London 2012: Opening ceremony of Olympic Games combines British history and music

A lively British history lesson formed the basis of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins was given a hero’s welcome as he appeared in the Stadium, dressed in a yellow jersey, to ring the bell heralding the start of the show.

Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony was a mix of high-energy dance routines, the best of British music, a history lesson and a reflection on Britain’s past, including a tribute to lost loved ones.

The green and pleasant land which opened the show soon gave way to a darker scene, as Britain’s industrial past was brought to the forefront.

Kenneth Branagh, as engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, quoted from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as the ceremony is named from the speech in the play about Isles of Wonder.

Large chimney stacks rose up from the stage into the air, while the greenery was cleared to make way for a black floor. Union workers, suffragettes and Pearly Kings and Queens then came on stage.

Blacksmiths forged five rings from red-hot metal, which were raised into the air to form the interlocking five rings that make up the symbol of the Olympic Games.

Most Read

An interlude then featured a video clip of one of Britain’s most famous fictional characters, James Bond, visiting Buckingham Palace, where he was greeted by the Queen, who accompanied the spy, played by Daniel Craig, to a helicopter.

In the clip the helicopter flew to the Stadium, and the Queen and Prince Phillip, along with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge, were then introduced.

The Union Flag was then raised and God Save the Queen was sung.

In the second section of Boyle’s ceremony - Second to the right, and straight on till morning - tribute was paid to Britain’s children’s fiction and the NHS. Patients and staff from Great Ormond Street Hospital were introduced, and performers, including young children, then took to the stage on hospital beds.

The scene started happily, but after a reading of the opening of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan by Harry Potter author JK Rowling live on stage, it soon turned dark.

Giant puppets of well-known villains from literature, including Voldemort, Captain Hook and Cruella de Vil, then burst out of hospital beds, before a series of Mary Poppins floated out of the sky to the rescue.

In another interlude the London Symphony Orchestra played Chariots of Fire, with special guest Mr Bean, played by Rowan Atkinson.

The final section of Boyle’s opening show - Frankie and June say...Thanks Tim - paid tribute to British music and to technology. It featured a young couple - Frankie and June - who met when June dropped her phone and Frankie found it.

The pair skirted around each other through nightclubs while some of Britain’s most famous music was played, from The Beatles to David Bowie to Queen.

East Londoner Dizzee Rascal, who carried the Olympic Torch in Tower Hamlets at the weekend, performed live at the end of the scene, before Frankie and June kissed in front of a backdrop of famous kisses from films.

The final scene in the section introduced Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, to the crowd.

A montage of the Olympic Torch relay was shown before the Flame was seen coming down the River Thames in a speedboat, driven by David Beckham, on its way to the Stadium.

As a tribute, pictures of spectators’ lost loved ones including the late fathers of Boyle and Olympics chief Lord Coe, were shown on a memorial wall before Emile Sande sang the hymn Abide With Me.