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Danny Boyle Directs Olympic Opener

by Photo of Alexander Trimes

A Recap of Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening Ceremony

Danny Boyle Directs Olympic Opener

When presented with the opportunity to direct the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics, Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) enthusiastically accepted. But unlike other potential directors, Boyle did not view this as a chance to upstage the grandiose scale of Zhang Yimou’s opener four years ago in Beijing. Instead, he decided to make this ceremony truly his own. Not a competition, but his personal definition of Britain’s culture—which in this case meant portraying the Isles’ expansive history in one hour.

As the ceremony commenced, the stadium floor was carpeted in rolling green pastures, brimming with farmers. Live horses tilled the soil as countrymen and women planted or played cricket in the fields. But this scene did not last long, as the “loud and thumpy” percussion of industry invaded the stadium.

Peasants towed away the crops and sod and soon enormous smokestacks rose from the stadium grounds, prompted by a few proud captains of industry. When the remaining patches of earth were removed from the stage, the floor had been transformed into a map of London, now being flooded with English iconography from across history. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club marched alongside Redcoats, and laborers forged an enormous ring in the center. This golden ring—perhaps a nod at Tolkien—was hoisted into the air where it joined four others, forming the symbol of the Olympic games.

The Queen, accompanied by James Bond himself, greeted the audience after a high-flying entrance and the Union Flag was raised on Glastonbury Tour. Boyle’s showcase now moved into its second act.

Part two served as an homage to children’s literature and Britain’s National Health Service. Real nurses tucked children into glowing beds as Mike Oldfield performed for over one billion viewers worldwide. But who could possibly sleep during an event as exciting as the Olympics opening ceremony? The stage erupted into a rollicking dance floor, the sequence designed to capture how the child’s imagination tends to run wild at bedtime. Nurses burst into choreographed dance as the patients jumped on their beds. But this sudden outburst was quelled and the children were lulled to sleep by J.K. Rowling reading from James Matthew Barrie’s classic, Peter Pan.

As we all are aware, nighttime can be exciting for children, but also frightening. Once the children were asleep, nightmares from English literature took over the stadium. The Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, Cruella Deville, and a towering Lord Voldemort scared the children from their slumbers and had to be fended off by an army of Mary Poppins. The stage then cleared and the nurses returned to collectively deliver a giant baby.

Following this adventure in dreamland, the London Symphony Orchestra performed “Chariots Of Fire” in a tribute to British film. Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) put a comedic spin on the timeless classic, falling asleep and imagining himself in the film.

The opening ceremony then transitioned into its final act, a depiction of today’s internet age. Boyle’s final sequence focused on the love story of two young adults, Frankie and June, united by a lost smartphone. The two find each other in a crowd of flamboyantly dressed dancers and a series of text messages soon leads to a house party at which British rapper Dizzy Rascal performs. The ceremony then concluded with an appearance by Tim Berners-Lee, the British creator of the world wide web.

Well, Boyle certainly did put on a performance different from Beijing with several absolutely breath-taking segments. I personally found his depiction of the industrial age to be astounding, and was impressed by how cleverly he assembled the Olympic rings. Despite this, I could not help but question other portions of the performance—especially the “Internet Age;” it featured iconic songs by British musicians…decades prior to the Internet and the whole cellphone-centric love story just seemed rather odd—a technological twist on human sentiments (Burgess did it better).

All said and done, Boyle did an incredible—and original—job opening the largest competition in the world of sports.

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