An Olympic effort

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth GrahamAs the London 2012 Olympic Games draws to a close, and before the excitement of the Paralympics gets going, let’s take a look back at the wonders of the Opening Ceremony and pick up some of the multitude of references that were paraded before us that night.

The Tempest, by William ShakespeareLiterary reference abounded even before the section paying tribute to children’s literature. Mole and Ratty, from The Wind in the Willows, appeared in the rural idyll of the opening sequence. Kenneth Branagh, playing Isambard Kingdom Brunel, declaimed Caliban’s speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest during the section on the Industrial Revolution.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has put together a biographical guide to a few of the references in The Olympic Ceremony Explained… perhaps (this is on a freely available part of the site, but don’t forget that you can log in to the full site using your Westminster Libraries membership number).

Peter Pan, by JM BarrieIn the next sequence, JK Rowling read from JM Barrie’s Peter Pan and the children in their beds were menaced by storybook villians: Ian Fleming’s (or rather, Roald Dahl’s) Child Catcher, Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts, Dodie Smith’s Cruella De Vil and of course, the villain that every contemporary child knows – Voldemort. But the nurses of the NHS and another symbol of storybook magic and security, PL Travers’ Mary Poppins, came to their aid.

Then in possibly the maddest section of all, tribute was paid to the British music scene – did you manage to identify all the bands and songs? From The Jam to Lionel Bart, from the Sex Pistols to Dizzee Rascal – it was all there (and you can find most of it on CD in your library) long with a star appearance from Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean. After which the house was raised to reveal Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, in a tribute to the digital revolution he made possible.

The story of the OlympicsYou can read more about the Olympics, the Olympians, the history of the Games and details about the sports in a plethora of books available from Westminster Libraries. We highlighted a wide selection in our recent series of Olympic Marathon posts. And you can be sure that more will be published, detailing the record-breaking medal hauls, the heartbreak and the glory that was London 2012.

It’s been fabulous. Roll on the Paralympics!

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