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Opening Ceremony


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Aw, c'mon, Britain's literary giants were, quite literally, plastered all over the closing ceremony.

Did you like that? It really didn't do anything for me.

This thread IS about the OC... I could've stomached Frankie and June slightly better if they were in the CC.... The content was confused.

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Did you like that? It really didn't do anything for me.

I loved everything about the CC. And I think that was fair enough - it's one of the few ways they could have covered the vast British literary canon in the constraints of the ceremonies. At least they got that acknowledgement to literature into both ceremonies.

This thread IS about the OC... I could've stomached Frankie and June slightly better if they were in the CC.... The content was confused.

Fair enough. And I do tend to agree - one of my problems with Frankie and June was that the whole magical musical tour through British pop WAS repeated, and done much better, in the CC.

If the Romans, Elizabeth I and her era, WWI, WWII

I still think all that would have been totally cliche and it's all so familiar anyway (and actually, there was quite a distinctive 'war" nod in the remembrance tribute, not to mention nods to the Dambusters and Churchill in the Queen's helicopter flight). I don't think anyone marks down, say, LA, because there was no mention of Pilgrim fathers or Minutemen versus Redcoats, or Barcelona because we didn't get the Reconquista or Spanish Inquisition.

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I still think all that would have been totally cliche and it's all so familiar anyway (and actually, there was quite a distinctive 'war" nod in the remembrance tribute, not to mention nods to the Dambusters and Churchill in the Queen's helicopter flight). I don't think anyone marks down, say, LA, because there was no mention of Pilgrim fathers or Minutemen versus Redcoats, or Barcelona because we didn't get the Reconquista or Spanish Inquisition.

I think there was a way to include more of the key history without doing it in a manner that was "clichéd". Just because it's familiar doesn't mean it has to be boring or predictable (witness Athens' fracturing Cycladic head). I think it's still a fair point that London placed the emphasis in odd, lesser known places that paid very limited dividends with an international audience.

As for LA -- the entertainment section was titled "Music of America" -- so there was a clear organizing principle (something London lacked). LA did include many classic American icons -- marching bands, Gospel music, pioneers and square dancing, Gershwin and old Hollywood musicals, rock and roll.

This has nothing to do with anything, but I wish that the placard girls in London's parade of nations had been outfitted as members of a historical costume parade. They could have cycled through British history in female fashion every 8-10 countries or so: original Britons, medieval attire, Elizabethan, Regency, Victorian, war-era, 70's mod, present day. I think it would've been a blast. Oh well.

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So I guess we're now on the second wave of reviews of the ceremony. I've actually watched it again now (only the second ceremony I've ever re-watched after Sydney's), and I have to confess to a bit of revisionism in my opinion of it. I guess that's inevitable when you re-watch a ceremony with the sort of eye to detail and criticism we tend to bring to it. The first time watching it live it washed over me and I did find it extremely enjoyable. Looking back on my initial comments here at the time, I did indeed watch it with a smile on my face the entire time. But I also noted then that it also seemed a bit disjointed. Repeat viewing to me really made the disjointedness more glaring. I felt a bit deflated – almost wish I'd left it at the one viewing now.

It was almost to me like the highpoints and the best executed segments – Green and Pleasant and Pandemonium, with its glowing rings which to me were the biggest “wow” moment of the ceremony – came too early and a lot of it after was an anti climax. I liked the idea behind the NHS/kids-lit segment, but on playback I think that was the part that suffered most from the camera work – the Seven broadcast here, for example, seemed to focus totally on Voldemort, with only a wee glimpse of Cruella de Ville and and nothing at all of Captain Hook or the Queen of Hearts. The big baby WAS eerie – I never noticed it at all the first time.

The social media segment was the one that most disappointed me the second time. I still like the music – I thought it was a great nod and run-through of British pop culture of the generation since the last time London held the games, but in hindsight that whole theme was repeated and done much better in the closing (which I still rate the best closing ceremony ever – though I'm not going to risk watching that again and risk being disillusioned). The projections also were a bit of a let-down and didn't work as well as those used in the Jubilee Concert earlier in the year. Actually, in all my talks and discussions about the ceremony with friends and others when I was in London, it was this segment that most people seemed to have less-than-positive responses towards.

On the plus side, I still think the comedy segments were among its greatest strengths. That probably reflects personal tastes – I really get turned off by ceremonies that take themselves too solemnly and seriously – and I really have to give full marks to London for having the confidence to bring humour to the opening rather than leave it to the closing where most other hosts have put it. And I still stick by the opinion that the cauldron was the most beautiful of all time, even if the actual execution of its lighting didn't match up to magic lightings like Barcelona's (and, indulge me, Sydney's), and it was a bit of a let-down to have it confined within the stadium rather than tall and proud above the Olympic Park (though, of course, that's not strictly a ceremonial issue).

Just to respond to a few other comments on this thread.

It amuses me how there's such a disparity between people thinking it was “too” British, and others who didn't think it was British enough. I certainly had no problem understanding the British cultural references in it. I can see why some people were a bit flummoxed by nationalised medicine playing such a big role, but I can also see why that was a touchstone for Brits and thought the way it was melded with children's literature gave it a wider context anyway. And while on the literary question, I think it was represented appropriately and well – nods to Shakespeare and the legends of kids-lit in the opening, and a stage-setting made up entirely out of the great and famous quotes from British literature for the closing. Trying to do much more with that wouldn't have left scope to much more of anything, so vast is the British literary canon. Similarly British history – unless you were going to try to do a moving montage like Athens did, there's just too much of it to have done it any justice or given any satisfactory narrative of Britain's story. Anyway, it's all soooo familiar anyway – I'm glad they didn't go for cliches like Roman legionaries (what have they ever done for us anyway), Elizabethan courtiers or Regency fops. It was, to me, a representation of modern Britain and its development, which to me was appropriate and which I can see why it resonated so deeply with the Brits themselves.

At the end of the day, it's still among the ceremonies that I've enjoyed the most, at least on first viewing. But, yeah, there were some nagging niggles and less than smooth executions that came out in the repeat viewing that prevent me now being as fulsome in my praise and vigorous in its defence as I initially was.

Been coming to the conclusion for several years that both ceremonies are more of TV-friendly affairs rather than the stadium spectators ones. Yeah, it does seem to me that it was edited for TV despite all of the numerous video cameras used by the BBC, NBC, et al. Was expecting some nod towards the Norman conquest of 1066 rather than the cliched Romans or classic British royality. Not anticipating any references towards how the UK fought against the Axis when it was ravaged by them during WW2 except for that whistling from Underworld and Dame Evelyn's And I Will Kiss. That said, it was a very good one to me. To really get into this, you have to know somethings about modern and contemporary British culture. Obviously, the Industrial Revolution (Pandemonium) segment showcases a very important part of not just British development (for it originated there) and history but all around the world, particularly the West. The NHS and British children's literature legend references segment are venerable to the UK, just like the BBC is. And that the www's important roots lie in Britain with Tim Berners-Lee (more on that later).

Where the problems lie with the OC is in Britain's numerous contributions to the world act as both a blessing and a curse when it comes to the Opening Ceremony. Here, there was just SO MUCH out of them to do justice that was crammed into Danny Boyle's vision he had some trouble in making sure everything was done and shown in an economical manner. His flaw was looking into the eyes of a filmmaker with no glue as a connector bridging them all together and not have constant and proper consultation with OBS' TV crew and maybe the BBC to come into a reconcilliation. Some aspects like the suffragette movement and the Windrush during Pandemonium were given short shrift than they deserve. So too I think in retrospect the Green and Pleasant Land rural Britain segment in the beginning wasn't used much as it should; we don't get to know those as much as we should. I'm actually not worried about the NHS segment as much because of knowing Barrie and his Peter Pan royalties going to the Ormond St. Children's Hospital with all of the iconic British children's stories references like Mary Poppins melding NHS' touchstone importance. Done really well in that, although I too can see why some people were "flummoxed" by the health care segment. Oh yeah, that River Thames short film could use some expansion. Couldn't spot Paddington Bear either.

But with the Frankie and June Say Thanks Tim, I get that Boyle was capturing the evolving contmeporary youth pop tastes as Britain became more multicultural through the use of the Internet and the timeline of UK pop music since 1948. But it was the weakest in my opinion too. There were so many songs to choose from out of British artists and were omitted from an incredible array to choose from spanning the decades; some of my favorite UK artists' notable tracks (like UB40, Tears For Fears, and Duran Duran) weren't on there. Must also throw a bone to the grime rap scene with Dizzie Rascal being the best known UK rapper there on Bonkers. But that's a personal quibble and minor at that. Interesting to me though was of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Relax was part of it considering that song got famously banned banned by the BBC back in early 1984 (an embarassing one at that). Surely a more creative segment could explore all of the tech and music together and capturing the British youth coming together. Maybe someone as young as me could understand it better. That said, I too am glad the whole Opening Ceremony went to the development of modern Britain to where it is today.

Never got to see the BBC broadcast. Will have to wait. So I can compare with the upcoming director's cut along with the world feed and NBC's.

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This has nothing to do with anything, but I wish that the placard girls in London's parade of nations had been outfitted as members of a historical costume parade. They could have cycled through British history in female fashion every 8-10 countries or so: original Britons, medieval attire, Elizabethan, Regency, Victorian, war-era, 70's mod, present day. I think it would've been a blast. Oh well.

I could've seen that working - I quite like the idea.

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As for LA -- the entertainment section was titled "Music of America" -- so there was a clear organizing principle (something London lacked). LA did include many classic American icons -- marching bands, Gospel music, pioneers and square dancing, Gershwin and old Hollywood musicals, rock and roll.

This has nothing to do with anything, but I wish that the placard girls in London's parade of nations had been outfitted as members of a historical costume parade. They could have cycled through British history in female fashion every 8-10 countries or so: original Britons, medieval attire, Elizabethan, Regency, Victorian, war-era, 70's mod, present day. I think it would've been a blast. Oh well.

Our musical diversity is one of our tremendous assets to the world and that was great back in LA

The costumed idea for the placard girls would've be interesting and grant a nod to the past all the way to the present. But the volunteers apparently had a greater weight and were thus more inexpensive than costumes.

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Our musical diversity is one of our tremendous assets to the world and that was great back in LA

The costumed idea for the placard girls would've be interesting and grant a nod to the past all the way to the present. But the volunteers apparently had a greater weight and were thus more inexpensive than costumes.

If they were custom-made, yes. But surely there are PLENTY of rental houses that would've let out their costumes for a nominal fee to LOCOG.....

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Boyle's Indian-phile side overrode the choice for the "country-placard ladies." They were designed by a little-known designer of Indian descent. I was just waiting for the little country names above the heads to suddenly light up; and then explode in fireworx when GB marched in. But sadly, I was disappointed.

Edited by baron-pierreIV
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This has nothing to do with anything, but I wish that the placard girls in London's parade of nations had been outfitted as members of a historical costume parade. They could have cycled through British history in female fashion every 8-10 countries or so: original Britons, medieval attire, Elizabethan, Regency, Victorian, war-era, 70's mod, present day. I think it would've been a blast. Oh well.

I'm afraid I can't agree. I think that would have looked very cheesy and not even unique to Britain. After all, it wasn't only the British who dressed in these different fashions throughout the ages. What you think of as medieval British, Elizabethan or Victorian fashions were in fact typical European-wide fashions of those eras. So how would parading in these different costumes of the past have been in any way significant to London or the UK?

Edited by Mainad
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Was expecting some nod towards the Norman conquest of 1066 rather than the cliched Romans or classic British royality.

Why the Norman conquest and not, say, the Anglo-Saxon or Viking conquests or the irony of how the Romans originally founded London in the teeth of fierce opposition from the ancient Britons followed by the story of how Queen Boudicca and her folllowers then burned it to the ground as soon as they had the opportunity? To complete the historical irony, there is actually a statue of Queen Boudicca, the destroyer of London, on the Thames embankment opposite the Houses of Parliament!

Boudiccastatue.jpg

Edited by Mainad
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I wonder which opening ceremonies actually looked better on second viewing? ;)

LA? Atlanta. Sydney. Salt Lake. Beijing. B)

But did you already like those from the first viewing?

Which of them, if any, did you not like at the time but which you changed your mind about on second viewing? ;)

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I'm afraid I can't agree. I think that would have looked very cheesy and not even unique to Britain. After all, it wasn't only the British who dressed in these different fashions throughout the ages. What you think of as medieval British, Elizabethan or Victorian fashions were in fact typical European-wide fashions of those eras. So how would parading in these different costumes of the past have been in any way significant to London or the UK?

As someone who has spent a good deal of time studying costume design, I beg to differ. Yes, there are some similarities between countries during periods, but each country absolutely has distinctive traits. Why else would Shakespeare write about "French fashion"? The above comment would only be made by someone who has not studied the subject.

Incidentally, some of us found the phalanx of Seargeant Peppers, jiving nursemaids and romance via text message "cheesy" -- to use your turn of phrase. An elegant costume parade may not be to your taste -- fine, it's just a random thought -- but it sure as heck wouldn't be much worse than some of the stuff that did make the cut. It would've been a good deal more interesting than those shapeless photo collage get-ups.

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Must say that I agree totally with Athensfan's view of the placard bearer costumes; and I think many of them would too. They really weren't particularly flattering or 'wow'... although I guess you could argue that the attention at that point should be on the flagbearer rather than the placard bearer.

Part of the problem with the OC is that there were big cuts made to it timewise; there are bits of Green and Pleasant that were supposed to happen in the main show but ended up only being seen during the preshow (e.g. the football morphing to rugby and all the animal tending) and other segments being tweaked up to the final weeks as they worked with timings. I'm not sure any of those helped with cohesion! Incidentally - the flaming bikes that appeared in the Paralympic Closing were originally slated for the Olympics Opening along with the BMXs that were a late cut.

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As someone who has spent a good deal of time studying costume design, I beg to differ. Yes, there are some similarities between countries during periods, but each country absolutely has distinctive traits. Why else would Shakespeare write about "French fashion"? The above comment would only be made by someone who has not studied the subject.

Perhaps 'cheesy'' was not quite the right word to have used. I understand what you are saying and I respect your knowledge of costumes and fashion but I doubt the average Olympic viewer would have been able to appreciate the fine distinctions between 16th century Elizabethan and contemporary 16th century French fashion or similarly from other eras. Elizabethan male courtiers wore ruffs or lace collars and wide breeches, similar for the women except they wore hooped dresses rather than breeches. French courtiers of the time would have looked very similar. Only fashion connoisseurs like yourself would have been knowledgeable enough to appreciate the fine distinctions. Average Olympic viewers almost certainly wouldn't.

Incidentally, some of us found the phalanx of Seargeant Peppers, jiving nursemaids and romance via text message "cheesy" -- to use your turn of phrase. An elegant costume parade may not be to your taste -- fine, it's just a random thought -- but it sure as heck wouldn't be much worse than some of the stuff that did make the cut. It would've been a good deal more interesting than those shapeless photo collage get-ups.

Well, Sergeant Pepper was at least a uniquely English music album produced by a uniquely English musical group. I would hazard a guess that most viewers would have recognised and understood it . But I guess one person's 'cheese' is another person's 'caviar'. :)

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Perhaps 'cheesy'' was not quite the right word to have used. I understand what you are saying and I respect your knowledge of costumes and fashion but I doubt the average Olympic viewer would have been able to appreciate the fine distinctions between 16th century Elizabethan and contemporary 16th century French fashion or similarly from other eras. Elizabethan male courtiers wore ruffs or lace collars and wide breeches, similar for the women except they wore hooped dresses rather than breeches. French courtiers of the time would have looked very similar. Only fashion connoisseurs like yourself would have been knowledgeable enough to appreciate the fine distinctions. Average Olympic viewers almost certainly wouldn't.

Just for the record, I'm so NOT a fashionista. I'm an art director and history of costume was part of the education.

As I said, the placard girl idea was just a random thought. I don't mean to be crusading for it.

The point really wouldn't have been the costumes per se anyway. It would be a reminder of Britain's long and colorful history. There was a timeless quality to both Athens and Beijing that felt majestic. London could have followed suit and didn't. I missed the sense of the march of time and the ancient history connecting to the present.

There was some history in the OC, but it was very loose and non-linear. The focus was really on the last two centuries. I understand that London and the UK want to redefine themselves and escape some of the baggage of the past. But one countryman's baggage is a foreigner's wonderment. The UK may be tired of original Britons, Arthurian legend, Elizabethans and Victorians, but the rest of the world isn't. I'm not saying all that had to be represented, much less dwelt on, but it was disappointing to see it omitted. The idea of a historical costume parade was just a way of trying to acknowledge the very significant role Britain has played in world history for many centuries. For me, the OC really didn't do that.

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Just for the record, I'm so NOT a fashionista. I'm an art director and history of costume was part of the education.

Apologies for the misunderstanding.

As I said, the placard girl idea was just a random thought. I don't mean to be crusading for it.

The point really wouldn't have been the costumes per se anyway. It would be a reminder of Britain's long and colorful history. There was a timeless quality to both Athens and Beijing that felt majestic. London could have followed suit and didn't. I missed the sense of the march of time and the ancient history connecting to the present.

There was some history in the OC, but it was very loose and non-linear. The focus was really on the last two centuries. I understand that London and the UK want to redefine themselves and escape some of the baggage of the past. But one countryman's baggage is a foreigner's wonderment. The UK may be tired of original Britons, Arthurian legend, Elizabethans and Victorians, but the rest of the world isn't. I'm not saying all that had to be represented, much less dwelt on, but it was disappointing to see it omitted. The idea of a historical costume parade was just a way of trying to acknowledge the very significant role Britain has played in world history for many centuries. For me, the OC really didn't do that.

Maybe the ceremony was pitched a bit too much towards the modern with the endless emphasis on youth and the future perhaps at the expense of some of the historical past elements. Youth, the future and regeneration have been the constant themes of the 2012 Games ever since the original pitch to the IOC back in 2005. It would seem Danny Boyle and co wanted to build on that and also to emphasise aspects of British history and culture that are familar to us here in the UK but perhaps not so familiar to the rest of the world. I recall a lot of past discussion from the British posters on here about how they didn't want the ceremonies to be too 'quaint' and overloaded with images of too traditional and maybe clichéed aspects of British history like morris-dancers and beefeaters for example. They wanted a more modern approach to present a side of Britain that foreigners often don't know too much about.

As I said in an earlier post, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't! B)

Edited by Mainad
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Honestly, I don't think that's true. It's totally possible to be cutting edge while still acknowledging the journey that got you where you are.

As you are an art director, I think I would be genuinely interested to see how you would have handled it! :)

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As you are an art director, I think I would be genuinely interested to see how you would have handled it! :)

I would LOVE to direct an OC, but I'm not really in the right field at the moment. I guess you never know what the future has in store....

I really like the way Athens used technology to convey history. The centaur, the fracturing Cycladic head with the projections of geometry and the cube guy were awesome to me. The film projected on the shards of sculpture was also beautiful. It was a great way of using today's technology to honor the past while still representing a rapidly changing, multicultural present. I seriously dug it.

In all fairness, London was in a difficult position for many reasons:

1.) London had to follow Beijing's jaw-dropping spectacle.

2.) British history is long, well-recorded and very well-known across the globe.

3.) There is an over-abundance of material and talent to work with -- far more than can fit in an OC.

4.) Present day Brits do not want to be constrained by the past, but want to embrace an fresh 21st century identity.

That's a quite a bit to balance and it would be pretty easy to put a foot wrong. Quite a tall order. I do think a better balance could've been achieved, but I acknowledge that it was a very, very difficult task.

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The UK is not commonly known for making good wine, is it? ;)

Actually, while French wine is known more for being the best.

UK wineries are seriously competing with the French ones in terms of quality and taste.

Source: Some TV show I was randomly watching

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