London Olympics 2012 opening ceremony: Unconventionality at its best

Published: July 29, 2012


The long awaited London Olympics 2012 opening ceremony finally took place last night! Had it not been for the convincing tweets from literally everyone on my Twitter timeline, I don’t think I would have watched it, but I’m glad I did.

Here are some tweets that tempted me to tune in to watch one of the most glorious Olympics opening ceremonies I’ve ever seen.

Faizan Lakhani @faizanlakhani

Genius, that was really unexpected selection to lit the Olympic cauldron, liked it. #OpeningCeremony #London2012

Farrukh Not Farooq @Karafornication

The whole London Olympics ceremony is basically the opening theme of Game Of Thrones

Salman Ahmed Khan @SAKsays

Totally entranced by the opening ceremony of #London2012 olympics !!

So I’ve decided to share with everyone the highlights of the Olympics opening ceremony, directed remarkably by Danny Boyle.

All rise; the Queen is here:

This sequence is set in a perfectly British theme, of course; bobbies marching, the classical background music, a beautiful aerial view of the palace (royally shot, I must say). James Bond (Daniel Craig) steps off his car, dressed to the nines, at the palace to escort the Queen Elizabeth Windsor to the London Olympics. He makes his way through the palace ─ a smug look on his face. Upon entering her room, he is greeted reluctantly by Your Highness and they move to the royal chopper to head to the games. After being waved at by hundreds of enthusiasts, they reach the arena, where the Queen (her stunt double) takes off in a rather ‘007’ fashion. She jumps off the copter, fastened to her patriotic Union Jack parachute! And what a sight it was! I mean, watching the Queen jump of a helicopter like a fiery Bond girl? Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Paired with classic James Bond music, this sequence had me laughing and appreciating the totally cool transition from naturally royal and conservative to hilarious and awesome.

Of course, the real Queen’s entry wasn’t compromised for the fun and she made a graceful entrance (through a proper door in the arena) with the Duke of Edinburgh.

Mr Bean’s antics at the Olympics:

Then the London Symphony Orchestra, led by Simon Rattle, began performing. Rattle conducted the orchestra to play “Chariots of Fire” and some seconds into the smooth melody of violins, cellos and double basses, a certain someone played a note on his keyboard. In his full-fledged Mr Bean character, Rowan Atkinson was dropping the beat like a pro! Atkinson has always been a silent winner as Mr Bean and made millions laugh with his antics. Having to play only a single key recurrently on the keyboard throughout, a bored Bean was seen checking his mobile phone, his watch, managing to sneeze and wiping his nose without missing his note. He is also seen sleeping and dreaming about cheating to win a race on the beach. He wakes up to a shocked Simon Rattle looking angrily at him playing his instrument even after the performance has ended.

This sequence cannot be explained justly in words, maybe because Mr Bean rarely uses any! It has to be watched to have a taste of the grand combination of a quintessentially British event paired with a comedic genius. Rowan Atkinson is easily the pride of British comedy!

Arrival of the Olympic torch:

Speed-boating along the Thames came the very handsome David Beckham with a beacon to light the Olympic torch. The dazzling boat, lit in pink and blue, streamed smoothly as firecrackers simultaneously spurted on the riverside to welcome it. Five-time Olympic gold medallist in rowing, Sir Steve Redgrave, awaited torch-in-hand for the celebrated footballer. When the boat halted, Redgrave lit the torch and paced, running upstairs to bring it to the stadium.

Construction workers lined up on the sides and the spectators chanted in excitement, applauding in joy, as the British sporting legend made his way inside the stadium. This almost ritualistic ceremony is always a reminder of history; of ancient Greece where it all began. The man running with a torch in his hand held up high has almost become an emblem of inspiration for sportsmen and fans around the world.

Portrayal of the Industrial Revolution:

What left me extremely overwhelmed was the Industrial Revolution sequence — a perfect orchestration of one of the most significant centuries of history.

Smoke puffed out of flue-gas stacks and an unwitnessed nostalgia filled the stadium. Drums played loudly and people from many different countries and ethnic backgrounds could be seen moving to a 17th century Britain. British soldiers donning red coats paraded by as an array of blacksmiths worked arduously on flattening and channelling molten iron into a canal that led to a ring. Rich-looking British men, with cigars in their mouths and top hats on their heads, roamed about performing a zealous dance routine and miming shovelling gestures that depicted the industrial revolution immaculately. Soon the whole canal and the ring lit up with bright, orange (and, of course, fake) molten iron and the labourers stopped their rhythmic hammering. The orange ring rose up into the air as four other similar rings came together and formed the legendary, flaring Olympic rings.

I believe Danny Boyle outdid himself with this particular exceptional piece of direction. It stood out the most to me amongst all the other very exquisite sequences in the opening ceremony.

Other important events included the participation of boxing demigod Muhammad Ali, and, of course, the heart-warming performance by rock living legend (and my perpetual crush) Paul McCartney.

I’m not an avid sports fan but this opening ceremony has shown great promise and I hope to follow the Olympics this year!


Read more by Imaan here or follow her on Twitter @SheikhImaan

Imaan Sheikh

Imaan Sheikh

An graduate with a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Karachi, she enjoys reading, writing and listening to classical psychedelic rock. She blogs at and tweets as @SheikhImaan (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • VivaLaRevolution

    You are absolutely right, It was a very beautiful ceremony.
    I was also amazed to see the extravagance. With the money they spent on the opening ceremony they could have fed 1.5m poor/hungry people for a month. That IMO would have been a much better opening for the Olympics but hell, what do I know. Recommend

  • Awais

    I’ll be honest, I sang along too when 80,000 people sang Hey Jude together in that stadium during Paul Mccartney’s performance. My college had awarded me tickets for my high attendance, but unfortunately none of them were to the ceremony and I found out that I was too late to claim them from the college office. Proud to be a Londoner, even if i’m not from the East end. Its the final moments that had me, after the Arctic Monkeys til the end. According to Boyle, Cameron wanted the NHS part cut out, Boyle replied “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”. Does economic boost thats comes with hosting the olympics justify its cost?Recommend

  • Ali Muhammad

    You write so well. Reading this gave me flashes of the ceremony i saw few hours ago. It was awesome. And that was queen, who really jumped. Not even kidding. I was there. Saw it with my own two eyes. LOL JK.

    yours truly

    Paul McCartney

    p.s. perpetual crush ehRecommend

  • Ramsha

    Perpetual crush, eh Imaan?

    Whatever happened to us? :(

    Anyhoo, best article I’ve seen on the Express Tribune :) And on the Olympics as well.

    Thanks for the summary <3Recommend

  • Anne Dawson

    Watching from Australia, we thought it was rubbish. The only highlights were 007, the Queen’s cameo and Rowan Atkinson. The rest was a complete hodgepodge. This is the message we received from the opening ceremony – England was once a beautiful, fair, green country. A pastoral paradise. Then along came the industrial revolution which created a slave/working class majority to keep the few industrialists in their top hats. After the countryside was ruined and polluted the children got sick and ended up in hospital where they read children’s stories that scared the bejeezus out of them. Ironically, it took an Australian author’s character (Mary Poppins) to save the day. The next generation to arise then partied all night on the carcasses of the dead trees of the ruined English countryside which formed the stage (seen from above looking down in some shots) with all their techno wizardry and self absorbence. The most peculiar part of the boy supposedly chasing the girl to return her phone to her, was the fact that he kept calling her to find out where she was. Lil’ June kept answering a phone she didn’t have! HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Pakistani Agnostic

    It was more of a NHS advertisment then anythingRecommend

  • jessica price

    I couldn’t stand watching that stupid Bean play musician while that beautiful music from Chariots of Fire was being played. I couldn’t stand his show either..I guess that is zany English humor, but where do you draw the line.
    There are soooo many wonderful British performers, that the ceremony could have gone on for ever. Bean was just a poor choice. Recommend

  • Adeel

    Well it was overall poor, i really dont know why ‘some’ people liking it so much. Yeah the starting was fine but afterwards what they showed us? their culture which is just movies, tv shows and songs? who the hell care about their tv shows?
    i really expected much better but overall the theme really didnt suit to the opening ceremony of the olympics. Beijing 2008 was just amazing, this london one do not even come close to it.
    For those people who are just praising it, just praise everything done by the ‘goras’ whereas the Asian (chinese) was thousand times better than it.Recommend

  • Matt

    @Anne Dawson:

    Anne if you read the press around the world, most praised the ceremony as the best which has ever been seen. I personally feel the same. It was incredible and outstanding and of which bought tears to so many people who could relate. I wouldnt be proud of running down another country when you live in Australia. Its hardly a cultural and advanced centre. You might want to look back to GREAT BRITAIN who carries on leading the way it want some call paradise. I have been to the UK many times as with Oz and if you ask most people I know where most would rather live and its not in the arse end of noway.

    Join people in congratulating the brits for putting on a fantastic display in a fantastic country well respected by the world for their achievements and advancements which the world envy. Recommend

  • Anthony Permal

    Lol at folks saying ‘Beijing’ was better.

    Really? Oh wait, I remember: the girl who was chosen to lip sync the national anthem because China didn’t want the actual singer to be shown who they deemed was ugly.

    Right. Recommend

  • Azra Shahnaz

    Sorry sir, it was an “Unconventionality at the height of its boredom!”Recommend

  • Azra Shahnaz

    The Olympic Opening Ceremony show was a good opportunity for Britain to tell the world that it has overcome its “imperialism” syndrome! But it failed! It continues to stay captive of its imperial past!Recommend

  • umair

    nice :P


  • Kanwal

    With less than half the money spent of thee Bijing olmpics opening ceremony and minus the CGI effects combined with a deadly double dip recession in europe, i think Danny Boyle did a good job….the chinese ceremony was way too intimidating for my taste…this one made olympics opening look like more human again….Recommend

  • Senk

    Fortunately they forgot to show that how they rob other countries in their history. That opening ceremony merely a historical cemetery which is not suitable for an international sport event.Director knew they are not strong with massive acrobatics and that’s why they highly relied on dramas,short films and TV series Mr Bean.Recommend

  • Parvez

    On the Yahoo survey some 24 hours later about 30% loved it, about 20% hated it and the remaining was spread out in between – I think that summed it up pretty well. Lets keep in mind that there will be a closing show as well and the jury should vote after that.Recommend

  • Jay Jay

    When i tuned into the opening ceremony of Beijing 08, i was blown away by they exuberance and a message that was global and coherent with the event. Whereas when i look into the opening ceremony of London 2012; I was impressed yes, but to go to an extent calling it one of the best ceremonies ever is a bit wrong.
    the ceremony was meant to reflect what Brits have become over the years, not too British that for the rest of the world they had to listen to the commentators to get what is happening on stage. It was brilliant yes for Brits but not for the whole world combined.
    when u look into what china put up it was more global which is quite extraordinary coming for a more conventional and more orthodox country compared to England. They told the world the ideologies and inventions they have given the world and the reasons why china should be considered global. On the other hand London 2012 indulged way too much in themselves.Recommend

  • Awais

    A meme emerged on the same day of the ceremony, which an image of the queen with her grim face and the caption “Look at all these countries I used to own”. ClassicRecommend

  • Anne Dawson

    LOL! You reckon that the Brits did the best opening ceremony. Sorry BORING!!!!!!!! You claim to have a superior culture – but where were your poets, your story tellers, your artists, your musicians and singers in the ceremony? Instead you chose to celebrate the destruction of the English countryside and the vanities of teenage youngsters. Where was Shakespeare, Donne, Chaucer, The Bronte sisters? Jane Austen? Enid Blyton? King Arthur and his knights or King Alfred or King Richard the first? How about Queen Elizabeth 1 or Queen Victoria? Where was the signing of the Magna Carta? Where were your Druids? Your Celtic heroes? Boadicea? Where was St. George? St. Dunstan? Sir Walter Raleigh? Florence Nightingale? Why didn’t you celebrate more of your wonderful composers such as Purcell, Britten and Handel? Why did you show American films in the celebration of your film history?

    You know. I really love England. England is in my blood, and if you didn’t know it, England colonized Australia, we still have the Union Jack as part of our flag and the Queen is still our Queen. I grew up singing God Save the Queen. I wasn’t criticizing England per se, just the opening ceremony which was a huge let down after the promise of the passing of the Olympic Flame to London in Beijing. Instead you put on a politically correct, dry show with a God awful singer singing Abide with Me topped off with Johnny Rotten and The Prodigy wearing an American flag on his shirt. Hardly British eh? Why instead didn’t they put on the history of London? They could have adapted London:The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. That would have been incredible!

    The Australian culture is largely British in heritage. So if you have a problem with Australian culture, you seem to have a problem with yourself. And what do you have against Norway? The most surprising thing to me was the complete ignoring of the indigenous English, whereas in the Sydney Opening Ceremony, we didn’t ignore our indigenous population at all.

    Sydney 2000 Opening Ceremony

    P.S. We also made sure our singers could hold a tune.Recommend

  • Ali

    the ceremony was too boring. i went to sleep watching it.
    beijing ceremony was wayyyyyy tooooooooo better and cooooooooooolRecommend

  • Ex-Muslim Athiest

    Danny Boyle worked with around £27,000,000 as the budget for the opening ceremony. I wonder how much was used in Beijing, maybe over £63.6577758…More than half mate….Recommend

  • Amna

    intresting :)Recommend

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