It's hard to imagine any opening ceremony in my lifetime living up to the overwhelming spectacle that was at the Beijing Olympics. Just the sheer magnitude of what they were able to do was mindboggling. That said, while London didn't take my breath away with its big displays, it actually really impressed me by adding a lot of humor to an event that is usually dreadfully serious and filled with tradition. Sure, director Danny Boyle infused the 2012 opening with the proper amount of history (and a tribute to the National Health Service), but it was the quirkier moments that will still be talked about when it is Rio's turn to wow the world in 2016. Here are our favorite moments of the night:
Rings of Fire
I'm a sucker for anything that looks remotely like Lord of the Rings, and golden forged metal rings floating in the sky? Yeah, those look a lot like LOTR to me. And then they fromed the Olympic rings and spewed fireworks down onto the ground, which made them extra awesome in my book.
Hello, Mr. Bean
I expected some Beatles and Pink Floyd action happening here, but I don't think that I was fully prepared to see Rowan Atkinson playing keyboards during the "Chariots of Fire" theme. What a delightfully silly moment, with him playing his one note, then goofing off with his smart phone and daydreaming about running on the beach. I'd have taken a lot more of him.
And then Voldemort Showed Up
I appreciate that the Brits love their health care system and children's lit enough to devote a whole segment to it, but frankly, watching the dancing docs and little kids trampoline on beds was a bit on the dull side. Well, until the giant villainous nightmare puppets showed up and took over the stadium. I like the little goblin things with Jawa eyes a lot, but the Voldemort growing to enormous size was really cool. And who knew that he could be so easily taken down by Mary Poppins? That could have saved seven whole movies.
Everyone's all gobsmacked about the James Bond thing, and yes, it was cool, but I really love seeing the royal Corgis run through the halls of Buckingham Palace.
Bond, James Bond
Okay, the James Bond thing was pretty fun. Daniel Craig showed up at the Palace (in character), picked up the queen by helicopter and then they jumped out and into the stadium. It was as staged as Jeff Probst's old Survivor finale entrances, and a bit on the cheesy side, but nice to see that Queen Elizabeth II was willing to have some fun with the Olympics. Way better than just coming in and waving.
Now That's a Hat
It was enjoyable to see Kenneth Branagh recite from The Tempest, but mostly I just liked the big top hat he was sporting. And if I learned nothing else from the Royal Wedding, it's all about what you've got on top of your head.
The Doctor Is In!
While I was secretly hoping that the one true Doctor might show up during the ceremonies (like he has in the Doctor Who fictionalized version), it seemed like a long shot. No TARDIS in sight. However, the TARDIS noise did make an cameo (I didn't hear it on first viewing; this is why I love the Internet) during the montage of music.
Faster Than a Speeding Boat
Danny Boyle knew what women wanted to see, and he delivered it. A dapperly dressed David Beckham driving a speedboat and arriving at Olympic Stadium as part of the torch lighting ceremony was totally fitting. Better than those Pepsi or Burger King commercials.
I had some quibbles with the whole Frankie and Tina love story segment, as the digital segment was bizarre, what with the interior and exterior of the house. It was disjointed and confusing. But I did love the trip through generations of music that I love, but the story fell flat for me. That said, it was quite a surprising treat to see the house rise up and reveal Tim Berners-Lee inside. Sorry, Al Gore, this guy is the real deal.
Get the LED Out
I'm sick of LED lights being used at every opportunity on dancer's bodies, but putting them on the seatbacks to create some interesting patterns in the stands was something visually cool that even I could appreciate. I enjoy it when the audience becomes part of the performance, and this was a long way from holding up colored cards or flashlights.
Meet a Beatle
I was getting worried that we hadn't seen any of the Beatles during the earlier parts of the ceremony, but naturally Sir Paul McCartney wasn't going to let people down. His "Hey Jude" performance was a fitting close to the night.
Add More Fireworks
I've seen some Pink Floyd laser shows before, but the massive fireworks set to "Eclipse" were pretty spectacular. Then again, I'm a sucker for fireworks. And they didn't all explode at once, like the San Diego ones.
Sure, there were some things that didn't impress me, like the aforementioned bed bouncing, the seemingly slow transitions from one segment to another (I felt like they were rolling up sod for an hour) and the fact that the 'Tubular Bells" music nearly put me to sleep, but overall the ceremonies were well done and took advantage of what the UK had to offer in terms of music, history and humor. The biggest problem was the U.S. broadcast and how obnoxious Matt Lauer, Bob Costas and Meredith Viera's banter was to listen to. I don't need them to tell me that smokestacks signify a movement into the industrial age, or that a girl lost her cell phone, or to offer their take on what's happening. Maybe just a ticker at the bottom of the screen with the pertinent information (like that there were 10,000 volunteers, or to identify Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who rang the opening bell, or to give highlights about the countries and the key players as they entered) would've sufficed. As Boyle's ceremonies showed us, we're in a digital age, so perhaps they should take advantage of that instead of distracting from what should have been more of a visually stimulating night.
Get complete 24/7 coverage, including news, results and live video, of the London 2012 Summer Olympics at NBCOlympics.com.
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