Olympic Drumming – From Opening Ceremony to Teambuilding

Mark HunterEveryone I know was proud and overwhelmed by the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony. The daring spectacles of prominent landmarks in Great Britain’s history, the vast, constantly-changing scenery, the factory chimney stacks and the blazing Olympic rings in the sky were simply awesome! Who would have ever believed that the Queen and James Bond, and then an underworked-keyboard-playing Mr Bean, would have been included?

Understanding that every image, movement and sound within the ceremony had been meticulously pondered over and considered for its relevance and purpose, I thought it was very significant that drumming and rhythm were so prevalent.

Image associated with Olympic drumming

As well as the intense rhythmical sound track, one thousand drummers poured into the stadium, pounding on their industrial tubs and buckets (exactly like our own Junk Funk instruments) to simulate the regimented sound and power of the Industrial Age. At the helm of this huge percussion army was none other than Evelyn Glennie, who is profoundly deaf.  Famous for her virtuoso capabilities, she showcased huge tumbling tom-tom drum rhythms between the perfectly-synchronised beats from the sea of volunteer drummers.

As the intensity of the music grew to the finale ceremony crescendo, the TV broadcast constantly focused on the powerful images of people drumming. The extraordinary sounds, images and emotions instilled are exactly what makes drumming such an important and sought-after human experience.

Indeed, if we look back over just a few Olympic opening ceremonies from the past, you will see what a major role drumming has played within them.

In Seoul, South Korea in 1988, huge towering Taiko drums announced the mass entrance to the arena of countless drummers and flag bearers creating huge dragon-like shapes. They performed together as one swirling image, filling the stadium with traditional rhythms played perfectly.

In Athens, Greece in 2004, seemingly endless rows of drummers marched into the stadium, creating hypnotic pulses to complete the huge musical ensemble.

In Beijing, China in 2008, who could possibly forget the image of over 2000 perfectly-symmetrical drummers standing like statues? Then, like one amazing machine, the drummers played together in perfect synchronisation with the stunning lightshow built around each drum.

Drumming has been regularly used within Olympic ceremonies because:

  • the sound is inspirational
  • the images demonstrate the power of teamwork
  • drumming creates strong emotions and feelings, which are completely tangible.

One can only imagine the immense Samba drumming sights and sounds that will raise the roof in the next opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro in 2016!

For many years, we have been leveraging the amazing power of drumming in the corporate world to bring teams together. While London 2012 will no doubt inspire many young people and encourage them into sport, I hope that the spectacular sights and sounds at the London 2012 opening ceremony will encourage more companies and groups to discover what it is actually like to be a part of a small or large drumming performance.


About the author:

Mark Hunter is Head Facilitator at Creative Team Events, which provides a range of unique events to clients worldwide. For more information about our team events, please contact us. Please don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list to receive our weekly blogs directly by email.