There was no shortage of anything at the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympics, as artistic director Danny Boyle pulled out all the stops to put on a show worthy of the world stage. But in a fitting tribute to the host nation, there were also plenty of nods to England's contributions to popular culture ... including "Harry Potter," and, of course, music.
Yes, Thursday night's (July 27) ceremony was a grand thing, filled with acrobats, dancers, LED lights, acrobats, massive puppets (including a seriously scary Lord Voldemort), cultural luminaries (like J.K. Rowling) and, of course, athletes ... and backing it all was a soundtrack that paid tribute to England's contributions to music over the past five decades. That meant plenty of tunes by legends like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who, not to mention more recent carriers of Great Britain's rather sizeable musical mantle, including Blur, Dizzee Rascal, Underworld, the late Amy Winehouse and Muse.
Costing a reported $42 million (less than half of the grand ceremony that kicked off the Beijing games in 2008), the Opening Ceremony of the London games featured more than 10,000 athletes — and nearly as many performers. But music played an important role throughout, scoring the entrances of each nation and, in one segment of the production, taking center stage as an army of dancers worked their way through a routine that focused squarely on the nation's greatest export: classic songs like "My Generation," "Satisfaction" and newer contributions like "Born Slippy," "Valerie" and "Song Two."
Aside from the music, the centerpiece of the Ceremony was an English pastoral transported directly into the center of Olympic Stadium. It featured actual grassy meadows, a water mill, livestock and even a cottage with a smoking chimney. Each nation — 204 in all — planted its flag on the gently sloping hill, and after Great Britain's athletes did their victory lap, the Arctic Monkeys roared onto the stage to blast through their hit "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor" as fireworks blasted overhead. Then, as cyclists dressed as doves (a nod to one of the oldest Olympic traditions) rode into view, the Monkeys turned in a reverent version of the Beatles' "Come Together," frontman Alex Turner looking very much like a young John Lennon in his Teddy Boy phase with his slicked back pompadour.
Then, after the Queen officially declared the games of the 30th Olympiad open, the Olympic torch was brought into the stadium by Britain's most decorated athlete, Sir Steven Redgrave (who received it from soccer star David Beckham), completing the flame's 12,800-mile voyage. As a new generation of British athletes lit the Olympic cauldron, the strains of Pink Floyd's "Eclipse" boomed overhead. Then, the elaborate, hours-long ceremony was closed by (who else?) Sir Paul McCartney, who played the refrain of "The End," then launched into one of the Beatles' most famous tunes — "Hey Jude" — leading the packed stadium (and, one can assume, the billions watching around the world) in its iconic "na-na-na" chorus. And with that, the ceremony reached its appropriate conclusion, having honored the spirit of the Olympics and the great musical tradition of the host nation. Let the games begin.
What was your favorite performance Opening Ceremonies? Leave your comment below!