The key themes of the opening ceremony were based on sport, inspiration, youth and urban transformation. Indeed, the London 2012 Ceremonies Team transformed the Olympic Stadium into a series of historic, contemporary and modern settings that reflected the cultural changes and revolutions of British society. African countries were overshadowed by Western countries in the number of athletes turning up for the competition. Many had only a handful of sportsmen with quite a few parading more officials than athletes during the opening ceremony. Great Britain and the United States are among the few countries whose athletes number more than 500. A Sudanese athlete did not even bother to attend the opening ceremony. As soon as he got the chance to hit the London streets, he walked straight into a police station and informed puzzled officers that he was seeking political asylum.
The official opening of the Games included traditional elements common to all opening Ceremonies: speeches by the Chair of the Organizing Committee and President of the IOC; raising the Olympic Flag; singing the Olympic Anthem, and Oath taking. Then in less than 10 words, Her Majesty the Queen officially declared the Games open. The lighting of the Olympic Cauldron was another traditional part of the Ceremony. Footballer David Beckham piloted a speedboat that harried the olympic torch held by an Arsenal FC woemn footballer. He then handed the flame to Sir Steve Redgrave, who has five Olympic gold medals in rowing to his credit, who carried it into the Stadium which was then passed to seven young athletes – Great Britain’s hopefuls for the next Olympic Games, who in turn ran with the flame along the track. They were joined by seven British Olympic heroes – Lynn Davies, Duncan Goodhew, Dame Kelly Holmes, Dame Mary Peters, Shirley Robertson and Daley Thompson along with Sir Steve Redgrave. The Olympians handed each young athlete a torch and together they headed towards 206 of Britain’s greatest Olympians who had gathered on the field of play to share the cauldron lighting moment.
Each competing delegation when arriving in London received a copper petal – inscribed with the country’s name and the words ‘XXX Olympiad London 2012’. Each petal was laid down during the Athletes’ Parade. The seven young torchbearers ignited a single flame within one petal which triggered the ignition of more than 200 petals. The cauldron’s stems rose towards each other and converged to form one flame. It was amazing to note the way the organizers built a grassy hill inside the stadium where all the competing countries’ flags were finally rested.
The Ceremony also paid tribute to Britain’s contribution to a modern revolution – the internet revolution. A sequence that featured British music from the 1960s to now, culminated in the appearance of British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the worldwide web and ensured it was placed in trust and protected against ownership so it could be free for the world. The London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony featured a volunteer cast of more than 7,500 volunteer performers who gave up their weekends and evenings to take part in a total of 248 rehearsals at two east London rehearsal sites and at the Stadium. On average, adult volunteer performers rehearsed for 150 hours each. The children volunteers were drawn from 25 schools in the six east London Host Boroughs and the 170 16-18 year olds, from six colleges in the Host Boroughs speak more than 50 languages between them.
Artistic Director of the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Danny Boyle said: ‘Our show was really the volunteer’s show. If you want to judge us as an island, these people are the best of us, and we hope the feeling of the show was a celebration of their generosity.’