London 2012 Opening Ceremony - The World Responds

31 July 2012

Olympic Success - Friday night's hotly anticipated Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games was a huge success for all involved and, as well as kick-starting the Games in spectacular style, provided a worldwide platform to showcase Britain's incredible flare for putting on one hell of a show! Huge congratulations go to all involved. We hope our upcoming coverage in the combined August / September issue of LSi goes some way to documenting your incredible achievement . . .

The World Responds - The UK's TV audience for the opening ceremony peaked at 26.9m, the BBC has said. The average viewing figure for Friday's four-hour show was 22.4m, making it the UK's 13th most watched programme ever. The programme also had an 82% share - almost twice that of the previous high for an Olympic opening ceremony, in Barcelona in 1992. UK viewing figures for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games in 2008 averaged at 5m and peaked at 5.4m. During the Athens games in 2004, 8.68m UK viewers watched the official opening.

The Los Angeles Times attempted to summarise the mammoth event: ". . . it was by turns moving, bizarre, funny and exciting and often surprisingly dark. It included the Queen in a James Bond parody, seeming to parachute into the Olympic stadium ("I hope it made people laugh," she was heard to say the next day), a troop of Mary Poppinses vanquishing Lord Voldemort, a pastoral village destroyed by the dark satanic mills of the Industrial Revolution, and a musical trip through time culminating in the invention of the World Wide Web."

In keeping with this, the response from the national and international press to the ceremony has been largely positive, with many praising the inclusion of British humour and the Queen's surprising transformation into a Bond Girl. But it is in praise of the vast 'human-powered' pixel screen that all parties seem united: "How do you compete with 15,000 Chinese performers? This city turned 70,800 people into pixels," wrote Geoffrey A. Fowler of the Wall Street Journal. "Organisers of this £27 million production, about $42 million, equipped each member of the audience with a black 10-inch paddle, dotted with nine light-up LCD [he means LED, of course] squares and wired into a central computer. Packed around the oval stadium, the pixel people formed what's likely the world's largest video screen and almost certainly its first cyborg version."

He continues: "The paddles had the same type of LCD [there he goes again] lights as a regular TV and were waterproof, a requirement for London's soggy Olympic Games. A brigade of technicians stood by with several hundred extra paddles to replace any that burned out."

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who famously withdrew from involvement with the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, explained in The Guardian why he felt differently about the UK's offering: "Briliant. It was very, very well done. This was about Great Britain; it didn't pretend it was trying to have global appeal. Because Great Britain has self-confidence, it doesn't need a monumental Olympics. But for China, that was the only imaginable kind of international event."

He continued: "In London, they really turned the ceremony into a party - they are proud of themselves and respect where they come from, from the industrial revolution to now. I never saw an event before that had such a density of information about events and stories and literature and music; about folktales and movies."

The Guardian's Tristram Hunt was equally as positive, writing that the event was a: "... wonderful, iconoclastic, urgent and era-defining Olympic pageant."

In a round-up of facts and figures, The Sun pointed out to readers that: "500 speakers and 50 tons of sound equipment was used," and that "the flying system used to support performers and props for aerial sequences is powerful enough to lift five elephants."

Proof of the event's global appeal, Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport website said it was "a lavish and spectacular opening ceremony which matched and maybe bettered expectations"; Germany's Bild raved: "A gigantic spectacle. What a show!"; and Australia's Sydney Morning Herald said it was "an unforgettable start" and "breathtaking." We couldn't agree more!

For a more in-depth look at how the human-pixel system worked, LSi will be publishing an extensive behind-the-scenes look at the production of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games in the forthcoming combined August / September issue.

(Claire Beeson)

31 July 2012

 

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