Olympic Opening Ceremony - bringing people together

Here's part of a very interesting article from the Thinking Faith website by Frank Cottrell Boyce: screenwriter, author + long-time collaborator of Danny Boyle, who worked with Boyle in putting together the Opening Ceremony. From my own perspective of having been a GamesMaker volunteer Chaplain down in Weymouth I understand completely his point that the most important thing about the Opening Ceremony - and indeed the whole Games - was the idea of bringing people together. More about my own experiences a little later... 

Click here for the full article.


Writing History: The Opening Ceremony in its Author’s Words

I am still having flashbacks to some of the best moments of working on the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

One evening, some months ago: I was alone on the platform at Bromley-by-Bow when it was invaded suddenly by hundreds of volunteers heading home from their rehearsal for the Olympic Opening Ceremony: Londoners of every shape, size, age, race and ability, each carrying a little bottle of water, piled onto the train, laughing and chatting. A party on rails, what Larkin called ‘a frail/ Travelling coincidence’. As, station by station, the party disintegrated, to quote Larkin again, ‘what it held/ Stood ready to be loosed with all the power / That being changed can give’. I had a really strong sense that all the ideas we had had and work we had done for the ceremony were just a pretext. What mattered was the way the event would bring people together, either as participants or spectators: being together was the most important thing.

A Saturday a few weeks before the ceremony: Ihad to go and help to brief the BBC crew at the venue. My wife, Denise, came with me and we spent an hour or so just wandering round the stadium: standing up on the ‘Tor’, walking through the ‘meadow’. Almost everything had been secret until then. Nothing that is secret feels quite real; all secrets have a smack of make-believe about them. But having her with me that day was like having her come to Narnia with me. What was happening was magical and dangerous but it was definitely real at last.

A technical rehearsal, a few days away from the ceremony itself: The audience was composed mostly of tens of thousands of friends and relatives of the performers. So for the duration of the show, thousands of people were pointing down at the performance space yelling, ‘There’s our Wayne!’ or, ‘Look, it’s Suzy!’ It had the warmth and excitement of a £27 million nativity play.

It must have been the same night, after midnight: The performers and the audience had all gone home. The stadium was dark and eerily deserted. Anxious little knots of people were meeting in doorways and technical areas. There was a sudden hush and everyone drifted out into the seating areas. We sat in ones or twos in the vast, empty stands. We were about to see ‘Betty’ for the first time. ‘Betty’ was the codename given to Thomas Heatherwick’s Olympic cauldron. It was made of 204 ‘petals’ – one for each nation. Each national team brought their petal to the stadium with them. During the parade of athletes, the petals would be fitted to their metal ‘stems’ and, at the lighting of the torch, these stems and petals would rise up to create, from each nation’s spark, a single flower of flame. At the Closing Ceremony, each nation would reclaim its petal and take it home. It was a simple, beautiful idea, an idea with a story to tell – an idea in which so much could go wrong! In the deserted stadium that night, the flames were lit. They formed a circle on the floor like a huge campfire. One by one, the tongues of flame lifted into the air. The gas was making an oddly familiar noise, a syncopation of hisses and clicks. I suddenly remembered where I had heard it before. As a little boy I had lain on my grandmother’s hearth rug, looking at the underneath of her gas fire and watching the spectre-blue flames chase each other up and down, clicking and hissing in fascinating sequence. As more and more of the flames rose up, until they were almost all joined together, Mark Tildesley, the ceremony’s main designer, leaned over my seat and whispered, ‘There you go, Frankie, Pentecost’. How did I miss that?! How was it that Mark’s head was in Acts of the Apostles, when mine was in a flat in Kirkdale?!

(see here for the full article).

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