2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony in London – Ritualistic Industrial Age UnderWorld Danny Boyle

Jul 29, 2012


The opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics honored National Health System, and all other things Socialist in England… titled Isles of Wonder, began at 12 Noon EST and 9PM London Time on Friday, 27 July 2012, in the Olympic Stadium, London. It was designed and co-ordinated by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, with musical direction by electronic music group Underworld. The Games of the XXX Olympiad was opened by Queen Elizabeth II. A soundtrack album was released digitally on the same day.


Boyle acknowledged that the scale, extravagance and expense of the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony at Beijing was an impossible act to follow: “you can’t get bigger than Beijing”, and that this had in fact liberated his team in their approach to designing the 2012 ceremony. The budget of the 2012 ceremony was £27m (as opposed to Beijing’s £65m). The cast of the ceremony was mostly made up of some 15,000 volunteers who gave up hundreds of hours of their time to rehearse over the preceding months.

The “Isles of Wonder” name was taken from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with the giant bell used in the ceremony inscribed with a line from a speech by Caliban: “Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises”. A key source for the ceremony was the book Pandaemonium, by British film maker Humphrey Jennings, which collated contemporary reports from those who witnessed the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. The book takes its title from the capital of Hell in Paradise Lost, and gave the title to the show’s opening section. It was a dark, dank, weird and woefully depressing display.

In June 2012, Boyle had showcased the opening ceremony preview, which promised a huge set of rural Britain consisting of “a village cricket team, 12 horses, 10 chickens, 70 sheep, a model of Glastonbury Tor, two mosh pits, and the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world”, as well as a maypole and a rain-producing cloud. The intention was to showcase the mystical landscape of Britain, both rural and urban. The design was said to include a mosh pit at each end of the set, one with people celebrating a rock festival and the other the Last Night of the Proms. Boyle promised an opening ceremony in which everyone would feel involved. He said, “I hope it will reveal how peculiar and contrary we are – and how there’s also, I hope, a warmth about us.” The set was designed to be covered with turf of real grass and real soil. The use of animals drew criticism from the animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Boyle replied to PETA, assuring them that the animals would be well cared for. The stadium was rigged with a one million watt sound system.

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