Saturday, July 28, 2012

What I Learned from the Olympic Opening Ceremonies



I kind of loved the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. I know it’ll probably have a lot of critics, but it felt younger and less staid than previous Opening Ceremonies. The last Games was in Canada, and I loved those Opening Ceremonies, too, although I’ll admit my face was in my hands at points when the history of Canada involved igloos, Inuit, moose, beavers, and Mounties. God we will NEVER live down those clichés.

So perhaps there were a few Brits who felt the same when they were watching, but for me, if the purpose was to make me watch it and see everything that is in our world right now and trace it back to the Brits and make me wish I could claim to be a part of that nation, it worked. (They left out a lot of nasty bits… you know, imperialism and colonialism and conquering, though they did trot out the redcoats. And the NHS thing flew in the face of the massive cuts that are pending. So, yeah, it was sugar-coated, but name an Opening Ceremonies that shows you the downside of the nation.) It was surreal, quirky, over-the-top insane, touching, weird, and awesome.

And not everyone likes Danny Boyle, but being a younger person with a weird quirky vision, he certainly brought a new take on things to the Games. So here are the things I learned by watching (I watched with my kids, with my son whining the whole time that he just wanted to watch The Octonauts instead — and me saying, “But The Octonauts are actually British, maybe they’ll show them! — and my daughter making remarks the entire time that had me giggling):

Voldemort can be defeated by a spoonful of sugar. My daughter thinks this is the way the series ends now.

England was started in the Victorian era at the base of a hill with a tree on it, that was blessed by Abraham Lincoln, who chose Caliban’s speech from The Tempest to spark the nation. ??

I was trying to explain to my daughter what was happening next, “So… they’re showing that England has these beautiful countrysides, but then industrialism happened where they opened up factories, so they’re showing how all of the factories and industries and businesses in the world basically originated in England, because it has the countryside but it has busy cities, too.” She didn’t see it that way: she thought they were showing that England used to be a beautiful countryside until the Industrial Revolution happened, and then they grazed the fields and cemented over everything and turned it into a shithole.

Rowan Atkinson has still got it. My kids thought he was hilarious, especially when he jumped into the car to race to the finish line. I now have to start showing them episodes of Mr. Bean.

That poor pianist was playing his heart out, and no one noticed him at all.

I love British music. They touched on a lot of the bands I’ve listened to endlessly over the years, and I thought the montage was glorious, though I’m sure there were probably a lot of Brits watching who tired of the Britpop pretty quickly.

That opening sequence along the Thames was amazing. I really hoped there would be a TARDIS in the air, and was searching the skies desperately for it, to no avail. However, did you see the Pink Floyd pig floating near the river? And also, at one point he pulled the camera up so you could see an overhead view of the river, and just as I said to my daughter, “It looks like the opening credits on East–” you could hear the opening synth beats of the EastEnders theme. Brilliant. My daughter loved London Bridge and both kids laughed at the pig floating in the air.

My daughter on the NHS skit: “I wouldn’t want to go to that hospital. The sheets are all glowy and I would NEVER get to sleep.” Hahaha! I had no idea all the proceeds of sales of Peter Pan went to a children’s hospital. Wow. In the children’s lit section (I LOVED that they had a children’s lit section) was there any mention of Winnie the Pooh? I thought that would be an obvious one, but I could see the Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, and of course Voldemort. If they showcased the villains, did they also mention any heroes besides Mary Poppins?



David Bowie. Not only did we get Aladdin Sane during the musical montage, but when the Great Britain athletes took the field, they played “Heroes.” Lovely. I guess he really is in retirement if he wouldn’t show up to perform there (you just know he was asked to). Sad but happy all at once.

James Bond! That sequence was also hilarious. I had to explain James Bond to my daughter, and I said, “He’s part of the queen’s secret service; basically a spy who goes to other countries in the name of England.” She thought I was talking about a real guy, and that Daniel Craig actually WAS James Bond. So now I had to explain my way out of that one. Note to husband: We need to start showing her the movies.

The queen: Could she have had a more sourpuss look on her face? I love that she agreed to film the bit ahead of time with Bond coming to pick her up, but something tells me Danny Boyle didn’t fill her in on the whole helicopter jump thing, and when she realized that a double had leapt out of a helicopter she was not amused. Or maybe she was actually a little teary-eyed at how lovely the Ceremonies were, and the camera just caught her at a bad time. Hm.



The guy who invented the Internet is a Brit? I honestly didn’t know that. Why wasn’t HE carrying the torch?

Muhammad Ali: It was so touching to see him, but very sad at the same time. I remember him coming out at the 1996 Games to light the cauldron, and how tear-inducing that was at the time. It was great to see him hold the flag for an instant, and you could see his wife imploring him to “Wave, just wave” and trying to get him to, but he didn’t move, and this will probably be his last Olympic Games. I still love that they had him there.

The “Abide with Me” section was gorgeous in its quiet: it was very solemn and handled well without being sensationalist, and I loved the quavering voice of the singer, which was just perfect. I’ve heard that in the US, NBC cut away from this portion to air an interview with Michael Phelps, because after all, who cares about a few people who were killed in the London bombing? Can you imagine if the UK cut away from a tribute to 9/11 victims? Just sayin.

Doctor Who lied: in “Fear Her,” the episode was set a few years in the future when the London 2012 Olympics, and at the very end of the ep, David Tennant’s Doctor grabbed the Olympic torch (which was the one used at the previous games, not the new fancy one they had here) and ran through the streets with it. So where was our fearless Doctor now? I heard that Matt Smith got to carry it a ways in May, which is very cool. And if you listened really hard, there was indeed a TARDIS sound during the Opening Ceremonies, right at the end of “Bohemian Rhapsody”; I KNEW it, but when I yelled, “TARDIS!!!” my kids both laughed and said no, they hadn’t heard anything. I found out afterwards I was right. ;) Here’s proof:


Paul McCartney clearly loves “Hey Jude” over every other song he has ever written. I’m assuming it’s because of the singalong factor, but when he showed up I thought, “Oh please anything but ‘Hey Jude.’” Hey, I love the song, but it’s the one he sings at everything like this. And it goes on for like 10 minutes. Ah well, still love you, Paul.

Oh, David Beckham. Yes, he’s beautiful, but I was a little worried they’d have him be the final torchbearer, and I just didn’t want that. In the end, he didn’t seem to carry the torch at all; he just drove the boat that was carrying the torchbearer.



I was really proud of how the Canadians lit the torch in a new and exciting way, but the Brits officially one-upped that one. Actually, ten-upped it. It was absolutely spectacular. And the fireworks display at the end? WOW. But I couldn’t help but think after seeing the fireworks display, “Thank goodness the Games weren’t in San Diego this year.” (They’ll just never live that one down, will they? Turn down your sound if you follow that link, by the way.)

Congratulations, London! You’ve wowed many of us. Now, on to the Games!

16 comments:

KathyT said...

I loved it too but yep when old Paul came on and Hey Jude sounded, I cringed. It was not the best "lets get this sports show on the road" kind of rousing song I expected. With all the great British talents available, do they have to go with him every damn time??? I'm probably the only one in the universe but really, but not a fan. Also never bought into the whole Beatles thing- and as I was born in the early 60s, I grew up always hearing the songs on the stereo with 6 older siblings. maybe I'm just sick of it all. hahaha
I squealed like a child to see Rowen Atkinson though and the Bond Queen bt was fun to see. As for the Queen's sour face, I only saw it when people started posting those pics of it. Maybe she just wanted to be home watching on telly with the sound way down.
The history of music caught me right away. Full of fav songs from my youth and drinking 20s. loved it!
the only thing that struck me wrong is that while they had the guy call the girl about her missing phone...how did she talked to him on the phone if he had it? I must have missed the whole boy calling girl's friend and lucked in that it was the right contact who happend to be with girl and that is how they found each other part.

I also loved the fact that we as Canadian's got to see it live if we happened to be home watching. the Us feed was filled with commercials and always act like it's live- like that fools anyone?
I was watching some us show this week and they boasted that they will get the highest medal count. well, sure, if they send over 500 athletes, that helps the total quite a bit doesn't it?
don't get me wrong, I have many Amercan friends. Sometimes the ego bugs me that's all.
What IS a nation's limit on sending athletes anyway? anyone know?

lady_knight said...

As a proud Brit I was glued to the TV last night and overall thought it was pretty good, although Rowan Atkinson and JK Rowling were just awesome :P (I also picked up the Tardis but my boyfriend didn't believe me!) I can't help thinking that people are going to be comparing us to China four years ago though!

Colleen/redeem147 said...

She didn’t see it that way: she thought they were showing that England used to be a beautiful countryside until the Industrial Revolution happened, and then they grazed the fields and cemented over everything and turned it into a shithole.

They started with Blake's Jerusalem and I bet he'd agree.

I figured it was Hey Jude because it's the one song where everyone in the world can sing the chorus.

yourblindspot said...

I now have to start showing them episodes of Mr. Bean.

Yes. You really do. Both of my kids think he is the funniest human being on the planet. The segment at the public pool? I've never heard laughter like that coming from them. Bless you, Rowan.

...was there any mention of Winnie the Pooh?

This is slightly off-topic, but did you know that Christopher Robin Milne's original stuffed toys are on display at the New York Public Library? I just found out a few weeks ago, and now I MUST plan a special trip up there just to see them.

Erin {pughs' news} said...

My kids love Mr Bean. They were SO excited to see him at the Olympics! My eldest was laughing so hard when he jumped into that car, he got the hiccups. And then for the rest of the night, they both kept asking me, "When are we going to see Mr Bean again?"

You definitely need to start showing your kids episodes of Mr Bean. They will die laughing when you show them the one at the swimming pool. The one where he gets dressed while driving the car is pretty awesome too.

We loved the ceremony. My British husband was so happy with all the music, and we both got quite emotional during Jerusalem and the Abide with Me song/mention of the London bombings. My favourite bits were: JK Rowling, the Queen as a Bond girl, the East Enders music, seeing Voldemort {aside: am reading book 1 to my boys and they were all, "What are you talking about?" when I said, "Gaah! It's Voldemort!" As far as they're concerned, He Who Must Not Be Named disappeared the night Harry got his scar!), and the thrill of hearing the TARDIS. Now, I just hope The Doctor turns up at the Closing Ceremony. I mean, he has to, right?

Ali Bags said...

I still haven't seen it! Was on a marathon train journey from UK to Romania. Might have to watch it now. A friend of mine mentioned NBC cutting the Commemorations of the victims of the London bombings on Facebook. I hope the information was correct! I'd hate to spread false information! And if they cut to an interview of Michael Phelps I'm even more disgusted, because that was unnecessary.

Ali Bags said...

There's a few Brits I am thoroughly sick of - Paul McCartney, JK Rowling and the Queen. Sorry, but I'm not the most patriotic person in the world!

ashlie said...

I loved the opening ceremonies, but was disappointed that the primetime feed on CTV was edited. I didn't realize until the next day when everyone was talking about J.K. Rowling and Mary Poppins and Voldemort and I couldn't remember seeing any of it! I double checked my DVR, and that whole segment definitely wasn't on the later feed that I watched. I guess I'll be sure to set the recording for the live feed for the closing ceremonies.

Anonymous said...

Rogers on Demand has the complete opening ceremonies, including giant Voldemort.

Ali Bags said...

Seen it. Loved it. The BBC commentary explained everything nicely.

EsDee said...

I missed the opening ceremonies...wish I had seen them. Olympics coverage in the US generally stinks anyway - way too many commercials and also all the in-between touchy-feely stuff interviewing the athletes...and of course we get shown almost all of the US athletes and only a few of the other country's competitors. Too much Phelps, I am sick of him. As far as medal counts, I have always hated that...of course if you enter more athletes you will win more medals. I also hate all the teams made up of professional athletes...I'd prefer they pull the best of college athletes or something.

EsDee said...

Boy that post sounded so negative...sorry!

Blam said...


We couldn't figure out the correct plural of "Mary Poppins". Is it just "Mary Poppins"? "Mary Poppinses"? "Marys Poppins"?

EsDee said...

Mary Poppii

georgiapreach said...

I loved how they played Eclipse, the last track off Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon as the cauldron was lit and then transitioned into The End from The Beatle's Abbey Road before going to Sir Paul. Great stuff. Artic Monkeys did excellent cover of Come Together and the the cyclists with the glowing dove wings were hypnotic!

I was embarrassed that NBC in the US showed a Michael Phelps interview instead of the tribute to the London bombing victims. Poor taste on NBC's part.

Nikki Stafford said...

Blam: I would say Mary Poppinses. And you have to say it in Gollum's voice. ;)