Opening Ceremony Secrets

I'll just lay it out there: the Opening Ceremony was awesome. I'll do a more in depth post on my thoughts and such tomorrow, but for now that's all that needs to be said. Completely and utterly awesome.

While it's kind of sad that it's over, I'm completely STOKED that I can now talk about some things! My master posts about my whole experience are going to be saved until after the closing ceremony, but I do have some fun stories about opening to share! This is the stuff that nobody thinks about, or knows about, and I hope it puts the ceremony in the context of a sprawling saga and not just a one-night event.

Here we go!

1. I happened to be at the first rehearsal for the drummers in the Industrial Revolution segment -- or some of them, at least. A few other volunteers and I were sorting bibs outside the studio they were learning their rhythms, and it was the coolest thing ever. They learned it to a sentence! "Bang the drum - so your mum - can see - you on TV." They learned it fragment by fragment, so at first I was like, "the heck are they doing? This doesn't sound familiar." ...But then suddenly it was the right rhythm (that we knew from the pre-vis, explained in #7)!

2. Speaking of the drummers, the callback auditions were the first time the drums were brought out. And by "drums" I mean "buckets." If you saw the ceremony, you can see that that's basically what the drums were; buckets hung around the performers' necks. So when the choreographers were telling people not to say anything to anyone about what they did, they deadpanned, "Guys, what are you going to tell people? That we banged on buckets?"

3. I was there when Danny Boyle told a group of kids in the NHS segment that there'd be a giant Voldemort chasing them. I'm pretty sure I freaked out harder than they did.

4. At the very end of the ceremony, there were supposed to be BMX bikers with the dove cyclists, but they were cut recently. I was gutted when I found out. I was the lone volunteer designated to help out with their rehearsals two Saturdays in a row, and they were so talented and wonderful! I was mildly warned about them and, while they were a little bit rowdy (boys will be boys), they caused absolutely zero problems. They were so easygoing about everything except the safety of their course -- I'd gotten more attitude from willowy dancers than I got from these tattooed, pierced, dreadlocked men.

5. Performers started getting fitted for their costumes and receiving them when rehearsals were out at Dagenham, which is in zone five and is not a heavily traveled area. The Industrial Revolution members started getting theirs first and slowly started wearing them to rehearsals, showing up in those drab, artistically dirty jumpsuits. Please, if you will, imagine hundreds and hundreds of people wearing Industrial Revolution garb clogging up the tube and flocking to a random, quiet London suburb. I never saw it get to this point, but even two or three people wearing matching, ugly jumpsuits in one tube car is enough to get some odd looks and amuse the hell out of me!

6. London 2012 Ceremonies was required to provide lunch and snacks for the kids when they came in for rehearsal. So guess who got to take advantage of the leftovers! Awwww yeahhh. :)

7. When each group of performers came to their first rehearsal, they obviously had to be given some idea of what they'd be doing and where that fit in the scheme of the ceremony. This is where the pre-vis videos came in. They're basically animations of what the segment would look like, made of graphics and clips from the internet and clips of choreography, designed to communicate the overall feel of the segment. Because there were SO many Industrial Revolution performers, there were tons of groups of them, which meant their pre-vis got shown for each of them. It showed Fields of Plenty and the following transition; I must've seen it at least five times (by choice), and got goosebumps each time without fail.

8. Speaking of, each time before the Industrial Revolution pre-vis would air, Danny Boyle would say, "Oh, by the way, your segment is called Pandemonium." He would then scurry to the side of the room as the performers laughed nervously and exchanged awkward glances with each other at the fact that they'd have to tackle a task called Pandemonium. I liked this "oh god help me" reaction moment almost as much as I liked the pre-vis!

9. Wondering how Fields of Plenty was organized? Each area was given the name of a county! "Okay, such-and-such county, please go return your bibs."

10. When rehearsals moved to Dagenham, piping the music over speakers loud enough for it to be heard for miles around started seeming like a bad idea. Performers were given ear pieces so each person had music piped directly to them. Ingenious, but absolutely bizarre to see a mass of people running around and pushing beds in complete silence!

11. Between the end of April and the beginning of June, I saw rehearsals for the 1970s Thanks Tim group, NHS, Fields of Plenty (I got to closely observe the football match), the drummers, Industrial Revolution (about a million times), and the professional dancers for the Thanks Tim "now" segment. There might be more that I'm forgetting, but those segments during the ceremony last night had my highest concentrations of flail.

That's all I can give you right now. But tune in after the closing ceremony to hear the deets on closing, my experience in general, and how I got on a first-name basis with Danny Boyle. True story.

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