The Olympic Opening Ceremony: A Media Miracle In A Sea Of Disappointment?


Squeezed between an economic crisis and a rather large wave of apathy, the Olympics is so far struggling to get much positive hype that it hasn’t written itself. I remember in my year 4 geography class being told that ‘The 2012 Olympics will be one of the biggest events in your lifetime!’ Hmm.

Although we are a nation full of scepticism, especially when it comes to the Olympics, this weeks unveiling of the opening ceremony design is a glimmer of hope, in a sea of “I-didn’t-get-the-tickets-I-wanted”.

I can hear those of you who saw Beijing’s opening ceremony in 2008 asking “how can anything possibly top that” to which I will answer it can’t, but the beauty is it’s not trying to. Just to recap for readers who did not see the Beijing ceremony, imagine an audience of 91,000 watching a four hour light, culture and media spectacle with bizarre and experimental technology, bigger fireworks than Eurovision and one of the biggest choreographed dance routines ever!

The London Olympic opening ceremony artistic directors have a budget of £27 million and when compared to Beijing’s £64 million, the mystery of why they are going to attempt something totally different becomes clear.

So, what is going to start off London’s 2012 Olympic games? Well Danny Boyle – famous for directing cult classics like Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire as well as zombie film 28 Days Later – has announced its name will be ‘Green and Pleasant’, although its official name is ‘Isles of Wonder’ after Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’ (unusual since the Isles in the play are menacing and deadly!). On one of the biggest sets ever created – the equivalent of 12 Olympic size swimming pools – Boyle hopes to capture the great British countryside as well as “captur[ing]a picture of ourselves as a nation”. With rolling hills, meadows, fields and rivers, the main stadium will be transformed into a landscape reminiscent of something out of a Jane Austen novel. It will feature – take a deep breath – 12 horses, 3 cows, 2 goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, 9 geese, 70 sheep and 3 sheep dogs as well as 10,000 human volunteers who will be pretending to picnic, play sports and farm.

Bordering on tongue-in-cheek humour, London’s opening ceremony seems happy not to take itself as seriously as Beijing’s and is decidedly British. From what I can tell, the ceremony will be portraying the stereotype of British countryside. One of our nation’s more positive stereotypes, the ceremony seems to say ‘if this is what the world thinks of us, if they think we all live in cottages next to woods and a stream, let’s give the people what they want’. Nothing sums this up better than the fake rain producing rain clouds which are all prepared to make the weather suitably British if it isn’t already on the day!

So, although no Beijing, London’s opening ceremony looks to be a success. A chance for the Olympics to finally undo a top button, wipe the serious morose look off its face, roll up its trousers and go bask in the Great British rain.


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1 Comment

  1. David Martin on

    Personally I think it sounds like a bit of an anti-climax; who wants to see a ceremony about rain? Then again I’ve never appreciated traditional UK aspects that much and I can see how it could appeal, especially abroad. Nice piece Matt!

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