the start of the ceremony, director Danny Boyle dedicated the show to the volunteers taking part. “What you think about really is you think about the volunteers. The thing about directors is that they just sit at the back in the end,” he said. “So any kind of nervousness I feel is for them really, because my nerves are not important. And the excitement I feel about it is obviously the excitement I think they feel.”

It is testimony to his popularity among the 15,000 performers in Friday night’s extravaganza, that the secrets of the ceremony were largely kept under wraps. One performer told Channel 4 News that despite his lofty status as director of ceremonies, he spent rehearsals in the thick of it with the rest of them, giving words of encouragement and exuding enthusiasm.

The whole ceremony is said to have cost an estimated £27m and was watched by some 62,000 people in the Olympic Stdium audience in east London, as well as potentitally billions more worldwide.