Was that Mr. Bean?
Famous funnyman Rowan Atkinson’s “minuscule” role in the grand British orchestra that was playing the iconic ‘Chariots of Fire’ put a smile on many viewers’ faces as they took a second look at the familiar suit donning figure, tapping his finger on the electronic piano keyboards while looking perpetually bored, during one of the most memorable segments of the 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony held in London last Friday evening.
Other famous Brits could be seen everywhere, either as part of the grand production or as spectators in the arena, including ‘Harry Potter’ creator and novelist J.K. Rowling, Irish actor and director Kenneth Branagh, soccer superstar David Beckham, musician Mike Oilfield, the much talked about royal family watching the grand spectacle such as Prince Charles and wife Camilla, Prince William and wife Kate and Prince Harry and Prince Philip. The ever youthful Beatle legend Sir Paul McCartney represented the historic Beatlemania, one of the most notable contributions of British music to the world, as he serenaded the audience with a passionate rendition of his classic hit ‘Hey Jude’.
Of course, what would London be without its renowned fictional super agent James Bond?
Actor Daniel Craig’s mock dramatic entrance with Queen Elizabeth II, both being shown emerging from a helicopter and skydiving in a parachute towards the Olympic stadium, delighted the audience who were surprised by the revered Queen’s sense of humor as she willingly participated in a show stopping skit with Craig that eventually became one of the most talked about segments of the night.
All for the love of England and the great Olympics.
According to Nielsen, the historic event broadcast by NBC attracted 40.7 million US viewers, the largest US TV audience for any Olympics Opening Ceremony since the company began tracking in 1987. Interestingly, viewership for the London opening ceremony surpassed that of Beijing’s (34.9 million) held in 2008.
NBC smashes viewership records in 25 years
Beijing’s highlighted the fluidity, unity, solemnity and perfect synchronicity among its performers’ collective movement during the grand 2008 Opening Ceremony which essentially reflected the meditative and disciplined culture of the host country.
So how do you top Beijing’s?
And you can’t top London’s either simply because every opening ceremony has its own story.
London’s was a showcase of the United Kingdom’s history, vibrant culture and influences through the employment of its three distinct contributions to the world such as music, literature and theater.
Artistic director Danny Boyle veered away from the conventional and successfully turned the Olympic stadium into one massive theatrical production using high tech, elaborate and gigantic props and millions of characters dancing, singing and acting out their varied and important roles in sculpting British culture and history.
- The stage dramatically transforming from an agriculturally rich environment into a highly industrialized arena with “workers” manually stripping the green grass to give way to the British led Industrial Revolution
- The theme “Isles of Wonder” was taken from William Shakespeare’s famous play “The Tempest”
- The mining pathways forming blazing circles were raised from the ground to join other blazing circular objects suspended on air to eventually form the Olympic rings
- Employment of real doctors and nurses to sing, dance and act during the NHS (National Health Service) segment
- Children in their PJs sleeping in their illuminated beds depicting a scene from the children’s literary classic Peter Pan as different villainous characters emerged in their dreams from literary classics such as the Harry Potter series, Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians
- Mary Poppins characters emerging from the air to save the children from Lord Voldemort and the rest of the villains
- Hundreds of cyclists in illuminated dove-like costumes entering and leaving the stadium in dramatic fashion while British band Arctic Monkeys sings a cover of the Beatles’ classic “Come Together”
- The Queen officially opening the 2012 Summer Olympics
- Notable British activists bearing the Olympic flag
- Muhammad Ali who once lit the Olympic cauldron was standing on the sideline as an important part of the Opening ceremony
- The thousands of construction workers and manpower who built the Olympic stadium were lined up at the entrance to welcome the entry of the Olympic torch
- The Parade of Nations showcasing the world’s best athletes in all their youthful excitement and enthusiasm while popular British music such as U2’s, Pet Shop Boys’ and the Bee Gees’ songs played in the background
Perhaps, the most symbolic and touching segment of the ceremony was the lighting of the Olympic cauldron which was unconventionally and stylishly done using multiple torches forming a circle, slowly ignited one by one and were raised from the ground to converge into one big flaming cauldron.
Olympians handing the torches to their sponsored young, aspiring Olympians to collectively do the honors of lighting the big Olympic cauldron that would officially signal the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics was unconventional, out of the box and had successfully conveyed an inspirational message to the world and most especially to the youth.
The young generation is the most vital component in an eternally developing society. They must strive hard to fulfill their dreams and continue the legacy that the older generation has already begun, built, toiled for and laid out for them.
The next Olympics and everything that it stands for are now figuratively all in their hands. Hopefully, they shine and shine bright as London did last Friday night.
Good luck to all the Olympians who will compete in this year’s Olympics and to all of us fans who will be happily cheering from the ‘bleachers’.