NB: In this piece I start waxing know-it-all on Olympic opening ceremonies. Any opinions as to the quality of any particular Olympic Artistic Program are my own, and even if it turns out there are people who share my opinions, I do not claim to speak for them.
With 45 days until the start of the London Olympics, artistic director Danny Boyle (who won an Oscar for directing Slumdog Millionaire) has begun to reveal some details of what upwards of one billion people can expect to see when the lights go down on July 27.
Some hints have already come to light, such as a short video involving Queen Elizabeth herself commissioning James Bond (played by Daniel Craig) to open the Games, and which may end with Bond parachuting into the stadium.* Recently, two helicopters flew through Tower Bridge, one apparently filming the other, which has some people speculating that it may be for this video.
The announcement of the details of the ceremony’s opening scene (which is being called “Green and Pleasant”) probably coincide with the fact that the set piece (reportedly among the largest ever created) will soon be installed in Olympic Stadium, allowing anyone else with a camera and access to aircraft to get pictures of the stadium floor. Boyle plans on turning Olympic Stadium into the British countryside, complete with floral representations of the United Kingdom’s four constituent nations (the English rose, Scottish thistle, Welsh daffodil, and Northern Irish flax) and a farmful of live animals, including horses, cows, chickens, ducks, sheep, and sheep dogs. (I don’t envy whoever has to go onstage after all that.)
The buzzword that has surrounded the ceremonies for four years is “Beijing” (as in, “There’s no way this can beat Beijing”), but Boyle has announced that he’s hoping spectators will end up comparing his show to that of Sydney, known as being one of the most intimate opening ceremonies. This is a move that I agree with, being the level of Olympic nerd that will watch opening and closing ceremonies years after they are over (even 10-plus years later, watching the Olympic Flame come to life still gets me choked up). Sydney is one of my favorites because of that intimate feel and a sense of magic that I feel Beijing’s ceremonies did not have. Even after all this time, I still feel welcomed to Sydney, and I feel like Sydney shared itself and its history with me. I never felt welcomed to Beijing. With shots of performers in perfect lines covering the entire television frame, I felt dwarfed and a little showed off to.
But that’s not the point of this post; the point is that my favorite international event is coming to my favorite international city, it sounds like Danny Boyle is promising to put on one heck of a show, and I can’t wait.
For some photos of a scale miniature of the “Green and Pleasant” set, please click here.
*Okay, here’s the thing: either the media should not have broken the story on April Fools’ Day if they wanted it to be taken seriously (and if not, then even the U.S. Olympic Team has been played), or they’ve been dragging this joke on for two months, and that’s way too long to drag the hoax out. Maybe this is what the LOCOG (London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) had in mind: keep us thinking it’s a joke until it really happens. Either way, I’m really hoping that either of the speculated lines, “The name’s Bond… Games Bond” or “Let the James begin” do not appear. They’re both really lame.