2012 London Olympics opening ceremony: a review

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a band play after an already amazing band played, a performance that everyone was blown away by? You should ask Vancouver and now London. London fared better, though.

The opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games held in Olympic Stadium in East London, Friday captured the attention of more than one billion people, but failed to make a lasting impression like the one made at the 2008 Opening Ceremony in Beijing. On its own, the London ceremony, directed by Danny Boyle, English director of films like “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Trainspotting,” captured the image of United Kingdom perfectly, but as a whole fell flat.

Let me just start off by saying how pathetic NBC made the ceremony with its commercials. They chose the most interesting times to cut to commercials, replacing any lasting mental images with McDonald’s advertisements. They really ruined the mood of everything, literally yanking the viewer out of the dream that Boyle was trying to make for us. Every time I got invested, a stupid commercial came up and made sure I turned my attention elsewhere. Speaking of memory, remember to not stay too long on NBC, as Ryan Seacrest of all people looks to be a fixture in Olympic coverage.

Speaking on that, there was an off-center part when NBC returned from a commercial to an interview with Seacrest and swimmer Michael Phelps, in another location away from the Olympic Stadium. It seemed like bad timing, but as was revealed soon after, the interview aired instead of a tribute to the victims of the 2005 London terrorist bombings which happened just days after it was announced London would host the 2012 Games. It’s puzzling why NBC would skip that, but apparently it was one of the most emotional parts of the ceremonies.

The best part of the ceremony and the moment that will last in my brain forever was when the Olympic Rings were forged together and they exploded in sparks. The build-up to this was brilliant as everything started out with Great Britain as a large, rural farmland and literally evolving before the viewer’s eyes into an industrial powerhouse. People dressed as old-time factory workers replaced the farmland setting (which was made of real grass and sod) so that things like smokestacks and forges could come out of the ground. In addition to the Industrial Revolution homage, the ceremony also paid tribute during this change to the women’s suffrage movement and to World War 1 soldiers. All of this was fantastically done and the music that accompanied it all made me think the rest of the ceremony would be similarly well-done.

But boy I was wrong.

While I admit that the James Bond-Queen Elizabeth helicopter jump skit was cool, it was so random and I figured that the rest of the ceremony would be a downhill fall. There was a healthcare part, which featured kids in bed and nurses dancing around and making the letters of NHC and GOSH (for Greater Orman Street Hospital), and J.K Rowling reading a bit which began to fulfill my prophecy. Yet then, there were goofy 100-foot tall figures of Voldemort, Cruella de Vil and Captain Hook set up by people in ghoulish-looking costumes that were supposed to represent a nightmare as they haunted the little kids until Mary Poppins came and scared them all away. While that sounds like someone making an excuse for why they forgot their homework, it literally happened. It was so awkward and weird that I was kind of glad the commercial closed things out so my brain could take a processing break.

An appearance by Mr. Bean didn’t help things. He decided to help the London Symphonic Orchestra with Chariots of Fire while he had a weird dream sequence accompanying the orchestra on the keyboard. Its aim was to add humor, although it wasn’t funny — it just seemed like Bean actor Rowan Atkinson really wanted to be in the ceremony somehow.

The part that could have been effective was the love story segment. The whole thing was supposed to capture what England is like now and the generation that we are going through by starting off with the 1960s and continuing on up to the present day. They advanced generations by using technology and modern age props like Mini Coopers, while also telling a love story about two people who try to find each other because of a lost phone, but many things messed that up. First off, the switches between pre-taped and live footage was way too frequent. In one screen you are watching the people dancing and in the other you are watching an almost music video sequence.

To add to that, Boyle decided to use a lot of British pop culture things like songs with TV and movie visual references. However, he should have toned down his catalog because he crammed seemingly 30 things from each decade into three minutes with no order or clear transition to the next decade. Basically, it sounded like a whole bunch of jumble. It’s a good idea to recognize this generation and advances in technology and culture, but the way it was unveiled was weird.

Speaking of weird, it was hard to hear all the famous British songs when you have people talk over parts of the music. The NBC commentators, Bob Costas and Matt Lauer, would add in snide remarks on parts where it seemed like viewers would want to listen. It was akin to someone unfunny adding comments in a movie theater.

Overall, while London’s opening ceremony wasn’t up to par with Beijing, they did do what the ceremony is actually supposed to do and showed the world what the host country’s spirit is like. You got what the United Kingdom was about, and they plainly didn’t chase after being better than Beijing’s opening ceremony and just did their own thing. That I appreciate a lot; however, Beijing’s was also something you should want to at least mimic in terms of flow.

There was potential to be as special a headliner as Beijing, but both the uncomfortable amounts of quirkiness and disorder that followed after the first half added with the absolutely destructive NBC coverage ruined what could have been one of the great ceremonies in history.

Grade: B