Walking through the Olympic Mall with four moms who have kids competing at the London Olympics gave the Opening Ceremony extra meaning for me. Although I was only one of 71,000 spectactors for the Danny Boyle directed spectacular, I feel like I had an insider perspective compared to the close to one billion people who watched around the world.
When we took our seats, every member of the audience was given a program explaining each "scene" of the show, as well as a pair of 3D glasses.
Then we were coached on how to perform during the show. Yes, WE were participants in the party, waving our "pixels" (little paddles with LED lights) in choreographed patterns, and moving a swath of blue silk from the top of the bleachers to the ground. "The world is watching," the British host shouted. "Do not mess it up."
A video message was played from the United Nations, saying something to this effect, "Let this unite the world through peace. We invite all warring people to lay down your weapons during the Olympics. " This powerful theme of peace, brotherhood, and sportsmanship ran through out the ceremony, making me tear up.
For the next two hours, we sat enthralled as Danny Boyle's show took us through a history of British Cultural Revolutions, from an incredibly realistic English pastoral scene, complete with sheep, geese, cows and working horses, a charming stone cottage with smoking chimney and hundreds of extras dressed in period costumes.
Kenneth Braunagh, wearing a black suit and top hot from days gone by, recited poetry from Shakespeare's The Temptest.
We watched as the countryside was transformed into huge black smoking chimneys, witnessing the birth of the Industrial Revolution.
British children's literature was celebrated as about a hundred Mary Poppins with her trademark umbrella fell from the sky. Then the Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook and Voldemort, and JK Rowlings made special appearances.
A highlight of the show for me was the surprise appearance of Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr Bean, who joined the London Symphony Orchestra for a very funny rendition of Chariots of Fire. Also hilarious was a video of the Queen (yes THE Queen) acting with James Bond as they raced to us to announce the opening of the Games. The most evocative segment for me was the medley of amazing British pop music—each song triggering a special memory—The Jam, David Bowie, Sex Pistols, The Who.
But the real magic began when the athletes from each competing country marched out in alphabetical order, each wearing their national costume. I was warned by my veteran Olympic Mom friends that this segment was LONG! They weren't exaggerating. It took more than an hour for all the athletes to make their ceremonial march around the stadium from countries, many I had never heard of. Cotton Island? Hello? Some countries like the USA and Spain had an army of athletes. Others had one or two representing.
Interesting insider info is that many athletes don't actually participate in the Opening Ceremony. Being a part of the show is incredibly tiring; the athletes needing to stand in one spot for close to two hours is not good right before the biggest competition of their lives. In fact, none of the competing kids of the moms I was sitting with were part of the show. They preferred to watch it on TV, and save their energy for their real performance.
Having said that, we were still thrilled to see Team Canada make their proud entrance lead by Flag Bearer triathlete Simon Whitfield.
Watching the Olympic flame being lit for the third time in the history of the UK was beautiful, a metaphor for freedom, respect and fair play. "It's not if you win, but how you compete" the athletes were reminded.
What I found very moving was the longest round of cheering in the entire show was not for the lighting of the flame. Rather, there was a standing ovation for the 15,000 volunteer performers and behind the scenes men and women who made the show happen. It really is remarkable how many Londoners are devoting so much time and energy into being a part of the Olympics and welcoming all of us so warmly.
The show came to a perfect end with Paul McCartney doing a sing-a-long version of Hey Jude. Go England Go!!
And then it was the long walk back through the Olympic Mall for us. But through some weird mix-up, I got to hang out with some of the international athletes as they headed back to the Olympic Village to the athlete's residences on the other side of the Mall.
And now the games are officially on! Thank you P&G for allowing me to tag along with all the sponsored Olympic Moms and experience this historical event. And if I may—GO CANADA GO!!!!
P&G Proud Sponsor of Moms.