The Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

I posted a while ago about #SaveTheSurprise – an entirely voluntary movement to keep people who attended the Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal from spoiling the surprise for the millions of people who only a few days later would be watching it on TV or in the Olympic Park itself.

Not wanting to be a spoil sport I decided not to write a blog until after the actual ceremony had happened and then I sort of forgot about writing a post, until now! Besides, by now I’m sure everyone who wanted to see it has seen it 😉

Due to have an accident just a week before the rehearsal I was unfortunately bound to crutches for the entire event, but I would like to say that the Olympic Games Maker volunteers were absolutely fantastic and made everything as comfortable and enjoyable as possible for me 🙂

The ceremony started off slowly, with a rural scene of cricketers and men ploughing fields whilst women played with children and tended to vegetable patches. Not much actually happened, it was more of a thing to look at whilst people arrived to the Olympic Park, which by the way is one of the best stadiums I’ve ever seen, even nicer than the new Wembley in my opinion.

Every seat had attached to it what was known as a “pixel paddle” – essentially a very small, low resolution LED screen which – when used in conjunction with several hundred neighboring pixel paddles – could be used to display all sorts of animations using the entire stadium as a canvas! We were taught how to use the pixel paddles as part of the “audience training” before the ceremony began, a video of which you can see below!

Not long after this the pixel paddles were used to display a countdown to the beginning of the ceremony – counting up to 2012.

After this there was more crowd participation with people in my block and the one in the tier above working together to make a “Sea” using tarpaulin to complement a video about English life on the screens displaying our nautical heritage. Whilst this was going on the Pixel Paddles in other parts of the stadium were making a wave affect

Eventually we were welcomed to the “Games of the Thirtieth Olympiad” with the ringing of the Largest Bell in Europe and an announcement in French and then English. Many people seemed confused, almost offended, that all the announcements were in French first, however there is a reason for it. Whilst I was on holiday in Switzerland a few years ago we wen’t past the headquarters of the IOC – The International Olympic Committee – in Lausanne, which is a french speaking part of Switzerland.

The Rural scene continued for a few more minutes before, out of nowhere, drummers dressed in Industrial Revolution-esque clothing appeared behind the audience with drums, and started playing a tune I still can’t get out of my head! As they did this the Rural scene was dismantled and the village people left the scene!

As the Rural Scene disappeared another scene from British history took its place – The Industrial Revolution. The most interesting part of the transition was the sudden appearance of 6 massive chimneys from underneath the floor!

The people involved with the industrial revolution then started a parade around the outside of the scene whilst people in the middle of the scene could be seen forging iron and cleaning the chimneys. At the same time dancers in chinese style costumes could also been seen, obviously a tribute to the previous games in Beijing in 2008.

At the end of the parade some rings appeared in the sky above the stadium and slowly moved towards each other to form the Olympic Rings, they then lit up in fireworks and pyrotechnics, and then just as quickly as they showed up they were gone! This was one of my favorite bits of a fantastic show! 🙂

The Ceremony was designed by Danny Boyle to show off all the best parts of British culture and history, and what deserves celebration more than our National Health Service, in particular the world famous Great Ormand Street Hospital? The next scene of the show celebrated just that, depicting a scene of children in the final few seconds before they go to sleep in which they’re terrified of the night and have a nightmare. Evil characters included a giant Voldemort from Harry Potter – another Great British Institution.

On the tube home I met some of the performers involved with the Great Ormand Street scene and was told that the vast majority of the volunteers were actual NHS staff, some from as far away as Newcastle, who traveled down every few days for rehearsals. I can’t think of a better way to reward the hard work of the people involved in one of the best public services in the world — I also can’t think of more dedicated people than those who travel for 4+ hours to dance around for the Olympics! 😀

After the Great Ormand street hospital scene was cleared away a life size inflatable house appeared in the middle of the stadium, and a more solid house appeared near the grass mound to the right of where I was sitting. The inflatble house then had memorable moments from British Television and Music Videos displayed on it whilst British Pop and Rock Music was played and people danced with glow sticks. I particularly loved how much 70’s and 80’s punk rock and ska was played, including The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Specials — three of my favorite bands.

My phone ran out shortly after I took that last video so unfortunately I have no video of the finale of the opening ceremony, however I think the whole event was fantastic and really showed off what the British people can do. Even though at the rehearsal we didn’t have the live bands or the massive firework display of the real opening ceremony we were lucky enough to be the first people in the world to experience the £26 million show, along with its creator Danny Boyle, and its an experience I won’t forget.

Danny

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