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The London Olympics Opening Ceremony: Theatre on the Grandest Scale

Facts and Figures on Staging the 2012 Opening Ceremony


The London Olympics Opening Ceremony: Theatre on the Grandest Scale

The London 2012 Ceremonies Team transformed the Olympic Stadium into a series of settings that reflected the cultural changes and revolutions of British society, from ancient days upon a miniature Glastonbury Tor, to the bustling London of the modern age.

Image (from Opening Ceremony Technical Rehearsal) Courtesy of HannahWebb (Flickr)

On Friday, July 27, 2012, London welcomed the world to the Olympic Games with a spectacular and inclusive Opening Ceremony staged 'For Everyone'

The London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony not only welcomed the finest athletes from more than 200 nations for the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games, it also provided a massive challenge on how to stage a grand theatrical display on one of the largest displays in the world – and for an audience of billions.

The opening ceremony was the brainchild of theatre and film director Danny Boyle, and reflected the key themes and priorities of the London 2012 Games, based on sport, inspiration, youth and urban transformation.

A ‘Very British Welcome’

The opening ceremony included a combination of performance factors on a grand scale, from child choirs and live rock performances to live theatre (led by an impressive Kenneth Branagh), and from synchronized song and dance, to puppetry (giant Voldemorts!) and film.

Participants included Olympic Ambassadors David Beckham, who played who played an important role in bringing the Games to London and has been a big supporter ever since, and Jade Bailey a young footballer, who brought the flame to the Stadium by speedboat from Tower Bridge.

In discussing the opening ceremonies, LOCOG Chair Seb Coe said: ‘The athletes competing at the Olympic Games have arrived in London to give the performances of their lives. We wanted to provide a very British welcome for them and the rest of the world. Danny Boyle has created a show of memories and moments that will last a lifetime for people across the UK and the world.’

The Ceremony celebrated Britain's connections to the global community and culture, and included globally known British stars of song, stage, screen and sport such as Sir Paul McCartney who closed the Ceremony, David Beckham and Daniel Craig – who in his most recognized role as James Bond (and with a welcome twinkle of sly humor) accompanied Her Majesty the Queen in a mission to get to the Olympic Stadium.

‘This is for Everyone’

Oscar winning British director Danny Boyle and his creative team took audiences gathered in the Olympic Stadium, at London 2012 Live Sites in towns and cities around the UK, and more than a billion television viewers in villages and neighborhoods around the world on a spectacular and emotional journey through British time, culture and society.

The theme of the Ceremony was ‘this is for everyone’, and the evening celebrated contributions the UK has made to the world through innovation and revolution, as well as the creativity and exuberance of British people. From the industrial to the digital revolution, the Ceremony celebrated how Britain has contributed to the world.

In one moving segment, the sell out audience joined as one in a minute’s silence, remembering fallen heroes who have died in conflicts across the world. (Here in America, NBC unfortunately cut this moment, among several, in the night’s broadcast, but it is still accessible for viewing on the web.)

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