A Getting-More-Complete-Ish Reference Guide To The London Olympic Opening Ceremony

Posted by July 31, 2012 Comment

So we had a go at this on Friday night, but it was rather incomplete.

It still is, but that incompleteness is now a little… less. Here’s a bullet point reference guide to the Olympics, as complete as Brendon and Rich can get it… please feel free to add more bullet points in the comments and we will integrate them.

  • The shipping forecast, played late at night on British radio, ostensibly to help sailors, but now an institution, a comfortable, recognisable sign that everything is right with the world.
  • The Isle is surrounded by water in the audience, as is Britain.
  • The countdown, using numbers from the streets of London. Notable inclusions are 45rpm from a vinyl seller, 30 miles an hour signs, row seats from the stadium 18 from the sex shops of Soho, Eleven and a Half Fournier Street which is the only ‘and a half’ address in the UK and an arts agency representing the Cornwall set, 10 from 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives, and the prominent London postcodes EC2 and N1.
  • We see the full address of 15 Albion Sq. which isn’t anywhere special, necessarily, but as a guide to property prices in London, here’s something its landlords have to say about it:

This property is located at 15 Albion Square, London E8 4ES. Albion Square, E8 has 31 houses and flats on it with a current average value of £1,053,976, compared to an an average property value of £355,354 for E8.

  • This speeded up, time-lapse opening mirrors the beginning of Danny Boyle’s first feature film, Shallow Grave – it’s just more rural now.
  • Isles Of Wonder – The source in Gloucestershire of the River Thames. We then move from this river in the heart of England to London.
  • Children fishing for frogspawn. A common countryside childhood activity.
  • The cartoon characters under the bridge are Ratty and Mole from Wind In The Willows
  • Henley In Thames. Home of the Regatta. A Monty Python hand points us to London.
  • A train, in a scene familiar to train advertising connoisseurs
  • Olympic Rings carved as crop circles in the field. This actually exists.
  • Thames Island where Olympic rowing races took place in 1948, as well as medal winners from that ceremony.
  • The Cambridge/Oxford boat race from here to Putney, alongside the Eton Boating Song
  • A Pink Floyd Pig flies over Battersea Power sttion, as on the cover of their album Animals
  • Big Ben Clock Tower going a little fast.
  • The music as we pass the South Bank, with the London Eye, is from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Variations based on the theme from Paganini’s “24th Caprice”, the theme tune of ITV’s arts show The South Bank Show.
  • God Save The Queen by the Sex Pistols, as we go under London’s bridges to the Olympic Ringed Tower Bridge. This was banned from airplay when it was released to coincide with the Silver Jubilee in 1977.
  • The aerial shot of the Thames is identical to that used in the BBC soap opera EastEnders theme, as are the drum beats.
  • We race back down through the Thames Barrier, underground, into the tube system. We hear The Clash’s London’s Calling for a few bars before a classic British TV News theme from the fifties as we go through the old London tunnels (a number that still exist) and see ghosts from the past and then we’re into Lily Allen.
  • As we arrive at the Olympic Stadium, we see people preparing for the show to come, those dressed as nurses and the floating clouds, the carriages and miners, and see posters from the previous modern Olympic Games.
  • The show itself starts now with the posters for this year.
  • We see the English pastoral countryside, the famous “green and pleasant land”
  • The countdown is using the seats in the stadium that light up to increase the area of information in the stadium. This will be used to effect throughout the show.
  • Inflatable clouds float above the stadium, they are never far from England’s skies.
  • English Tour De France champion Bradley Wiggins rings the opening bell, wearing his yellow jersey. This bell was made by the same company that made the Big Ben bell hundreds of years ago.
  • The song sung by the choir in the stadium is Jerusalem, considered England’s unofficial national anthem by many, and used regularly by the Scouts and the Women’s Institute (hence, Jam And Jerusalem). The original poem by William Blake, set to music and embraced by a nation, though rejected by the Church as a hymn. Basically it espouses the belief that England is such a great place that Jesus must have come here at some point to check it out. It gives us the lines “green and pleasant lands”, “dark satanic mills” and “chariots of fire” which will all be part of this show.
  • The maypole is a traditional pagan event to celebrate the Spring Solstice, young men and women, dancing around each other with ribbons tied to a pole, getting closer and closer as the ribbons tie themselves around the pole. There are four may poles here, representing England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
  • Other traditional games, tossing apples, bowls, cricket are playing out on the fields, as well as traditional country pursuits such as keeping bees and keeping… shire horses. They are being used to plough the fields.
  • And then we’re off around the four nations. A choir of children in Northern Ireland sing “Danny Boy, ” Scotland sing “Flower Of Scotland”, Wales sing “Bread Of Heaven, all accompanied by their respective rugby teams scoring tries, before we’re back to Jerusalem.
  • The businessmen are here, on carriage, in top hats and tails, from London.
  • The General Omnibus Company was the principal bus operator in London between 1855 and 1933
  • Kenneth Branagh is Isambard Kingdom Brunel, England’s most prominent industrialist who, often through sheer force of will, mounted some of the most outrageously ambitious projects, including the first tunnel under a navigable river, the first propellor driven steam ship, Paddington train station and the Great Western Railway, the longest railway tunnel in the world, the largest steam ship in the world, the longest suspension bridge and so much more, many of which remain in use today.
  • He reads from Tempestby William Shakespeare, a line from Caliban that foreshadows the rest of the show.
    Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
    Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
    Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
    Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
    That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
    Will make me sleep again. And then, in dreaming,
    The clouds methought would open and show riches
    Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
    I cried to dream again.
  • He is standing on Glastonbury Tor, a holy hill in Glastonbury. The moshpit areas with people holding flags is the Glastonbury Festival a very popular annual music festival.
  • And so we get the Industrial Revolution, miners coming from the ground beneath the tree, down the hill, to take apart the countryside and transform it.
  • Dame Evelyn Glennie, leading the drums, our most popular and well known percussionist. She has been deaf since the age of 12.
  • We see the large bellowing towers rising, burning coal for smelting ore to create metal and steel.
  • The ferris wheel has now become a working mill.
  • We have the Women’s Suffragette Movement, demanding votes for women. Helen and Laura Pankhurst are playing the lead Suffragette roles, and are descendants of Emeline Pankhurst, a figurehead and leader of the movement.
  • There is a pause for the memory of the dead of World War I and II, note the red poppies and soldiers.
  • The Beatles arrive, injecting colour into the grey, showing the cultural changes of the sixties. They are dressed in their Sgt. Pepper costumes, referencing what is often called their greatest album.
  • We have the Windrush, the immigration into Britain from the West Indies of the fifties.
  • There is the Jarrow March, the working class of the country who marched from all across it to London to protest about the plight of industry.
  • The Chelsea Pensioners, veterans in medical need supported by the state today.
  • The Pearly Kings and Queens, Britain’s unofficial other royal family, poorer people creatingv their own royalty, and doing work for charity.
  • The smelting of metal has now formed a metallic ring, which rises to join other rings in creating the Olympic symbol.
  • Happy And Glorious – a line from the British National Anthem, sewn onto a costume of the Royal guard.
  • The mall that leads to Buckingham Palace
  • The flag flies at full mast, which means the Queen is in residence.
  • Vistors to the Palace. Anyone can visit if they buy a ticket.
  • Daniel Craig is James Bond, license to kill. And apparently to get a London black cab to the palace.
  • The dogs are Corgis, the Queen’s famous canine of choice.
  • This is Queen Elizabeth II, and this marks her acting debut.
  • A photo is taken on a phone. Foreshadowing…
  • Taxi drivers are rarely pleased to see anything. Especially when stuck in traffic.
  • The statue of Churchill does stand on Parliament Square. It isn’t however animatronic.
  • He inspires the theme to Dambusters, a patriotic favourite that sums up Britain’s ingenuity in the Second World War II.
  • The waving folks on top of a building are on No 1 Poultry, a distinctive art deco building, with the Coq d’Argent restaurant on the top.
  • The Union Flag parachutes are straight out of the opening sequence to the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Bond is literally on Her Majesty’s Service here.
  • Second On The Right And Straight On Till Morning is the direction to Neverland from JM Barrie’s Peter Pan
  • GOSH is Great Ormond Street Hospital, a charitable hospital that specialises in treating children, and which receives funding from the Peter Pan books. Hence the way in, under the sheets to children’s literature with this quote…
  • The NHS, is the National Health Service, our universal healthcare system. We’re really proud of it.
  • That’s the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Peter Pan’s Hook, The Queen Of Hearts from Alice In Wonderland, Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmations, Voldemort from Harry Potter (with JK Rowling on the mic, reading Barrie out loud) and Mary Poppins from… well.
  • I’m hoping Mr Bean and Chariots Of Fire is self explanatory.
  • Frankie And Jean Say Thanks Tim – a blossoming love story using social networking and people working through the decades to find each other, by way of a lost mobile phone and a mild mannered British research scientist.
  • The mother walks to the house from the car – a Mini, produced in Britain by British factory workers, right now – and we hear the strains of old radio series including The Archers, one of the world’s longest running soap operas.
  • Michael Fish’s disasterously wrong weather forecast that saw heavy gales and storms hit the country.
  • As she is unlocking the door, we hear The Black and White Rag, the theme to Pot Black, a long running TV show about the game of snooker.
  • When the TV is turned on, the first thing we see is the title sequence to TV Burp, an incredibly popular, irreverent show in which comedian Harry Hill would comment on the week’s TV.
  • Push The Button, We see a young woman’s life, as represented by social networks.
  • The Nintendo DS goes through the decades from the sixties to the present day. Which is just what we’re about to see.
  • The house shows a series of scenes from TV shows and films that reflect the narrative, We have eating with the family, reflected by amongst others, Eastenders, Oliver!, the Going For An English sketch from goodness Gracious Me, Fawlty Towers, Bread, Blackadder and Modern Family.
  • We have a parent”s objection to a daughter going out dressed in a certain fashion. Clips from Coronation Street, Desmonds, The Cosby Show and more play out.
  • The girls are going out on a night, constantly texting each other, to the tune of When I Was A Youngster by Rizzle Kicks, a recent hit. The boys are going out on a night, Facebooking themselves.
  • They are travelling on tube trains, to the sound of The Jam’s Going Underground. The tubes are coloured like the different tune lines across London.
  • Frankie sees gorgeous June, underscored by a clip from Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl, perhaps the greatest of Britain’s films about young love, with a few bars from Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight.
  • Straight from that into a clip from Chaplin’s City Lights where the Little Tramp meets the flower girl. Frankie is similarly bowler hatted.
  • Frankie and June spy each other, but she leaves too soon. And leaves her phone.
  • We go from The Who’s My Generation into The Rolling Stones’ (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction and then Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop.
  • The Kinks’ All Day And All Of The Night comes next. We’re going from her songs of teenaged, pop-fulled longing to his and back again. It comes to a head with The Beatles’ She Loves You as they connect.
  • And the dancing group have now made the iconic peace image of the CND group – the campaign for nuclear disarmament.
  • Seems a strange time for a clip from Kes, the story of a suppressed working class boy and his kestrel and still the best film in Ken Loach’s entire body of work. Not for nothing is it often considered the best British film of the 60s.
  • A phone call to June – and I guess this is part of why she was called June – the clip from A Matter of Life and Death, Powell and Pressburger’s wartime classic. Conceived initially as a propaganda film it transcended these boundaries and is one of the great romantic melodramas, telling the story of an airmen’s trial in heaven when he somehow escapes the call to ascend. The film was known as originally known as Stairway to Heaven in the US.
  • You’ll see a tiny glimpse of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python animations on a distant screen as Mud’s Tiger Feet is playing. There’s no connection between the two. Well, except maybe “feet.”
  • Led Zepplin are Trampled Under Foot with A Message To You, Rudi from The Specials asking them to stop their messing around.
  • The jetpack people timed to David Bowie’s Starman seem to be a reference to the opening ceremony of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in which a rocket belt display took place.
  • A lovely close-up of David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, Nicolas Roeg’s film of Walter Tevis’ novel, all about an alien entrepreneur trying to attain water and take it back to his planet. Bowie was brilliantly cast.
  • They highlight Bowie’s Starman further, they have lots of folk holding Bowie faces on sticks, June posing for a photo with them. As you do. And the dancers are in Star formation.
  • And we’re then into Bohemian Rhapsody, the most popular song by Queen and commonly – erroneously – referred to as the song to get the first music video. Images from this video are being projected on the house from Wayne’s World, and we get headbanging muppets to accompany that scene.
  • Did you catch the sounds of the TARDIS materialising? A shot of the Doctor regenerating through eleven actors was sadly cut.
  • Bo’ Rhap’ blends quite nicely into Pretty Vacant by The Sex Pistols. Who were interested in these lyrics because they could sing the “‘cant” bit as much as anything else.
  • The “punk dancers” are bouncing up and down as a reference to the “pogo” dance of punks. Punks were also known for “gobbing” – essentially, spitting. On one another. On the floor. On everything. Thankfully, the dancers here don’t break out into fits of that.
  • The dancers are now becoming a smiley face, emblem of the rave movement. We start to move towards this with a bit of Blue Monday by New Order, the best selling 12′ single in UK history. Famously, its publishers lost 5p on every copy sold because of its elaborate Peter Saville cover, and so the success of the record hurt them massively.
  • Next we hear Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. They were promoted with the Frankie Says Relax slogan, which became a meme and T-shirts were produced with Frankie Says all kinds of stuff on them. You’ll see the basic Relax one in this segment, on Frankie, so we now know his name.
  • This is part of why this section is called what it is: Frankie and June Say Thanks Tim. Frankie Says… and then Frankie and June, riffing on Terry and June, the sitcom and most famous His Name and her Name coupling in the UK.
  • Soul II Soul’s Back to Life. Originally a sound system, playing records at parties and providing a dance scene without creating music themselves, they later evolved into a more identifiable band.
  • A quick bit of Step On by The Happy Mondays and we’re into Sweet Dreams by The Eurythmics.
  • Flames erupt, on screen and in the arena, as we get to Firestarter by The Prodigy. This song was not widely banned, but its video was given a watershed and could not be played before 9pm for some time. Gives the punkhead dancers a chance to pogo some more, anyway.
  • Born Slippy by Underworld, responsible for much of the arrangement of music tonight, and a clip from Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting that brought them to fame.
  • I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles comes from the US but was a mainstay in the British music halls and is now associated with West Ham Football Club, close to the Olympic Stadium.
  • We see the best known clip from Four Weddings and a Funeral for the meeting of Frankie and June. It was, on release, the most successful British film in Britain by a very significant margin. What infectious smiles with a music and video clip from Charlie Chaplin and the flower girl, now reunited.
  • They kiss, and we see clips from Shrek, The Lady And The Tramp, Prince William and Kate Middleton, Planet Of The Apes, Wall-E and Brookside – the first all ages TV lesbian kiss on British TV and as a result, the first gay kiss on many Middle Eastern television screens. The music is Song 2 from Blur, more commonly known as “Woo Hoo”.
  • Party Time, expressed by social networking. How many disasterous news stories have begun with that?
  • Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers track was given greater prominence with a live performance, it was a massive hit back in the summer of 2009 and is one of the more popular example of modern East End London grime music, exactly where the Olympics stadium has been built.
  • A mix of dance tracks interrupts Dizzee, from Tigerstyle – Nacnha Onda Nei, to Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson’s definitive version of Valerie, to Muse’s Uprising, Tinie Tempah’s Pass Out,
  • Under the house is Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, and who created the first website. Yes, he’s one of ours. And you though it was Al Gore. This is a direct parallel with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and his Revelution is just as extraordinary.
  • It was Berners-Lee who Frankie and June have to thank because, yes, they were in love because of information and communications technology. Apparently.
  • He is sat using a NeXT Computer just like the one he wrote the first website on. And his message to the world, “this is for everyone” spread throughout the stadium is that the web should be for everyone and should be free. While he’s become wealthy from public speaking,m he doesn’t quite have the Facebook billions.

(Last Updated August 1, 2012 7:09 am )