And so it all came to this. A four year preparation, millions spent and the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony began at 9 p.m. sharp. We had had a sneak Olympic preview which seemed to show that the rumours of NHS beds and Tiger Feet were true and the Gloriana made its way to the Tower of London to rest the flame before the final lighting of the Olympic spirit flame Gloriana. The BBC did a pre- opening run down of past glories to hype up the audience at home, who were probably eating and drinking or watching Corrie to be fair.
The heavens opened just prior to the opening ceremony to provide rain as if it was an official sponsor but, ever prepared, the spectators were covered in ponchos and seemed unperturbed and on cue it dissipated.
We had a warm up of stylised village scenes with gamboling villagers with baskets and pitchforks, Jane Austin clad girls clutching parasols while some Frank sang about rock and roll. Okay – so far, so bizarre.
We were reminded about the 7/7 bombings and riots in a piece to camera by Andrew Marr so show the resilience of Londoners but the cynical amongst us might have thought that was in case anything went horribly wrong.
80 young musicians joined a professional orchestra to play
while maypole dancers danced in the background. This segued into a radio fishing report and then as the music crescendoed and subsided
we had an upbeat poppy countdown of iconic numbers on buses and doors, this led into children fishing in the streams around Britain to show our farms, high speed trains (?), rowing skulls, cricket, helicopters, Big Ben and Pink Floyd, Eastenders and punk rock.
Bradley Wiggins tolled the opening bell. Jerusalem was sung beautifully by a young girl in the arena and the children in Northern Ireland on the Giant’s Causeway, children in Scotland and Wales sang their national songs. Dickensian figures filled the field and one representing Isambard Kingdom Brunel read the “Be not afeard” speech from the Tempest
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.
The 1000 volunteer drummers beat while 2,500 volunteers marched down the hill to represent the Industrial Revolution. Smoking stacks grew from the hills. Pandemonium. The suffragettes appeared and then most sound stopped to focus on the poppies in the fields which was extremely moving.
In stark contrast the cultural change of the 60s was represented by vibrant Beatles suits and molten metal ran in rivulets to form a circle. Wealth and industry = Britain was the not so hidden message. Gradually more circles were forged to form the Olympic rings and these gave way to fireworks dropping on the earth beneath.
Awe inspiring. Loud cheers all round.
We then were treated to the pomp and circumstance of a palace, several corgis and James Bond and the Queen. A helicopter ride took us over the sights of London, including the statue of Churchill coming to life. The “Queen” and “Bond” parachuted into the Arena and HM really did arrive with her consort. What a treat! The Union flag was raised by members of the armed forces and seeing as 18,000 of them are deployed to protect the Olympics this was entirely appropriate. The National Anthem was sung by Chaos, a hearing impaired signing choir – but only two verses thankfully – no death to rebellious Scots to crush” moments.
The NHS, Great Ormand Street Hospital, and Mike Oldfield performed to Tubular Bells. Peter Pan and J. M. Barrie got the obligatory mention. Cue giant beds and doctors and nurses dancing to a brass ensemble. J. K. Rowling read from Peter Pan. Mary Poppins, Child-catchers and other examples of British children’s literature abounded.
Chariots of Fire was an orchestral piece to celebrate the British Film industry. Mr Bean was part of the London Symphony Orchestra, awaiting his turn pulling his rubber faces and tweeting. 😀 He fell asleep and we saw the famous beach run at St Andrew’s in his dreams, except of course Mr Bean was keeping up the rear till he got into his car and pulled in front.
The digital age came next. Snatches of old TV shows appeared, photo updates, tweets and 4 decades of music were represented in a sequence of dance to Going Underground, My Generation, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, My Boy Lollipop, Girl, She Loves You, Tiger Feet, Starman, Bohemian Rhapsody through punk’s We’re So Busy, Relax (Don’t Do It), Sweet Dreams Are Made of This, Fire starter, and all the while film clips from iconic British films appeared in the background. I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (as a football theme) segued into Bonkers. – and it all was a bit. Valerie, They Will Not Control Us, East London Madness. and this eventually revealed Sir Tim Berners-Lee who invented the WWW. The soundtrack to our lives. (Available to download after midnight)
The torch’s journey around the country was shown, showcasing friendly cops, and soldiers who I guess we’re going to see a lot of over the next few weeks. Proposals, fly pasts, incredible courage were all on display. All that we can be good at really.
Tower Bridge fireworks and David Beckham made his way through the water, and his former manor, to bring the flame to start the Olympics proper.
There was a moment’s silence to respect of those of 7/7 who could not be there to see the events unfold and then, and then…golden light and Abide With Me plaintively sung by Emeli Sandé with a beating heart backing ceding to organ music.
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
It was wonderful actually.
Flame, fireworks and Pink Floyd
Let the games begin!