After weeks of build up including Rupert Grint as an Olympic torch bearer, the opening ceremony of the games is upon us and as a typical Brit, I have to admit I was sceptical, however I honestly loved it! The ceremony opened with a taste of British history, with the industrial revolution destroying the British countryside led by none other than HP-Alumni Kenneth Branagh as Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Following the history section the ceremony moved on to celebrate British culture starting with a fantastic dance tribute to Children's Literature. Our hero Jo Rowling opened this section by reading a passage of Peter Pan, written by J.M.Barrie. This section was dedicated to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children's hospital to which J.M.Barrie donated all profits of Peter Pan when it was first printed.
Amongst a sea of children in hospital beds, the bedtime stories were told and the greatest literary villains in British history appeared: Captain Hook, the Child Catcher, the Queen of Hearts and of course Voldemort! The villains stood fifty feet high surrounded by nightmarish dementor figures before being scared off by the loveliest of British heroes, Mary Poppins. Or rather, an army of Poppins, after all, one hero alone could not defeat such well known villains, but together they could protect the children and live happily ever after.
The ceremony progressed to celebrate British music and sport, but it is our nation's love of literature that caught my imagination. After all, it's real for us! That's not to say it was the only spectacular moment of our games! We never expected James Bond to help the Queen sky dive into the stadium, but that's the truth of Britain! We're magical.
By: Stuart Dollin
Let's face it. The Olympics have become so over bloated and so much a marketing fest that successive hosts feel they have to spend obscene amounts of money on an opening ceremony that's essentially a one off show. In this case £27m was blown on a 3 hour extravaganza - even a full on West End show doesn't need that investment and you can make a damn good movie for less.
But that isn't really the focus of this piece. This is Mugglenet and we are looking at relevance to the books, films and stories of JK Rowling. The show opened with what might be described as an English (sorry to Scots, Welsh and Irish) idyll, something like a poem out of Butterworth which probably never existed at all (rural life in 19th century England was anything but idyllic) but rapidly degenerated into a hellish, Blake like, industrial landscape under the evil tutelage of Ken Branagh playing the part of Isambard Kingdom Brunel by way of Caliban from The Tempest (although Brunel was actually responsible for many of Britain's greatest engineering achievements) - yes the show started to gain momentum once we'd got rid of the farmyards and animals to the extend we saw a quite spectacular forging of the Olympic rings.
But the big Mugglenet focus has to be on the next section - a combination of a tribute to children's fiction by way of Great Ormond Street Hospital and the NHS. The link is that JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan, bequeathed all of the royalties from Peter Pan to GOSH and that extraordinary gift ensures that GOSH remains the formost children's hospital in Europe. What is more extraordinary and moving is that virtually all of the performers were not only staff but also patients from GOSH.
Yes this captivated and moved me - beds whirling around the stage, children bouncing and performing on beds as nurses in costumes of all ages pushed them around, and danced as the dark images of childhood reared themselves centre stage. JK Rowling made a very brief appearance - perhaps she was the token 'name' - and read a short couple of sentences from Peter Pan but the real stars were the anonymous performers.
The dark forces centred around Voldemort, who, to be honest was represented by a rather pathetic puppet figure, and the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - a much more formidable figure, and to many younger children, far more frightening (remember he was created by Ian Fleming, the man who wrote the James Bond novels). But the coup de theatre was the flying in of not just one but a whole host of Mary Poppins figures who banished the evil characters, drove away the demons and brought the section to a joyous end.... wonderful. I'm sure PL Travers (author of Mary Poppins - who was actually Australian although she finally settled in Britain) would have appreciated the ending. All we were missing was a jolly song but the transition from darkness to light was palpable.
Oh... and on a personal note... I would have faced the tragedy of my wife's death two or three years ago had we been living in the US and not had the excellent facilities of the NHS available to us. Any treatment, any time, automatically available and none of the obscene equiries as she was admitted - 'who's your insurer?'
After that we were treated to a delightful sketch with the LSO (London Symphony Orchestra) conducted by Sir Simon Rattle (arguably one of the best British conductors of the 20th/21st century) doing Chariots of Fire with Rowan Atkinson reworking a sketch he'd done years ago. A bit of a waste of resources but amusing none the less.
And after that it all went downhill... well more like fell off a cliff to the extend that I changed channels. But there's no particular relevance to Mugglenet so I won't elaborate.
July 2000 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is released in the United States and the United Kingdom simultaneously (July 8th). It was the first Potter book to be released in the US and UK on the same day.