Ah, the Olympics. What can you say about them? Until recent years mostly I said not much about them. Four years ago when the summer Olympics were featured in China, I was one of the few people not enamored with the Olympics in the least. I was tired of hearing about them, bored with seeing them on every single channel and ready to never ever hear the name “Phelps” again. Flash forward two years to Vancouver 2010 and my attitude was much the same – not more Olympics, please. This was the first year in a very long time that the Canadian government put actual money into our athletes and so there was that much more excitement around me building up to the opening ceremonies. Held in my own country or not, there was still too much coverage of this event for my liking leading up to it.
When the lights turned on in Vancouver 2010, I had just watched some beautiful pieces on the Canadian – American relationship and some amusing pieces about Canadian stereotypes, so I stuck around for the Vancouver Opening. That, as they say, was the beginning of the end. From then on I was an Olympic Junkie, watching nearly every single event possible. I learned about curling, ski jumping, different skating competitions and the athletes who participated in all these events. Now, I am an extremely competitive person by nature, or at least I can be, but as I know this about myself I try to keep this part of my personality in check. With the Olympics – it was not necessary to do this. Everywhere your countrymen are cheering just as hard as you and it feels so unifying. I watched every hockey game and even the grueling long hours of the cross country skiing events. The pinnacle of all this was that final hockey game. As long as I live, I will never forget the entire family sitting, literally, on the edge of the sofa, breathlessly watching the overtime seconds of the Men’s Hockey for Gold. We aren’t a sporty household, but that day we surely were.
What’s the point of this little anecdote? Mostly that I love the Olympics, at least the winter Olympics, and hope to do some justice to the coverage over the next few weeks. I’ll do my best to stay neutral (but I’m only human) and hope you enjoy the ride along with me. So without further ado – let’s get this rock a’ rollin’!
The opening ceremonies serve to give a taste of the country hosting the Olympics, paying homage to the culture and people. This is an event that is uniquely spectacular and educational as well as wholly celebratory. The opening of the Summer 2012 Games gave an impressive showing of cultural symbols, contributions of the UK that have changed the world in one way or another and some brilliant musical numbers. This ceremony was meant to pay homage to the long history the British Empire and its development throughout the centuries. Features included famous children’s literature figures brought to life by British authors: Mary Poppins, Cruela DaVille, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, etc. – brought to us by NHS volunteers and those from the Children’s Hospital as well. After an impressive display of nannies cascading in on umbrella’s and wee tots dancing on their beds, the London Symphony Orchestra led by Sir Simon Rattle conducting offered a tribute to the British Film Industry to the tune of Chariot of Fire (and featuring Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean and a fantasy of running on the beach in St. Andrew’s, Scotland and cheating towards a win). All of this culminating in a giant dance party featuring clips from British movies and music of an array of artists. A very triumphantly high note with which to begin the 2012 Games.
On a mellow note a memorial moment for deceased loved ones of people in attendance at the stadium followed by an interpretive dance during which the haunting melody of Emeli Sandi, singing “Abide With Me” rose gently through the silence. Admittedly, interpretive dance is not a favourite style of mine but I recognize the art of it here and this was a very beautiful piece with some beautiful lighting.
Finally begins the Parade of Nations with Greece leading the athletes into the stadium. This lasted over an hour, with an impressive showing by all the nations – smiles, flags and cheers abounding. The Chairman of the 2012 Games Sebastian Coe delivered a warm, welcoming speech discussing the unity and friendship that the Olympics celebrate. There is a “truth to sports” he declared, which London 2012 seeks to capture and inspire as the city welcomes the Olympics for the third time. Before ceding the podium, Mr. Coe promised “London 2012 will see the very best of us.”
Next to speak was Dr. Jacques Rogge, President of International Olympic Committee, who acknowledged the “diverse, vibrant cosmopolitan city” hosting this exciting event. Dr. Rogge eloquently thanked the entire Olympic team for their hard work, for the sweat equity that’s gone into this endeavor and to the thousands of volunteers and organizations who donated their time and efforts to the execution of these games. Her Majesty, having been escorted in by James Bond himself, then officially opened the games and the stadium ignited in a thoroughly impressive display of fireworks and lights.
The Olympic Flag was then carried into the stadium by a number of model citizens from across the globe including some Goodwill Ambassadors, a Secretary General and a Nobel winner to much fanfare celebrating the values that these people represent. Finally, the flag was hoisted above the stadium as the Olympic Anthem was played.
Sarah Stevenson, holding a corner of the Olympic flag, takes the Athlete’s Oath on behalf of all the athletes participating in the Games followed by Mik Basi, the official oath taker on behalf of the judges. Finally, the Olympic oath on behalf of all coaches is taken by Eric Farrell. At last, after the swearing in, after travelling untold miles the Olympic flame at last enters the stadium where six young British athletes take turns running the flame to the cauldron.
The Olympic torch carried by David Beckham via speedboat up the Thames was passed along to Steven Redgrave, who carried it into the stadium for the first time. Finally, the entire British Olympic team has a hand in lighting the cauldron, which was cleverly done: in the parade of nations copper petals were carried in that were later light and then folded up together to become one big flame, at which point the entire stadium is set alight with fireworks and cheering. Until two month ago (roughly) I lived a mere handful of blocks away from the Olympic stadium in the Stratford area of London – in fact I witnessed some of the construction over the last year or so. It is quite something to see the stadium now complete and lit.
The final note of the opening was a moving performance by Sir Paul McCartney of the classic “Hey Jude” which saw participation from the entire audience. And with that, the 2012 Games are open.