Keep Calm and Corgi On–With Kenneth Branagh. At the Olympics.

*The following is culled from the eleven pages of notes I took during the NBC broadcast of the Opening Ceremony for the London Olympics. I’ve watched it twice since then, but my main thought is still “WOW.”*

7:30 Sweeping montages of England as narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch and Emily Blunt? I think YES.

7:35 Oh Bob Costas, how I missed you and your dulcet commentary. *hums Olympic theme*

Also, I cannot wait to see what Danny Boyle has planned. I hear there are sheep, so I’m all good.  And I still think the image of Tower Bridge with the Olympic Rings is incredibly poetic, even though I’ve seen the same shot 80 times.

7:40 I’m sad it’s not live. If I hadn’t been at work today, I would have watched a BBC livestream or something.

Someone just held up a sign that said “Keep Calm, It’s Only the Olympics.” There’s no way London can follow Beijing, but if anyone can, it’s Danny Boyle. I have faith in him. Although I am reminded of this:

I’m watching at the apartment of my friend Anya Carlsbad, with our friend Coppelia Banana. Anya totally just spoke all of our thoughts when she said “The torch is badass.” Because it really is.

7:46 Oh, Olympic commercials. You rock. Until I get tired of you and want to punch you in the face in two weeks.

It’s starting! Opening film “Isles of Wonder”. I am already hooked.

As children’s choirs begin to sing the anthems of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, I get goosebumps. I love me the pure treble of children’s choirs with British accents.

And now we get to see what the green in the center of the stadium is all about. It’s like being in the Shire! With carriages! And people playing rugby, and Cricket! With a maypole! Can I move here?

7:55 I love this already. OMG KENNETH BRANAGH! Looking like Lincoln, but more British-y! And then he recites The Tempest. I can be happy now. Forever.

Oh, Kenneth.

8:01 Uh-oh. Here comes the Industrial Revolution to Glastonbury Tor, as heralded by volunteer drummers. Sorry, London Drums. You won’t match Beijing but I appreciate that you’re trying.

I read earlier today that all the volunteers for London 2012 are known as Games Makers. Is Danny Boyle trying to tap into the international phenomenon known as The Hunger Games?

The narrative of this whole ceremony is a bit disjointed. It’s cool, but it’s taking awhile.

The Men in Top Hats are intense. They are making smokestacks just GROW from the ground. These set pieces are awesome, but I can’t help wondering—“Where’s Oliver Twist?”

It’s like old-school theater. It’s very different from Beijing, but much more my style.

8:08 Suffragettes! The Lonely Hearts Club Band!

There’s a pause in the chaos for the remembrance of WWI and WWII soldiers. Golly, I love the Brits.

Danny Boyle wanted it to be “loud and thumpy” and he got it right. There’s a lot happening right now, though.

Oooh, molten lava and the forging of a Ring? The One Ring? To rule us all?

According to the inane commentary of Meredith Viera and Matt Lauer, this is a map of the City of London from above, including the Thames and the building of the Stadium. Now I get it I’m on board.

8:11 Kenneth Branagh is the Master of Ceremonies with a cigar. The Olympic Rings arrive from THE AIR, there are Jazzercising people in period dress, the Rings are joining with a shower of sparks. SO MUCH WONDERMENT.

Tolkien was from Great Britain, after all.

At this point, I receive a text from Natalie Babble: “And Kenneth Branagh saw that it was good.” YES.

And good it is.

Being a part of something so huge must be amazing.

8:16 “Happy and Glorious”—I think I’m going to like this.

There are Brazilian children in hats at Buckingham Palace, a nice nod to Rio 2016.

And now there is my second favorite James Bond and corgis.


The Corgis should have been included in the ceremony. MORE CORGIS, I SAY!

Omigosh, she is here!!! In the stadium! She’s awesome. I’m adding her to my list of people I’d meet.

8:27 Children jumping on the beds! BEDLAM!

Now J.K. Rowling is reading from Peter Pan…at the Olympics. This is pretty much my idea of Heaven.

Then there is Voldemort, and Captain Hook and the creepiest of all villains, the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang—WHO WILL SAVE US!??!

MARY POPPINS—not just one, but DOZENS!! This is so badass.

A new text from Natalie Babble—“Mary Poppins just beat up Voldemort. Even JKR is making the ‘not bad’ face.”

We’re baffled, but I’m still enthralled.


Matt Lauer voices all of our thoughts when he says, “I don’t know if it’s cute or creepy.” Neither do we, Matt. Neither do we.

8:45 Finally, a “Chariots of Fire” reference! Played by the London Symphony, what could be better? And then you throw in Rowan Atkinson, and the world explodes into awesome.

These cheeky Brits are so ingenious and clever. On a side note, the pianist is amazing.

8:55 A Mini Cooper heralds the Digital Age. Now this I really do not understand. I could really go for some Monty Python right now. Instead of dancing glow worms. Oh, I get it. They’re THE TUBE. Duh. (I don’t really get it.)

My teenage years we not this neon. Clearly, I did not grow up in London.

The Olympic Digital Age version of a meet-cute; uh-oh, it looks like Harry just met Sally. This is kind of cute, but still random.

“My Generation” by the Who! Love it! They have NAILED the soundtrack. But now Meredith Viera is singing—oh please no!

Coppelia, Anya and myself wish for less neon and more knights in armor.

9:05 I take a poll of the room. Anya is disappointed. Coppelia is “hopeful for the future. I believe in them! But it could use more rowing.”

I’m going to give it a solid 6 out of 10 so far.

9:10 Montage of movie kisses, including Will and Kate’s wedding kiss. I wonder if they’re embarrassed to see it on a huge screen in front of the whole world, including all the people who didn’t watch the first time.

Natalie and I wish for a performance from Momma Adele, but we are disappointed.

This is what we’re all wondering, Lilibet.

I just realized that I do not recall seeing any sheep. I am sad.

Natalie: “I think now would be the appropriate time for Kenneth Branagh to come back out.”

Tim Berners-Lee (why no, I did not know who he was until this moment) sends out a mass text—“This is for everyone.” That is a nice thought. Okay, London. I’m still on your band wagon.

9:15 And now for the Parade of Nations! The countries are arriving!

Fashion and Bob Costas—seriously, what could be better?

This is a great geography lesson—where’s American Samoa and Kiribati again?

The sign bearers are wearing awful Mod dresses with faces of people? Whassup with this? According to Natalie, they are a tribute to the volunteers…“If I were a volunteer, I would not be grateful.”

The Austrians seem to understand the need for More Cowbell at these games and have brought their own.

Belgium looks very snappy. Oh look, Bermuda, bless their shorts!

Brazil gets a huge whoop from me (a lifelong Ravenclaw) when I realize they are wearing Hufflepuff scarves, as someone notes “There are so many murders there.” I cannot wait to see what they pull out for Rio in four years.

9:40 Here comes Canada and on goes my hat!

I could pass for Canadian, right?

China has arrived. Population 1.3 billion, but only 383 are here. I hear that they’re planning to dominate these games. Really, who’s surprised?

The Czech Republic is so prepared with rainboots AND umbrellas.

According to the commentary, Denmark has a canoer for a flag bearer and are awesome in badminton. And their outfits are cute. You go, Glen Coco—I mean, Denmark.

10pm As the Parade of Nations continues, the commentary in the room gets more varied. With the arrival of Egypt, Anya tells them, “Hooray! You guys are free!” Meanwhile, Coppelia wonders about the citizens of North Korea and would like to talk to one.

Natalie Babble writes, “I lost count of the African countries I’ve never heard of.”

The Independent Olympic Athletes seems to be having the best time of anyone. And the Israeli flagbearer wins Best Hair in my book.

Who says you need a country to have fun?

I’m taking a tally of iPads—two so far. Seriously, guys…you look ridiculous.

10:20 Aww, Libya.

Liechtenstein is in jeans. I’m moving there.

My friends from Madagascar! (Someday I will tell my Madagascar story.)

Natalie Babble and I begin plotting the Mars 2020 Olympic bid—we have faith in our abilities.

Gee, Matt Lauer. I had no idea Romania was so proficient in gymnastics. You could knock me over with a feather at this news.

10:44 Will and Kate sighting! And then here comes the USA!! Sudden patriotism abounds in the room! We like the uniforms. The skirts are twirly.

I would wear this.

11:02 Zimbabwe and then…


QEII! Gold lamé shoulders! Kate! Harry! Wills! I faint from excitement. “Gold armpit vents! SO MUCH CONFETTI!”, says Natalie.


11:15 Doves on Bicyclyes? I’m on board. The Arctic Monkeys play “Come Together” and I faint a little bit.

I wonder if they got to keep their costumes…

11:20 When Sebastian Coe, the LOCOC, begins to speak, I realize what this ceremony has been missing: British accents. There have not been enough British accents.

The Queen gets her moment, and there are fireworks!

And now here comes the Olympic flag!

11:30 I’m getting misty-eyed with the appearance of Muhammad Ali, the Godfather of the US Olympic Team.


TORCH. It has arrived. Now, who will light the cauldron?

Young athletes, that’s who. The Next Generation of Olympians. They hug their sponsors—this is so cute and cool.

The Bells are ringing, I might be crying a little bit, the cauldron is lit from the petals of all that nations! Finally I understand!

Favorite. Cauldron. Ever. For sure.


All in all, I loved the ceremony. As Natalie Babble notes, “The only thing that could have made that better is if Kenneth Branagh had nodded approvingly through the whole ceremony.” But even without that tiny extra touch, I was still amazed and delighted.


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