A quintessentially British start to the Olympics

Published 28 July 2012
Who knows whether the global audience would have fully understood the references to Gregory’s Girl, Eastenders and dancing NHS nurses in Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony to the Olympics last night. But there was no mistaking, it was a very British and very spectacular show.

From a green hill with sheep and geese, to one of Britain’s greatest exports – music - this was a show that attempted to grasp everything that makes this island nation so unique and brilliant - quirks and all.

The show started with hymns from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland amid scenes of a green countryside.

It then swept over centuries of history, with giant chimneys bringing the industrial past to life, JK Rowling reading JM Barrie, and images of social networking updates nodding to Britain’s continued influence on the world through the world wide web, invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Rowan Atkinson made a show as his signature character, Mr Bean, in a comedy highlight of the evening as he played a single synth note to Chariots of Fire while dreaming of beating Eric Liddell on the sands of St Andrews beach.

There was no greater surprise, however, than the sight of the Queen in an amusing James Bond sketch with Daniel Craig. Boyle deserves a gold medal of his own for pulling off that feat.

There was also rapturous applause for the 7,500 volunteers who have given up their time to help make the Games a success.

The mood became pensive when the victims of the 7/7 bombings, which happened the day after London won the Olympic bid, were remembered.

Scottish singer, Emeli Sandé, gave a beautiful rendition of the classic hymn "Abide With Me" before the procession of the athletes got underway to energetic drums.

The real magic moment in the night was the lighting of the fantastic Olympic cauldron, an artwork made up of individual petal-shaped torches that were lit one by one and raised up to form one giant flame.

No show dedicated to Britishness would be complete without music. The Arctic Monkeys captured Britain’s massive influence on rock music, performing John Lennon’s Come Together, before the one and only Paul McCartney closed the evening with a stadium-rousing Hey Jude.

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