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Was a bit bored today ... there's only so many times you can keep refreshing the logo poll thread to see if there's been any movement ... so went through some of the old threads from 2008-9 about the Beijing OC. Polarised opinions are nothing new. Except in that case, anybody who liked the ceremony was accused by certain groups of being part of an "anti-Greek" to tarnish Athens' heritage, and those who expressed any criticism of it were accused by our Chinese politburo member Maryjane (and some others) of being racist and anti-Chinese.

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The London opening for me ranks in 4th place for Summer Openings behind Sydney, Barcelona and Atlanta in the summer category and 7th in the overall openings behind Sydney, Barcelona, Vancouver, Salt Lake City, Atlanta and Lillehammer.

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Re the Cirque du Soleil chimneys @baron-pierreIV:

Do bear in mind that they in turn are based on the moment, early in the film "Yellow Submarine", when the viewpoint suddenly descends from a view of sunrise behind the Liver Building, causing the chimneys of rows of houses (very like the one Ringo Starr grew up in) to rise in perspective just as Liverpool's working people light their morning fires. There may thus be more than two reasons why circa-1967 Beatles and Yellow Submarines unexpectedly appeared during the Industrial Era sequence.


Also @baron-pierreIV "Had a sneak at your attachment. A lot of interesting stuff but very difficult to follow since it seems to be all over the place. "

Yes, I did describe my notes as "very rambling"- but like the London opening itself, the notes are less "all over the place" than they first appear, consisting of an introduction to London vs Beijing, NBC vs The World, and other general themes, followed by a chronological summary of the event.


@Olympian2004 "the two countdowns" (etc.)

I think what happened was that the show was supposed, for television purposes, to go "live to the world" at the end of the first (60 second) countdown. Before that, broadcasters had the option of dipping in to see things like the Red Arrows flypast at 20:12, games on the village green, Frank Turner's performances, Ban Ki-Moon's (optimistic) declaration of the Olympic Truce, and the blue sheets game. Hence, as it turned out, many TV companies chose to show the first countdown even though it took place before the official start of the broadcast.

I agree with you, at least to an extent, on most other points, but I think you're precisely wrong about Mohammed Ali. The theme of the whole event was that everybody is mortal, but some can also be immortal. That "7/7 tribute" section was not described as such by the organisers, because that was only a small part of its purpose; it was actually supposed to be seen in conjunction with the preceding 1948/2012 Torch montage (another thing the poor Americans missed) as a message of achievements and concepts lasting, even though all individuals fade and die.
Hence too the multiple young cauldron-lighters; there had been a clear dual progression through the five main sections of the event, both in terms of Britain's history and individual life: agrarian and industrial eras (starting centuries ago, continuing through 1948) / ancestry; social democracy (focused on 1948 and the creation of the National Health Service) / childhood; the rise of modernity (starting before 1948 with the beginnings of the BBC, plus hinted developments lke the splitting of the atom, and continuing to the present day) / adolescence; the present day (27 July 2012, the athletes' parade) / peak performance; the future (28 July 2012 onward) / passing the torch to the next generation.


@cormiermax "They should have gone with someone more familiar with theater direction. I think one of the issues may have been he tried to direct it as if it was a movie. "

It has already been pointed out that Danny Boyle has done some very successful theatre work (most recently with "Frankenstein") but I agree that the "movie" style was an issue. What's interesting there, though, is that people who were in the stadium, seeing it as theatre, were pretty unanimously blown away; hence the "movie" style was mostly a problem for those seeing it on screen. We know two things about that- first that Danny Boyle wanted more control of the cameras; second that he wanted TV commentary kept to a minimum. The second is a really big issue, and I wonder if Rio will go further along the same route- the use of music in London was absolutely central to its emotional effect, and the current standard TV commentary style of random interjections is wholly inappropriate. If Rio were to suggest that commentators for 2016 should be experienced club DJs, working alone, rather than in the traditional TV commentators' "buddy" format, that could make for a rather interesting experience.

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Sydney is as close as near perfect an opening ceremony as you get and it does not seem to age.

I wouldn't go as far as to say Sydney 2000 hasn't aged, I think it is very much part a culmination of 20th century spectacle, the end of the era started by Moscow. I don't think Sydney would have done it the same in 2012.

In saying that, it is still stunning, and easily the most colourful, vibrant and joyful ceremony ever. It's people power scale is simply epic. Stadium Australia in its 110,000 seat configuration, amplifies the this. Sydney managed the joyful, laid-back ceremony, whilst still maintaining strong narrative and underlining the grandeur that is an Olympic Games - I think London came short in this regard.

As for ageless - I'd hand that Athens. A timeless masterpiece.

Edited by runningrings
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ok there have been alot of reactions about this ceremony.while people here have been arguing about its legacy and impact in the whole Olympic movement here's my opinion.

to be honest, i'm a huge anglophile. i watch doctor who and listen to radio 4. so if you think it's bias, it shall be and it will be, so don't point it out.

for me, the theme of the whole ceremony is about 'revolution'. change that may or may not be for the good nation. (Britain) from the industrial revolution, to the social revolution of the NHS to the digital revolution of the internet, it explore and invokes a nation that is not just about the castle and the pomp and the monarch but about change, rebellion and discord. sure we could have gotten a kings and queens parade about nice period dress, Arthurian legends or Merlin flying on the back of a dragon. but it only satisfy the international audience. but these ceremony talked to the Brits on how great their country is. and for a country in a recession, a former empire and cynicism as the national sport.the Brits need is the most

danny boyle proved that you can make a ceremony that could match Beijing ( which i for one think it's too hyped. the drumming was great but everything after that was a bit WTF. the emperor and his army hoes section was the final straw for me) on half its budget while simultaneously talk about what London is. not the one you see on a travel brochure

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@Olympian2004 "the two countdowns" (etc.)

I think what happened was that the show was supposed, for television purposes, to go "live to the world" at the end of the first (60 second) countdown. Before that, broadcasters had the option of dipping in to see things like the Red Arrows flypast at 20:12, games on the village green, Frank Turner's performances, Ban Ki-Moon's (optimistic) declaration of the Olympic Truce, and the blue sheets game. Hence, as it turned out, many TV companies chose to show the first countdown even though it took place before the official start of the broadcast.

The problem was that the first countdown took place after the "blue sheets" segment, which already led into the whole "Isles of Wonder" narrative, simulating the green isle in the infield being surrounded by the blue waters of the seas around Britain. I suppose that that segment was the main reason why many TV stations were already "on" before the first countdown.

And I must say that - even if it was only a video - the first countdown was executed better than the second one. It had a clever idea, showing all those numbers on buildings, signs etc. in London, and it had the more stirring soundtrack. The second countdown, with the kids and the popping balloons, appeared rather old-fashioned and conventional in comparison and not extremely well-executed (remember the balloons which failed to pop here and there). And also for the stadium audience itself it must have been quite strange to count down twice within only a few minutes.

So all in all, it was not really clear when the opening ceremony really started, due to the two countdowns and the early ceremonial (or at least ceremonial-appearing) segment with the blue sheets.

I agree with you, at least to an extent, on most other points, but I think you're precisely wrong about Mohammed Ali. The theme of the whole event was that everybody is mortal, but some can also be immortal. That "7/7 tribute" section was not described as such by the organisers, because that was only a small part of its purpose; it was actually supposed to be seen in conjunction with the preceding 1948/2012 Torch montage (another thing the poor Americans missed) as a message of achievements and concepts lasting, even though all individuals fade and die.

Hence too the multiple young cauldron-lighters; there had been a clear dual progression through the five main sections of the event, both in terms of Britain's history and individual life: agrarian and industrial eras (starting centuries ago, continuing through 1948) / ancestry; social democracy (focused on 1948 and the creation of the National Health Service) / childhood; the rise of modernity (starting before 1948 with the beginnings of the BBC, plus hinted developments lke the splitting of the atom, and continuing to the present day) / adolescence; the present day (27 July 2012, the athletes' parade) / peak performance; the future (28 July 2012 onward) / passing the torch to the next generation.

I don't think that the theme of the whole ceremony was mortality and immortality. The main theme of the ceremony was "Isles of Wonder", the main theme of the Games was "Inspire a generation" - and the people who carried the Olympic Flag were used as inspiration for the generations (past, present and future) as well as example for the wonders Britain respectively humanity and Olympism and its people have to offer.

The problem was that - besides his poor health condition - Ali's participation in the ceremony was extremely anti-climatic and pointless. He already had had his big moment to shine in an Olympic opening ceremony, namely his lighting of the cauldron in Atlanta. Just like when Salt Lake "re-used" Sydney's final torch bearer Cathy Freeman as Olympic flagbearer, I had the impression in Ali's case that the London organisers wanted to milk some applause from his appearance or even only the mere mention of his name. Also Sarah Brightman's performance in Beijing 2008 (after her famous Olympic premiere in 1992 with José Carreras) was somewhat pointless. That's why I think that only in special cases, big stars, famous athletes etc. should be allowed to perform or appear twice in the ceremonies of different Olympic Games. It makes it sooo anti-climatic if they are allowed to perform again and again and again. The "sensation effect" simply wears off very quickly.

And I stick to my opinion (which was apparently shared by many other viewers/spectators of the ceremony): It was inappropriate to let such an extremely ill man like Muhammad Ali appear. His wife even had to tell him "Grab the flag, baby" - as if he didn't really know where he was and what he should do. Or he simply didn't want to do it, and that would make it even worse. It was as if they had passed the flag to him as a last salute to a dieing man: "Here Ali, you are allowed to touch the Olympic Flag one last time." As someone who always has been a huge fan of Ali, I felt sick in that moment. Ali was pulled into a spotlight where he shouldn't belong anymore, considering how bad his condition is, being only a mere shadow of his former self.

CORRECTION: "dying", not "dieing"

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The problem was that the first countdown took place after the "blue sheets" segment, which already led into the whole "Isles of Wonder" narrative, simulating the green isle in the infield being surrounded by the blue waters of the seas around Britain. I suppose that that segment was the main reason why many TV stations were already "on" before the first countdown.

And I must say that - even if it was only a video - the first countdown was executed better than the second one. It had a clever idea, showing all those numbers on buildings, signs etc. in London, and it had the more stirring soundtrack. The second countdown, with the kids and the popping balloons, appeared rather old-fashioned and conventional in comparison and not extremely well-executed (remember the balloons which failed to pop here and there). And also for the stadium audience itself it must have been quite strange to count down twice within only a few minutes.

So all in all, it was not really clear when the opening ceremony really started, due to the two countdowns and the early ceremonial (or at least ceremonial-appearing) segment with the blue sheets.

I don't think that the theme of the whole ceremony was mortality and immortality. The main theme of the ceremony was "Isles of Wonder", the main theme of the Games was "Inspire a generation" - and the people who carried the Olympic Flag were used as inspiration for the generations (past, present and future) as well as example for the wonders Britain respectively humanity and Olympism and its people have to offer.

The problem was that - besides his poor health condition - Ali's participation in the ceremony was extremely anti-climatic and pointless. He already had had his big moment to shine in an Olympic opening ceremony, namely his lighting of the cauldron in Atlanta. Just like when Salt Lake "re-used" Sydney's final torch bearer Cathy Freeman as Olympic flagbearer, I had the impression in Ali's case that the London organisers wanted to milk some applause from his appearance or even only the mere mention of his name. Also Sarah Brightman's performance in Beijing 2008 (after her famous Olympic premiere in 1992 with José Carreras) was somewhat pointless. That's why I think that only in special cases, big stars, famous athletes etc. should be allowed to perform or appear twice in the ceremonies of different Olympic Games. It makes it sooo anti-climatic if they are allowed to perform again and again and again. The "sensation effect" simply wears off very quickly.

And I stick to my opinion (which was apparently shared by many other viewers/spectators of the ceremony): It was inappropriate to let such an extremely ill man like Muhammad Ali appear. His wife even had to tell him "Grab the flag, baby" - as if he didn't really know where he was and what he should do. Or he simply didn't want to do it, and that would make it even worse. It was as if they had passed the flag to him as a last salute to a dieing man: "Here Ali, you are allowed to touch the Olympic Flag one last time." As someone who always has been a huge fan of Ali, I felt sick in that moment. Ali was pulled into a spotlight where he shouldn't belong anymore, considering how bad his condition is, being only a mere shadow of his former self.

CORRECTION: "dying", not "dieing"

Interesting point about Ali - I found it rather pointless after his spectacular moment in 1996. I think had the 2012 Olympics been held in Rome - then it might have been more appropriate. Also no disrespect to Ali - but this is Britains first Olympics since 1948 - think of all the amazing British Olympians that should be celebrated. This was their moment, which is why it felt awkward, along with his deteriorating condition.

As for Cathy Freeman at SLC 2002 - I believe she was chosen to carry the flag because of her success in Sydney, her representation of Oceania, and as a way of linking the Winter Olympics to the Summer version. Freeman would go onto be one of the final Queens Baton-bearers at the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Commonwealth Games, along with Ron Clark (who it the cauldron in 1956).

Also on this note - wasn't this rumoured to be a reason behind Celine Dion not appearing in Vancouver? Following her moment in Atlanta, it can really only go downhill, can't it?

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@Olympian2004, Re the two countdowns:
Interesting that many countries did show the first countdown; I presume it was expected that any advertising-funded broadcaster would use this minute for a burst of commercials and a quick intro before things got really really complicated. As for the popping (and occasional not-popping) balloons: that was surely the first blatant Beijing gag of the evening! You're absolutely right that it wasn't clear when the opening ceremony really started- I've argued that it effectively started at 08:12 that morning- but does it actually matter, so long as everybody's clear when the Head of State makes her declaration?

Re Mohammed Ali:
The thing is, there was a very strong recurring element of elegy in the London opening: the war memorial pause in "Pandemonium", the memorial wall, the Akram Khan dance, "Abide With Me", the gentle anti-triumphalism of the cauldron lighting, the use of Pink Floyd's "Eclipse". If I'm right about these all reflecting an acknowledgement of achievement vs mortality, then the appearance of Mohammed Ali was not pointless, it was the point. Seeing Mohammed Ali, you were supposed to regret his present state, but at the same time to remember and celebrate his contributions to sport and to humanity. I even suspect that his presence was a reason why the hundreds of past British Olympians were featured in such a subdued way- the main point had been made. I presume that he was able to agree to participate at this, and at the "Sports For Peace" charity fundraiser in his honour a couple of days earlier.

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And I certainly dont think it was perfect, there was a lot of things I think could have been done better, but that doesnt mean I still cant love it.

I think that statement is totally sound. We each fall in love with our unique Olympic experiences and it's not necessarily (or even usually) perfection that inspires that warm wash of fond feelings. Much as we each have our treasured moments, we also must acknowledge that many of these are not shareable or communicable to those who experienced the moment from a different vantage point.

It is right and good for spectators to treasure their personal experiences of the OC. It is also right and good for other dispassionate viewers to critique the artistic merit of the event they witnessed via television. Some ceremonies, on balance, may seem to receive generally higher marks than others, but that should not diminish anyone's warm personal memories.

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I've got the BBC Olympics DVD now, but I haven't watched any of it yet. I don't feel like I want to or need to yet, and it may be a few months before I do!

But I was just flicking through my Facebook timeline, and found this, which I must've posted as the athletes were filing in....

"OK, Beijing was amazing, but Danny Boyle's craziness has made me smile a lot more. Funny, moving and British. Well done that man......missed a trick in not using the Benny Hill music to speed up this parade though"

I doubt any rewatch (and I will rewatch it when the mood takes me) will change this opinion, even if I do notice things a bit out of place or a bit out of sync or whatever.

Perhaps I'm easy to please.

In all honesty, maybe with the exception of Torino, there's not many ceremonies I haven't liked. Even Delhi 2010 managed to pull off a great show! I don't contribute to the ceremonies threads anywhere near as much as most. I think overly critiquing a one-off show that was so of the moment and which will never be performed again can crush it. I don't see the appeal of doing so.

Not that I'm stopping any of you guys from geeking out over the ceremonies; it's just not my thing....

Edited by RobH
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It is made clear in the Opening Ceremony programme that the overriding theme of the Ceremony is 'revolution' i.e. the industrial and the technological.

By the way, I totally disagree with those criticising the selection of Danny Boyle as director. It was a brave move and without Boyle, we would not have had the selection of Underworld as creators of the soundtrack, the people responsible of two of the most sublime pieces of music I have ever heard: 'And I will Kiss' and 'Caliban's Dream.'

In addition, hardly anyone has mentioned or given London any credit for the innovation of the pixel devices in the Ceremonies. I happen to think that this innovation has 'pushed the envelope' as far as Ceremonies are concerned. Witness some of the ingenious ways that they were used throughout the Ceremonies, particularly in the Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

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In all honesty, maybe with the exception of Torino, there's not many ceremonies I haven't liked. Even Delhi 2010 managed to pull off a great show!

Perhaps slightly off topic, but what is it about the Torino ceremony that made you feel this way? Reason I ask is that I tried to rewatch it some months ago and ended up skipping the bulk of the event -- to me it just felt so unoriginal and quite simply boring -- especially given that Italy has probably one of the most amazing cultures on earth to draw upon.Even the Melbourne 2006 ceremonies some weeks after Torino completely trumped it in almost all areas -- I think it was my hometown bias showing, but Torino is the awkward lull between SLC and Vancouver. Weirdly, I still vividly remember, and enjoyed, their handover at Salt Lake City.

And yes, Delhi pulled off an amazing show. Well timed, too, with the popularity of the Slumdog Millionaire theme.

EDIT - Forgot Paverotti at Torino. I'll give them that. Completely spine-tingling. Probably the Top 5 performance at any Olympic ceremony.

Edited by runningrings
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The pixel thing didn’t come across very well on TV, so it didn’t seem like that big a deal. They kind of just looked like they were in everyone way, I was wondering how the technology would be improved for future hosts, it still looks less than cutting edge to me.

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@paul- Yes, the live TV broadcast did very much downplay the pixels, in favour of performance close-ups. I think this may have been part of a deliberate policy of largely reserving the "bigger picture" for the stadium audience. If you analyse the "Frankie and June" section in particular, you'll see that every single song quotation had its own pixel display, its own lighting mood, its own "Big House" images and its own action by the principal performers; only the large dance patterns carried from one to the next. For the stadium audience, who could only see the principal performers on the screens, the pixels and the lighting were much more important than they were for the TV audience (I have yet to see any complaints from stadium viewers that the pixels were "in the way").

The BBC DVDs do show a bit more of the pixels, but audience videos capture them best. They were seen most effectively on TV in the broadcast of the Olympic Closing.

@RobH: When you get round to watching the opening on DVD, invite a few friends, clear a large floor space in front of your TV, turn the volume up, select the stadium sound (no commentary) option, and don't forget your bucket!

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@RobH: When you get round to watching the opening on DVD, invite a few friends, clear a large floor space in front of your TV, turn the volume up, select the stadium sound (no commentary) option, and don't forget your bucket!

:D That sounds as if watching the ceremony in that mode makes one puke. But I suppose you meant a bucket full of popcorn or fried chicken, right? ;)

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I think it is a great pity that the OBS directors did not show more of the pixels in the TV coverage and that they consequently did not come across as well as they might have done on TV.

I hope most people would agree that from an audience perspective, they looked really effective:

Edited by mjb22
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I find them too distracting...and somehow they ALSO detract a certain old-time charm when audience members could participate in some kitschy things like stunt cards, masks, the Wave, etc., etc. Now, the live audience's reaction and as seen by the TV audience at home seems very restrained and completely determined by the show that the pixels will give. And if the pixels become such a dominant part of the ceremony, then why bother having a live audience after all. As I always say, people complain about the empty seats at an Olympics. Use a program which fills those seats in digitally. The pixels come about as chose to doing that job. And here's the biggest negative trade-off for the introduction of the pixels. I understand that those darn things cut out the traditional Spectator Participation Kit for which I guess Vancouver was the last user of the practice.

Edited by baron-pierreIV
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I liked the pixels - it looked just amazing, when you sat in the stadium...

I had the impression that they knew better how they have to use them at the closing ceremony - the colours and the seagull and the "Freedom" were very impressive...

Edited by Citius Altius Fortius
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