If there’s one event that defined Britain in 2012 it’s the Olympics, and if there’s one particular moment that captured our spirit over those heady two weeks it’s the Olympic Opening Ceremony. During those sixteen days of Team GB glory our nation underwent a communal personality transplant. We swapped our pessimistic sarcasm for boundless joy and unbridled pride. We wrapped ourselves in Union Jacks and yelled the names of our gold medal-winning athletes until our voices went hoarse. We packed into the Olympic park and gathered around our television sets as our awe-inspiring athletes romped to victory. It was glorious.
In preparation for writing this plea, I began reliving Danny Boyle’s four-hour creative masterpiece on YouTube. From footage of Rowan Atkinson’s side-splitting turn in his Chariots of Fire spoof to Kenneth Branagh’s Brunel presiding over the indomitable Industrial Revolution from Glastonbury Tor, my trip down memory lane left me longing for our spectacular Summer of Sport. The Opening Ceremony perfectly captured everything we as a nation should be proud of.
Thousands of British volunteers packed into the Olympic stadium in front of 80,000 spectators and a global audience of millions to play their part in the breathtaking ceremony, whether that be marching along in their Pearly Whites get-up or rocking out to a rousing compliation of British music, from the Rolling Stones to Dizzy Rascal.
We recognised the sacrifice made by our soldiers and the genius of scientists such as Tim Berners-Lee. We listened to the spine-tingling vocals of Emeli Sandé and watched in awe as giant inflations of Lord Voldemort and Cruella de Vil haunted the bedsides of youngsters. We looked on with respect as Ban Ki-moon and Muhammad Ali helped convey the Olympic flag to its resting place and we watched with pride as sporting hero David Beckham transported the torch down the Thames (by speedboat, no less).
Yes, it had its boring bits – watching thousands upon thousands of athletes parading into the stadium lost its appeal soon after Andorra strutted their stuff, but there was something unmissable about the beaming smiles and infectious excitement of those who had spent years tirelessly preparing for their moment in the spotlight.
And what better way to combat those dull official moments – and Sir Paul McCartney’s awkward Hey Jude clanger – than the spectacular feats of engineering masterminded by artistic director, Danny Boyle. Remember the iconic moment the five Olympic rings met in the middle of the stadium above a shower of sparks? Or the towering industrial chimneys that burst from the (real) grass mounds, belching smoke into the arena?
When asked for their favourite Olympic moment, many people would cite the Queen’s infamous appearance alongside 007. After all, recruiting a monarch to parachute from a helicopter into an Olympic stadium alongside James Bond is a feat worthy of a knighthood.
But my presiding memory of that magical night was the moment the Olympic cauldron – nicknamed Betty – was finally unveiled. The hushed stadium watching Sir Steve Redgrave hand on the golden torch to our next generation of Olympic athletes as their best-loved predecessors looked on sent shivers down my spine and brought tears to my eyes. And above all it signified the importance of the Olympics, as highlighted by Seb Coe in his Closing Ceremony speech – they were our Games. Made in Britain. And what better occasion to remember that by than the terrific Olympic Opening Ceremony.
So vote! Now! Let’s get the Olympic Opening Ceremony first past the finish line.
See the shortlist for the Radio Times Audience Award at the TV Baftas, and vote for your favourite, here