Opening Ceremony London 2012: A Tour of the British Literary Greats (Yes, Including Harry Potter)

The Olympics’ opening ceremony will include a hat-tip to some of the United Kingdom’s most famous literary legends; William Shakespeare, William Blake, and Charles Dickens. 

The opening ceremony is titled: “Isles of Wonder”, and from what we know it is going to be on a scale like no other. The ceremony’s artistic director, Danny Boyle the British director behind film’s like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, has tried to keep the event’s details mum but also acknowledged, “part of the modern world means you can’t really do that.” 

The ceremony's theme, “Isle of Wonders” is inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a play about shipwrecked castaways. Reportedly, an actor will recite the lines from Caliban’s speech; “Be not afeared; the isle is full of noises…” It is rumored that Kenneth Branagh is the actor set to perform.

In an interview Boyle confirmed that they ceremony will include rain, another aspect of The Tempest theme. “They will be real clouds that will be hanging over the stadium. Work that out if you can. We know we’re an island culture and an island climate. One of these clouds will provide rain on the evening, just in case it doesn’t rain.” The stage will also include a model of the Thames River.

The opening segment is to take place on a set called “Green and Pleasant”, one of the largest sets ever built. The set is meant to evoke the pastoral beauty of William Blake’s poem “Jerusalem”; the poem is regard as England’s unofficial national anthem, will be set to music. The idyllic pastoral scene will include, farmers, a cricket match, as well as livestock: 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens, 10 duck, 9 geese, 3 sheep dogs, 3 cows, and 2 goats.

Reportedly, what comes next is a look at the darker sides of British history, including the smoke and smog of the Industrial Revolution. Later, Depression-era jobless protester take the stage, followed by a tribute to National Health Services. One confirmed piece of the set is a model of the ship the Empire Windrush, which brought hundreds of people from the Caribbean to Britain in 1948.

According to the Sunday Times there will be other famous British literary references as well. There will be segments featuring characters from Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, as well as a showdown between Voldermort, from the Harry Potter series, and a group of flying nannies a la Mary Poppins. 

Boyle said, "The Ceremony is an attempt to capture a picture of ourselves as a nation, where we have come from and where we want to be." 

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Elena Sheppard

Elena is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Mic. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Time Out New York, The New York Times Upfront, ABC News, and various travel publications. She is also a Princeton alum, a former Thailand resident, and a Brooklyn native.

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