Film & TV in the Olympics opening ceremony

Feature Louisa Mellor 30 Jul 2012 - 20:01

An estimated 27 million people in the UK watched Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony, and here’s a round-up of the TV and film they would have caught a glimpse of…

Whimsy. Pride. Grief. Early 90s Channel 4 sitcom Desmond’s… Danny Boyle’s gloriously bonkers Olympic Opening Ceremony covered a welcome number of unpredictable bases. Prelapsarian Hobbiton scenes fell to Kenneth Branagh’s top-hatted industrial vision, Mary Poppins shooed away Voldemort, a bunch of nurses did the Lindy Hop, a neon human tube train skipped around like a naked Chinese dragon, and most thrilling of all, a Daily Mail bigot/journalist got properly riled.  

Amidst the ceremony’s many wonders, some of the evening’s loudest cheers came from the montage of TV and film clips Boyle and co. had magpied from the archives. Cheeky little telly nods like naughty schoolboys waving at their mums behind a flustered news reporter were edited into the main event. An anthology of classic  – and some not so classic – UK TV and film clips popped up for the briefest of moments (one notably present just as a single, iconic sound-effect). And seeing as it all went by in something of a flash, we thought it might be fun to look at what made the selection.

First up, during the speedy aquatic journey from the Cotswolds to Stratford, a 2D-animated pair by the name of Ratty and Moley ducked out of the way of the flying camera. Characters from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, the trio including Toad began the evening’s appreciation of British children’s literature, and equally, kids' TV.

Next, fittingly as the camera zoomed alongside London’s South Bank, came a musical tribute to TV arts institution The South Bank Show, in the form of theme music from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Variations. A quick pause over another iconic image from UK TV – the Eastenders opening credits map – and it was into the stadium.

From the much-discussed Daniel Craig and Queenie Bond sketch then, to one featuring the man behind spoof Bond character, Johnny English. Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean, a creation probably as internationally recognisable as David Beckham, was showcased in a Chariots of Fire ‘dream sequence’, aided and abetted by Sir Simon Rattle and his orchestra.

From that point onwards, the TV and film nods came thick and fast. Projected onto an inflatable house in the section celebrating digital doodads (which culminated in an appearance from The Actual Man That Invented The World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee), was a quick-fire series of TV & film surprises.

Starting with the television, after the clip that must flash on weatherman Michael Fish’s inward eye in vacant or in pensive mood, the shows we spotted were as follows: Harry Hill’s TV Burp (opening credits), Eastenders (Charlie Slater extolling the chest hair-producing qualities of a fish pie to Dr Anthony Trueman), Fawlty Towers, Coronation Street (Deirdre Barlow - we think - exclaiming over a tin of sardines and Sally Webster shouting at her daughter), Eldorado (possibly?) Harry Enfield’s Television Programme (Kevin the Teenager), Blackadder (first series, aka the rubbish one), aforementioned barber-shop sitcom Desmond’s, various clips from Top of the Pops, Anna Friel’s 1994 lesbian kiss from Brookside, and Ken Loach’s seminal sixties TV homelessness play Cathy Come Home.

If Doctor Who fans weren’t treated to the eleven-Doctor montage apparently approved but then removed from the show due to the constraints of time, then at least we have the honour of perhaps the most difficult-to-spot reference of all: a single TARDIS whoosh sound mixed bafflingly into a rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Later on in proceedings came a nod to Absolutely Fabulous thanks to Eddie and Patsy’s role in the torch-relay. Non-UK TV was chiefly represented by an odd selection of bits from Modern Family and The Cosby Show.

Film-wise, post-Bond of course, we saw split seconds of David Lean’s Oliver Twist, Gene Wilder in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, something starring Charlie Chaplin, a clip from Powell and Pressburger classic A Matter of Life and Death, John Gordon Sinclair in Gregory’s Girl, the kestrel from Kes, quite possibly a bit of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Wayne’s World, The Full Monty, Trainspotting (naturally), David Bowie's removeable nipples in The Man Who Fell to Earth, Hugh Grant’s stutter in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and a montage of kisses including those from Wall-E, Planet of the Apes, Lady and the Tramp, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, and a real-life post-wedding balcony smooch from their royal highnesses Wills and Kate.

All told, it was a disparate but hugely pleasing selection. As a snapshot montage most of which was themed to fit around a boy-meets-girl narrative including chapters on food, clubbing, and kissing, it was a glorious string of surprises.

Inexplicable at times, but perhaps all the more cockle-warming and personal for its inscrutability to an international audience. A lunatic motley from the UK’s lunatic, motley TV and film history. My high point? There wasn’t a Del Boy falling through the bar or a Blue Peter elephant’s dirty protest in sight. Magical.

Now, the real work begins. For anybody willing to help us fill in the gaps, what are some of the ceremony’s many, many film and TV references we’ve missed?

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I thought it was garbage, personally. The first segment ending with the NHS Nurses was the highlight of the show for me....and Paul McCartney...well half the stadium emptied while he was singing.

There's the small Harry Potter reference you missed out. You know, 40 foot Voldemort.

it's a pity that the 2 talented beatles died leaving only the really crap one and Ringo Starr

The Chaplin clip was from City Lights. It's beautiful movie. I loved the opening ceremony, the music segment was fantastic.

You seem to have forgotten Billy Eliot (not only do they show the clip where he discovers his friend is Transgender but they then ape it on stage with their modal family).

Oh & lets not forget that they broadcast Brookside's infamous lesbian kiss. First time that has been done in many a country as twitter records.

I just wonder what Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill must think. They can't be too happy at seeing their ending to Century 2009 on stage.

I'm a bit miffed that Doctor Who was left out of the montage proper. It's the longest running science fiction show in the World. It's one of the most successful. It's shown around the globe and, more than anything, it is quintessentially British.

That said, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the opening ceremony. It really was quite a magnificent spectacle, right up until Paul McCartney came out.

Danny Boyle, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create a 2 hour show, that all 70 million Brits feel represents them and does not make anyone grumpy enough to complain on the internet that their personal tastes were not catered to.

should have had the tardis fly past when starman was being played

Troughton, Pertwee, Tom, Davison, Colin and McCoy's faces all appeared with the TARDIS noise on a big-screen (but the TV broadcast cut to dancers instead at this point). But there was a cut sequence featuring Python, Corrie, Doctor Who and others where the theme tune would've been heard.

I also think there should've been a Dalek or a TARDIS in there *somewhere* but hey.

That would've been great - or a CGI TARDIS flying over the Bond helicopter!

One this I'm wondering is - there was a clip in the montage with one of those pop up speech bubbles in reading "ca suffit en bas", can anyone tell me what film this was from, I have tried googling but with no success!

The highlight for me had to be Rowan Atkinson. It was all just comic gold and the fact that he did most of it live shows just how fantastic and natural he is as a performer.

I also love the James Bond/Queen scene too, and overall I enjoyed it for being British, even if a few parts were somewhat confusing.

I thought there was a not-too subtle homage to the Lord of the Rings in the opening sequences i.e. the hobbiton-like rural idyll, the tree yanked out of the ground, the sudden industrialisation, even the forging of the Olympic ring.
The Bond sequence was great but also directly referenced two Bond films, which is worth noting i.e. The Spy Who Loved Me (union jack parachute) and, less obviously, Licence to Kill (when Bond and Leiter arrive for a wedding by parachute).
I didn't see them on the broadcast but according to pictures in the paper, there were several Yellow Submarines from the eponymous film.

Referring to a Beatle as "the really crap one" is abit like whinging that your butler left a bit of dust in your ferrari when he went out to fetch your gold back scratcher and Jack Daniels. I honestly don't know why McCartney gets such a hard time? He's not hurting anyone, still seems like a nice bloke and wrote or co-wrote some of the greatest music of the 20th century.

Yeah, fortunately, we caught that TARDIS whoosh in my family, but it was very disappointing, the lack of visible Who. Would it have killed somebody to have a Dalek in there? Also, just for your clarification, that "something" with Chaplin in it was "City Lights", quite possibly his silent masterpiece. Shame on you, sir!

Also the Shipping Forcast right at the beginning during the Elgar.

City Lights is one of my favourite films, when I saw it in the montage I practically melted in my seat. I too was also disappointed by the lack of Who-ness. Gosh darn it, couldn't they have just snuck him in among the Mary Poppinses and had him help defeat Voldemort?

Meh I'd disagree, it wasnt hobbiton it was an idealised version of preindustrial rural England, that is also what the Shire was based on. The paintings of Counstable as well as numerous other and other accounts of pre-industrial England informed that for more than the Shire

They dont play 18th Century cricket in Hobbiton. The emerging with fire from a tree is taken from earlier sources and the industrialisation of the British countryside has been specifically linked to the book Pandemonium (add to that that the Industrial Revolution and Olympic ring design predates the Lord of the Rings). There might have been a bit of a nod but it wasnt that obvious.

Helter Skelter, the Abbey Road Medley, Here There and Everywhere, Hey Jude, Let It Be, Michelle, With a Little Help from My Friends, Blackbird, Back in the USSR, Eleanor Rigby, Getting Better, Lovely Rita, Martha My Dear, Penny Lane, The Long and Winding Road, She's Leaving Home, Live and Let Die...

Yeah, you're wrong mate. :)

In fairness to the guy, Paul McCartney essentially did a pub rock kareoke version of that song. Why the lighting of the flame wasnt the proper end is beyond me.

The Conservative MP Aidan Burley was right; that opening ceremony was a load of leftie crap... transgender deviants, lesbian kisses, odes to socialized medicine, but no room for Christianity or any other faith for that matter, yeah, 'representative' it most certainly was not, Danny Boyle should be sent to the Tower of London for that monstrosity...

Paul McCartney is living proof of just how good John Lennon was...

Can anyone tell me about two film clips from the montage...one was where a young man was standing with his friends and noticing a girl, saying that she was "absolutely gorgeous"...the other was a pilot speaking to a woman over the radio, and asking her name.

Hi! The first one was from Gregory's Girl, and the second from A Matter of Life and Death.

The "absolutely gorgeous" clip would be from Bill Forsyth's "Gregory's Girl", and the pilot from Powell & Pressburger's "A Matter of Life and Death" (US title "Stairway to Heaven"). If you liked the mad humour and beauty of the Opening Ceremony, you should enjoy both of these films (but you may need to switch on the subtitles for "Gregory's Girl" as the cast make no attempt to hide the fact that they are Scottish).

Ah, thanks. I've been exploring British cinema when I can. Getting into the British New Wave mostly.

Quite looking forward to what Rio does at the closing ceremony - might put our opening efforts into more context

Yes but you're forgetting, Doctor Who is shite.

muhahahahahahahahahahaahhahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahaahahahahahahahah....muuuuuhahhahahahahahahahahhaahhahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahaahahhahahhahahahah

just thought I'd say that lol

That's right - the 9 million people who watch it weekly (not to mention the countless many millions more worldwide) are just punishing themselves. However, Andrew, the TV show you wrote, directed, produced and starred in is a true work of art.

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