Olympic opening ceremony made tech history for me

Danny Boyle's London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony drew a line in British innovation from the Industrial Revolution to the Web.

As I stood in the Olympic Stadium merrily singing along to Paul McCartney belting out Hey Jude, practically able to feel the heat of the Olympic Torch on my face, I couldn't help but think back to the story my dad tells of the time he watched the teenage Beatles jamming on each other's instruments while he swept up at his Merseyside youth club in the '60s.

It's that connection between past and present that made the London 2012 opening ceremony so great, and all with the help of technology through the ages.

I was lucky enough to be in the Olympic Stadium to see Danny Boyle's spectacular opening ceremony draw a line in British innovation from revolutionary of the industrial age Abraham Darby to Internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee -- with cameo appearances from the Samsung Galaxy S3 and 3D.

Cynicism about the costs and sustainability -- or do I mean legacy? -- of the whole crazy affair melted away in the mercifully sunny conditions and convivial atmosphere as the park opened to the public for the first time. We went through airport-style security faster than I've ever been through any airport, and settled into our seats, which were equipped with strange LED-festooned paddles. It turned out these provided the light show rippling across the grandstands.

In the run-up to the festivities, we were issued with ever more complex instructions on how to co-ordinate our movements with the light-up paddles, but they went by the board as soon as the show started. There was just too much to look at.

From the moment the Red Arrows thrillingly roared overhead, it was full-on sensory overload. As the Industrial Rave-olution thundered under way and the pastoral village, where moments before sheep had gambolled and cricketers cricketed, was peeled away before my eyes, our green and pleasant land was replaced by dark satanic mills, forging the future in a deafening crucible of drums and sparks.

As a technology journalist I couldn't help but enjoy the attention given to the technology in our history, from the steelworks of the last century to the Internet. Even as our incredible pop music heritage was celebrated with a typical Saturday night, the narrative was driven by text messages and status updates -- before revealing the man behind the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, making it look as if the whole thing was one enormous house party round his gaff. Brilliant.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 -- official Olympic phone , no less -- had its big moment when Rowan Atkinson pulled one out while channeling Mister Bean. (Update: various commenters have pointed out it might have been be a Samsung Galaxy Ace. Or something else.) Of all the technology featured, the only dud was, unsurprisingly, 3D. As 3D images were projected on the giant cube in the middle of the stadium, the crowd donned 3D glasses and promptly took them off again as the images didn't work unless you were sitting in exactly the right place.

And behind the scenes I loved watching Steadicam operators zooming around the stadium on Segways.

But despite all the technological marvels on show, the people were the most impressive thing about the show. For all the jaw-dropping thrills and gobsmacking technical feats, the biggest cheers -- and standing ovations from some sections of the crowd -- were reserved for Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, sporting legend Muhammad Ali and the volunteers making the Games possible.

The tension in the crowd as the last nation's athletes made their way into the stadium before Team GB emerged was relieved by the opening chords of David Bowie's Heroes -- it made for a perfect moment. And meanwhile the couple sitting next to me got engaged -- she proposed with a banner, he said yes -- making it a night they'd never forget for more than one reason.

What did you think of the opening ceremony? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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