On Friday 27th July, 2012, an estimated 4 billion people worldwide will watch the opening ceremony to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The opening ceremony is the official start to the Olympic Games. It is also an opportunity for the host nation to show off or ‘showcase’ its many talents and qualities. Some parts of the ceremony are present in all Olympic opening ceremonies. (They are obligatory according to the International Olympic Committee charter.) Other aspects of the ceremony are unique to the host nation, and are intended to represent what is special about that country.
Many aspects of the opening ceremony for London 2012 are being kept secret or ‘under wraps’ so that we will all be surprised and delighted on the night. We know about other details because the artistic director, Danny Boyle, (Oscar-winning director of the highly acclaimed film, Slumdog Millionaire), has told the press about them. We know, for instance, that the ceremony will start with the sound of the largest bell in Europe, (weighing twice as much as Big Ben). We know that the Olympic stadium in Stratford, East London, will turn into a scene which represents the British countryside, (titled ‘Green and Pleasant’ from a poem by William Blake). This scene will feature meadows, farmyard animals, and a river representing the Thames. It will also include a replica of the Glastonbury Tor. Artificial clouds will ‘rain’ on this rural scene as families play cricket and children dance around maypoles.
As mentioned above, the ceremony will also feature aspects that are a part of all Olympic opening ceremonies. For example, the President of the International Olympic Committee will welcome the head of state of the host country, (Her Majesty the Queen), at the entrance of the Olympic Stadium. Next, there will be a procession of all the athletes who are taking part. The teams will enter the stadium in alphabetical order, in the language of the host country. The two exceptions to this rule are the Greek team, which, according to tradition, leads the parade, and the host nation’s team, (in 2012, the British team or ‘Team GB’ as they are called), which enters last. When all the nations’ teams are inside the Stadium, speeches will be given by the chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Sebastian Coe, and the President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge. They will then formally invite the Head of State to officially declare the Games open. The Olympic Flag will then be carried into the Stadium and lifted into the air as the Olympic hymn is played.
Another fixed aspect of the opening ceremony is the Olympic Oath. One athlete, (representing all athletes), will stand on the rostrum and, holding a corner of the International Olympic Committee flag in their left hand and raising their right, take the oath, in which they vow to compete according to the rules of a sport and without taking performance-enhancing drugs.
The climax to the opening ceremony is when the Olympic flame enters the Stadium. Athletes will pass the flame to the final torchbearer, who will light the cauldron, marking the beginning of the Olympic Games 2012.