I was watching the ceremony from one of the House of Nations’ two pop-up bars which are running for the duration of the Olympics, at King’s Cross. Pop-up bars are a great idea, aren’t they? And this one has a fantastic venue – a massive hall with an impossibly high ceiling, a long bar and tables spaced throughout. It was packed throughout the evening (‘Stop it! You can’t cry in a packed bar!’ my boyfriend hissed at me), which meant it was a great atmosphere – much cheering and applause and a fully upstanding rendition of God Save the Queen.
Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening Ceremony was – thank heaven, because I think there must have been more than one pair of crossed fingers – an absolute triumph. When they started off with sheep and a druidic hill, I closed my eyes momentarily in horror. But they whipped through what had to be the quickest run-down of the history of Britain ever – they got three characters for the price of one with Kenneth Branagh dressed as Isambard Kingdom Brunel playing Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest – and jumped into a plethora of pop culture references, from every song that has ever made British history to a towering Lord Voldemort swaying creepily over the stage. It was something of an assault on the senses, really, but a brilliant one – and by the way, am I the only person on the planet who didn’t know that the inventor of the World Wide Web is British?
Then came the Olympic teams, marching round the stadium, and I have to say, as witness my web history, I had to Google about ten of those countries – and I used to travel for a living. I also spent a good chunk of the team procession shrieking things like, ‘Oh my god, Bhutan! We have to go to Bhutan! Let’s chuck in the business and go travelling again, right now!’ It was very inspiring indeed – not for the Queen, though, apparently, because she appeared to have a chip in her nail varnish which was more attention-grabbing.
And finally, the lighting of the torch, with David Beckham doing his best James Bond impression on a speedboat and handing it over to Steve Redgrave to bring it into the stadium and symbolically pass on the Olympic spirit to the next generation (yup, I saw what they did there), all topped off by Paul McCartney and his unnaturally luxurious flowing locks, kicking out Hey Jude. Phew.
The House of Nations venues – the King’s Cross one and the second which is at Tower Bridge – are open to the public throughout the Olympics, screening all the events and generally embracing the national enthusiasm. They’ve got all sorts of international-themed food platters to keep you sustained through all that gruelling watching, not to mention a vast array of drinks – and couple of ping-pong tables in case you’re so inspired that you simply must get up that very second and do something approximating to sport. If you didn’t get tickets but still want to see some events in a great atmosphere, give the House of Nations a go.
The Olympic Opening Ceremony took place on Friday 27 July, 2012.
Find House of Nations on Euston Road, King’s Cross, opposite St Pancras Station and The Pavillion at the Tower of London