Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony: An Intimate And Spectacular Achievement


This led into a very whimsical and particularly rousing section that was in tribute to the NHS (Britain’s health care service) and Great Ormond Street hospital. This part was scored to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and saw children laid in hospital beds being tormented by nightmarish villains from children’s literature. The section’s biggest wow moment was not when the giant Voldemort puppet elevated into the air or when the hundreds of actresses dressed as Mary Poppins seemingly descended from nowhere, but when J.K. Rowling stepped out to briefly read from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

It was a bizarre segment but none the less heartwarming and it was a clear example of Boyle’s intention to craft a more intimate ceremony. While there were many children used in the set piece, it chose to focus on one girl going through the experience of the nightmares, some of which were quite chilling. The Child Catcher becomes a whole new level of creepy when introduced to roller skates.

As the beds are cleared away, we get our first injection of humour as the ceremony moves into its tribute to the British film industry. Although the prospect of watching an orchestra do a rendition of Vangelis’ theme from Chariots of Fire is not particularly enthralling or inspired (it’s the Olympics, it’s in Britain so here’s a reminder of toffs running on a beach), true genius hits when Rowan Atkinson is revealed as part of the orchestra. Here the humour was truly played up, as a bored Atkinson drifted into a dream where he is dropped into the iconic Chariots beach run.

A great moment and again, an example of keeping the Opening Ceremony much more low key and intimate. Boyle then returned to his celebration of the future generation with a celebration of British popular culture. A romance is portrayed between two teenagers as Boyle takes us on a musical journey, mashing up artists from all genres, films, TV shows and social networking into one big medley that proved again spectacular and rousing. The representation of social networking and teenagers using text speak was a tad hamfisted and probably a mistake but was in service to a central theme about youth and how they interact.

Whatever mistakes were made there were more than made up for in a denouement that introduced Sir Tim Berners-Lee (creator of the Internet) to the crowd. It is one of Boyle’s main wishes to get Berners-Lee into the ceremony and it was great to see that wish come into reality. It was a moment about the people as much as this one man. As he waved to the crowd, his slogan of “This is for Everyone” was spelled out in the pixel lights placed into the crowd. A sign that this is the Olympic Games that is about icons, but more importantly, is about what one icon can deliver to the people.

The closing of the Opening Ceremony, which involved Sir Steve Redgrave handing over the torch to younger athletes, cemented Boyle’s and Olympic organiser Sebastian Coe’s vision for this Olympics: looking toward the future, toward the younger generation to carry on this great tradition. The lighting of the cauldron proved a fitting end to 90 minutes of sheer joy, a beautiful creation made from over 200 kettles on long arms were raised up and brought together to create one bowl of flame, a symbol of the nations uniting under one banner in the name of sport.

A wonderful, moving and intimately spectacular ceremony. Danny Boyle has done himself, Britain, the Olympians and the rest of the world proud.

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