The 10 Craziest Moments of the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony


Last night, the world watched the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Directed by Danny Boyle (of Trainspotting and 127 Hours), the theme, “Isles of Wonder,” came straight from Shakespeare, that enduring heart of British culture. We oohed over the pyrotechnics, delighted at each cultural nod, and wondered where they got the geese — not to mention who convinced the Queen to play along. If you missed it, or if you’re already itching for a recap, click through to check out the ten wildest, craziest, most amazing moments from the opening ceremony, and be sure to let us know what you thought in the comments!

Shakespeare and sheep.

The ceremonies begin in a pastoral scene, complete with maypole, waterwheel and cricket — not to mention sheep, geese, cows, goats and a variety of other animals. Plus, peasants crawling out of a hole in the ground. Yes, this is a relaxed kind of crazy, but pretty crazy nonetheless. Also, there’s Kenneth Branagh playing Sir Isambard Kingdom Brunel playing Caliban out of The Tempest. So, you know. Photo credit: David Gray/Reuters

The Industrial Revolution happens.

Once the pastoral scene had run its course, drums shook the air. Industrial workers rushed to remove the grassy scene, revealing a map of London, smoke stacks rose from the ground, and steelworkers began forging golden Olympic rings, which, molten and sparking were then hoisted into the air to be suspended above the performers. To great effect, we thought. Photo credit: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The Queen arrives. Via parachute.

Of course, you’d never expect the Queen to simply take a car to the Olympics! No, she must be escorted by James Bond, who collects her from the palace and then brings her to the ceremony via helicopter. And then she parachutes in. Well, it’s not really the Queen, of course (or James Bond, for that matter), but a stunt double dressed as her Majesty Elizabeth II who came tumbling through the air with a Union Jack parachute. Still, we love the fact that the actual Queen totally played along — first making the video, then appearing in the stands, totally unruffled, after her double (or was it?) hit the ground.

Vive la NHS!

Whatever we expected, it wasn’t a full-on song-and-dance celebration of Britain’s National Health Service, with maids and children jumping on trampolines/hospital beds…

Voldemort vs. Mary Poppins!

… until J.K. Rowling came out to herald in the literature. That is, some of the most fearsome villains in kids’ books — Captain Hook, the Queen of Hearts, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang’s Child Catcher and of course, Lord Voldemort. But of course, a troop of Mary Poppinses flew in to defend the little children from the baddies — as only a troop of Mary Poppinses could do.

Mr. Bean’s fever dream

All we’re saying is, at least Britain can laugh at itself.

The Doves of Peace

Danny Boyle had a rather different take on the traditional doves of peace that are released at every Olympic Opening Ceremony — gorgeous, glowing human doves on bikes, flying through the dark. Photo credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Inflatable yellow submarines

Floated above the events. (Photo credit: Chuck Myers/MCT) Because why not? And on that note…

Four decades of music

The Who, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and Meredith Vieira singing Mick Jagger. David Bowie. The entire company accompanying Queen on air guitar. Prodigy. Paul McCartney, Arctic Monkeys, Mike Oldfield and Dizzee Rascal performing live. YES. Photo credit: MJ Kim/MPL Communications Ltd.

The passing of the torch

David Beckham brings the Olympic Torch to the ceremony on a speedboat named “Max Power” (sort of hilarious in its own right), and passes it to Sir Steve Redgrave, who hands it off to seven young hopefuls to light the flame. Each of the teenagers lights one of the copper petals, which all light each other and fold up into the glorious Olympic cauldron, the whole spectacle summing up Boyle’s idea: that the games are for everyone, that he wants to celebrate Britain’s future as much as its past. We’ll expand this to include the fireworks in general, always an Olympic staple. Photo credit: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach