It’s rare that an event as hyped up and hyperventilated over as Danny Boyle’s ambitious Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday 27 July actually lives up to expectation, never mind knocks it out of the park. But when Ken Branagh was caught on camera gazing upwards with awe at the five just-melted gold rings converging in the indigo London sky, he stopped being Isambard Kingdom Brunel and became, well, just like the rest of us.
Imagine! A beleaguered nation united by a multicoloured, multicultural multimedia spectacular with the Queen, James Bond and Mr Bean – until one o’clock in the morning.
But what of the Closing Ceremony, at which the flame, lit 16 days previously, is symbolically snuffed? How do you follow the Industrial Revolution and a skydiving monarch?
Creative director Kim Gavin has a prevailing wind of national pride behind him, but instead of “Top that!” his brief may simply be: Take That. He masterminded the quintet’s world-beating Circus tour, and the word is that he’s staging a massive, all-inclusive gig featuring everyone from the Who and Madness to the Spice Girls and One Direction (much missed by “ver kids” on the opening night).
We hear that British fashion will be celebrated (Gavin also directed the inaugural Fashion Rocks at the Albert Hall), the LSO will mime Nimrod (or so Julian Lloyd Webber, who’s performing some Elgar, told RT subscribers recently), the Coldstream Guards will recapture the spirit of Robbie Williams at the Jubilee marching to Parklife, and Eric Idle will exhort the potential global audience of four billion to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
But first, the preliminaries. Sunday night’s three-hour show is set to feature 4,100 performers, including 380 schoolchildren from the six Olympic boroughs of east London. Starting at 9pm, the ceremony comprises the March of the Athletes with competitors marching into the Olympic Stadium unsegregated by nationality. This will be followed by a handover to 2016 hosts Rio de Janeiro, with Brazilian performers presenting a short mock Carnival. The Olympic flame is then extinguished and the London Games declared closed. Which is the signal for the real party to begin.
All acts appearing have signed non-disclosure contracts to keep the final line-up for the big night a surprise, but you can expect to see, among others, George Michael, Jessie J, Paul McCartney and Ray Davies. Ed Sheeran has already hinted heavily that he will be performing with Pink Floyd. While Liam Gallagher and his band Beady Eye are strongly tipped to perform a new arrangement of an iconic Oasis anthem. Isles of Wonderwall, anyone?
The Closing Ceremony begins tonight at 9:00pm on BBC1, BBC Olympics 1 and Radio 5 Live
To re-live James Bond’s famous brush with royalty, have a look at the video below…