The London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony – what did you think?

Danny Boyle’s Isle of Wonder Olympic Opening ceremony was bonkers, brilliant, and very, very British. Whether it was the Queen parachuting into the arena with James Bond; David Beckham serenely driving a speedboat along the Thames; a massive baby, Voldemort or some nuts Macarena-esque dancing from the men behind the Industrial Revolution, it really was relentlessly strange.

The Olympic rings converge

Source: Nick J Webb

The Olympic rings converge

According to Locog, the ceremony looked to reflect ‘the key themes and priorities of the London 2012 Games, based on sport, inspiration, youth and urban transformation.’ Reaching its pinnacle with Heatherwick’s stunning cauldron , the ceremony was undoubtedly one that won’t be forgotten. Here’s what those from the design community thought of the show.

Greg Quinton

‘Prior to the start of the Olympics, I was sadly critical of the identity and its lack of an engaging idea, relevance and quality. By contrast, the opening ceremony had all these ingredients in abundance. Admittedly, it’s theatre. Creativity in a show has one purpose only – to entertain, but it still had, at its heart an engaging idea, in the form of that green and (slightly wacky) pleasant land that morphed like a time machine; and a backdrop to the potted history, theatre and music that kept us wondering… “what next?” Relevance was the key ingredient. For nearly four hours, Mr Boyle and cast expressed the personality and refreshing sense of humour that makes us proudly different. Mr Bean and HRH were scream-inducing, but all of it felt the strong, single hand of creativity, not committee. Quality through attention to detail in the music, film, timing, those clever iron rings and chimney stacks felt gloriously home-grown yet TV-friendly and iconic. The very best of design was captured in Mr Heatherwick’s Cauldron. Splendid symbolism, beautiful craft and movement, culminating in THE genuine moment of awe of the night as the disparate lights became one. I for one, was very proud.’

Greg Quinton, Executive creative director, The Partners

The Green and Pleasant Land

Source: Nick J Webb

The Green and Pleasant Land

Max Fraser

‘A triumph from Danny Boyle! At first a twee depiction of our nation, the opening ceremony unfolded with a narrative that was surreal, gritty, inspiring and spine-tingling in equal measures. Yes, we came across as a slightly mad nation but there is no harm in that. I watched it with pride and was delighted by the crescendo when Heatherwick’s extraordinary cauldron was unveiled’.

Max Fraser, design author and deputy director of London Design Festival

Sun dancers

Source: Nick J Webb

Sun dancers

Ed Woodcock

‘The show was a testament to the power of storytelling. It’s the first Olympic opening ceremony that had a narrative of sorts; it even had baddies. How many others have ever had anything so sinister as satanic mills, Voldemort, and a creepily giant baby? What amazed me was that a spectacle of such size, with thousands of volunteers and moving parts, was kept more or less secret. Heatherwick didn’t even tell his Mum about the design of his beautifully petaloid cauldron. It shows what can be achieved when people buy into a vision – they literally believe in what they’re doing. Again, that’s stories for you: they create belief. People literally had faith. Maybe we’re not so faithless a nation as we thought?’

Ed Woodcock, strategy director, Aesop


Source: Nick J Webb


Scott McCubbin

‘What Boyle did was tell a story and he never swayed from that commitment. There was no sign of compromise. He also managed to tap into those elements of Britishness that other nations respect and love – the heritage, the eccentricity, the humour, the Queen, 007. This was not a grandiose PR stunt, but an authentic narrative that aroused different emotions. One report from a Liverpool bar described how Chinese visitors thought the Rowan Atkinson skit was so hilarious that one quite literally fell off his seat while videoing the TV on his phone. My own seven year-old boy spent the next two days re-telling the story of the Queen parachuting into the stadium. Self-deprecating, funny, insane, memorable. Put simply, it was a very British affair. Not a cliché, but brave and brilliant. We congratulate them on keeping to their principles and delivering on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tell our story.’

Scott McCubbin, Associate Director, Uniform

Hide Comments (14)Show Comments (14)
  • Mark Narusson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I think it turned out rather well. After the awful double-decker bus thing used at Bejing, we had a lot to live up to. Danny Boyle did a sterling job of creating an amazing visual / musical story board of UK culture and history. Well done sir you did us proud.

  • Irene November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I thought the ceremony was fantastic – great set, amazing music, humour and food for thought – what more can we ask for! Hats off to all involved…

  • Ben November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Really amazing – thank you Danny Boyle and co for doing a stunning job and thankfully nothing like the cringe-worthy double-decker bus thing at the closing of Beijing! It even had a bit of KES. All brought together with an amazing thumping soundtrack – well done Underworld etc. Fantastic, have watched it twice now.

  • Dan Ashley November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Like all of us I really wanted to like the Olympic opening ceremony. Unfortunately it became a ‘what does it mean to he British ceremony’ a task to tricky even for the genius of Danny Boyle.
    It should have been cleaner, simpler and more focused on sport uniting all nations.

  • Christian Stanley, Director Crumpled Dog Design November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Excellence on every level. ‘Nuff said.

  • Peter Widdup November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    British creativity at it’s best. ‘Brand Britain’ – creative, surprising, diverse and fun.

  • papi bahal November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Just like the commentary on BBC – self indulgent and and laborious. I was at the dress rehearsal and had my doubts then as to whether it would carry successfully on to TV. It just didn’t. Well at east Danny can blame it on the inexperience of the ‘volunteers’!!!

  • martin brent November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Anyone can round up a cast of thousands, choreograph them into shapes of doves, swirling rivers etc etc then let off 7000 tonnes of fireworks but this amounts to no more than visual candy floss.

    This interpretation was so uniquely British and so well done it surely has to rank as one of the best Olympic openings of all time. Despite a start that I admit had me momentarily worried, after all we have been somewhat conditioned by massed ranks of choreographed doves et al it soon became compelling viewing.

    OK you’ll never please all the people all of the time as Aidan Burley, tory MP for Cannock demonstrated appallingly on Twitter but Danny Boyle somehow managed to grasp the key events, institutions and ok soundbites in some instances that have shaped modern Britain, then turned them into a spectacular show whilst firing a shot across the austerity boughs all at the same time.

    Anyone who can run a ‘hands off our NHS’ message into an opening ceremony for a sporting event deserves a medal of their own.

    You’ll usually find me in the grumbling ranks and praise from my lips has to b well deserved but this actually made me feel proud to be British and I make no apology for that.

    Anyone who claims not to have been gobsmacked by the formation of the olympic crucible id be tempted to call a big fat fibber.

    I just hope the closing ceremony can equal it.

  • jon November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    the ceremony was brilliant. absolutely brilliant. Never seen anything quite like it. History, humour, sadness, seriousness, amazement & joy. Danny Boyle captured everything

  • Susie Oakey November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    It was an amazing sight my son was one of the drummers and I watched one of the dress rehearsals and life the drumming was absolutely stunning. Danny Boyle was wonderful to the volunteer performers my son said he’s just a great guy. I thought the whole thing was us I watched the opening ceremony from a hotel bar and all the other nationalities were clapping and cheering and all stood for our national anthem they all said it was so much better than Beijing just awesome.

  • Nick November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Yep, it was absolutely BRILLIANT! No need to pick holes in it – it was entertaining, clever, and visually spectacular. So wish I’d recorded it to watch again!

  • Nicholas Feurtado November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I think Martin Brent captures everything that needs to be said quite eloquently. A brilliant start to the games.

  • libbie November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    it was occultic very evil and they say the men with black hats were symbolize freemason you can actually look up the meaning on youtube, you should it very informative.

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