Is Event 131 an event in its own right? Maybe not, and I wasn’t going to write a separate piece, but sorting my photos out I think it probably deserves to stand alone.
With 16 World Cup games to go to It’s going to be hard to keep up so I may well be brief at times. I hadn’t tried for any England tickets for the tournament in the ballot as I felt they were over priced. But as the opening ceremony and game got nearer I decided to throw caution to the wind and worry about the cost later. You’ll see I did that a few times!
And so in true Wear The Rose tradition I donned my Swish England Rugby shirt and headed into London. I had a meeting at Bank on the way and discovered the Waterloo and City line when I was done. On of the oldest lines in London, I had no idea it existed! A direct link between Bank and Waterloo it was ideal for my purposes.
There was a train waiting for me (well not me as such) at Waterloo so I made Twickenham in good time. I had time for a late lunch at Patisserie Valerie, such a calm pre-match ‘ritual’, with the usual strawberry tart polishing off a late lunch. A leisurely walk to the stadium saw me there with plenty of time to spare.
I met up with the lovely Richard ‘Juggler’ Austin, a man who seems to watch more sport than me! The requisite selfie taken and my older brother, sister in law and nephew arrived, to be joined by a second nephew, another selfie and off to my seat I went.
I’d paid £320 for a Category A seat and found myself close to the halfway line in the middle tier, a fair way up, but a good seat no doubt. I might have been upset if I’d been a few rows higher, where people had TV screens in front of them, screens on delay, more than a little annoying! As it went I moved forward a few rows at half time to get away from the 2 men behind me who seemed to have no concept that it’s not really on to swear at the top of your voice all through a rugby match.
The pitch looked spectacular with a stage type structure with a ‘wrapped’ rugby ball in the centre, what would unfold? We started with the Royal Marines Band in numbers, always an impressive sight. We were shown a video telling the story of rugby from it’s birth to the current day. A very clever film including a cameo appearance by Prince Harry and the rugby god that is Jonny Wilkinson. It very cleverly saw the ball being run through each of the venues for this World Cup.
The Rugby School Choir sang beautifully including a quite remarkable solo in front of the Twickenham crowd by one young lady. Laura Wright sang Jerusalem in her usual, wonderful style and later teamed up with George The Poet with a great performance.
Will Greenwood had earlier acted as a kind of MC speaking with the passion of a World Cup winner doing a great job. I’m probably getting things out of order, but trying to get everything in. There were solos from 2 young lads, and again they were perfect.
We were introduced to a legend from each of the 20 countries taking part in the tournament, mostly retired players such as Shane Williams and Martin Johnson, but Jacques Burger of Namibia amongst the 20 too. Each man got a great welcome from the crowd.
The giant rugby ball had been revealed earlier in the ceremony, and somewhere in there Prince Harry made a speech – a short excerpt here
‘There will be moments in this World Cup which will live with us for the rest of our lives.
‘Who could forget 1995 and President Mandela handing the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar or that drop kick [by Jonny Wilkinson] in 2003.
‘To all the players, we congratulate you and wish you well for the tournament. Your individual skill is to be celebrated but I can think of no other sport where the success of the team is shouldered so equally by everyone.’
I found the whole thing incredibly moving, I’m reading that the ceremony got bad press social media wise, but I for one was captivated and very moved, and I’d say the people around me felt the same.
The rugby ball had been dismantled to reveal the William Webb Webb Ellis Trophy, being brought down by a character from the earlier video.
The whole thing is probably recounted in the wrong order but hopefully this gives an idea of my impression of the Opening Ceremony, Next up the opening game.