A peak audience of 11.2 million watched Channel 4's broadcast of the rousing opening ceremony for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, titled “Enlightenment.” An average 7.7 million tuned in to see the four-hour show on August 29th. (Not coincidentally, the Queen entered the stadium at 8:45pm, when viewing peaked.)
The British broadcaster reported that it was its largest audience in more than 10 years. "Last night's opening ceremony was a spectacular start to the London 2012 Paralympic Games," said Channel 4's Jay Hunt. "I'm delighted that so many viewers enjoyed it with us."
The ceremony, inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest and following on from the "pandemonium" of the London 2012 Games Opening Ceremony, focused on the story of scientific discovery and education.
Sir Ian McKellen danced to a stirring version of "I Am What I Am," as the stadium was transformed into a representation of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. Accompanied by narration from physicist Stephen Hawking, a new musical piece based on Newton’s Principia Mathematica underscored the theme of the Games: ability and achievement come in many forms.
Tesco, Apple and Google are among 50 non-Olympic-sponsor brands who bought ad packages for Channel 4's coverage as the official British broadcaster of the Paralympic games, joined by Auto Trader, Aviva, B&Q, Colgate, Comet, Gocompare.com, Kellogg, Land Rover, Mars, Renault, Tropicana and Volvo and Atos.
Atos is under fire for “its handling of a £100m-a-year contract with the (government) to assess whether people claiming for sickness and disability benefits are fit for work,” and groups including Disabled People Against Cuts and UK Uncut, took action against the company claiming Atos has “devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of disabled people” in the United Kingdom.
At the opening ceremony, the British Paralympic team, in a gesture dubbed London 2012’s “Black Power Salute” obscured the Atos logo by hiding their lanyards inside their clothing, protesting pending government cuts to the disabled, benefits that enabled many paralympians to compete this year.
Including Channel 4+1, the opening ceremony audience peaked at 11.2 million viewers in the UK, four times higher than during the Beijing Paralympic Opening Ceremony in 2008, which drew 2.8 million viewers for the BBC.
Channel 4’s next highest audience peak in the 10 years of archive data available was a ‘Big Brother’ episode in July 2002, according to Brand Republic.
A study by Atos predicts the end of "passive armchair sports fans by 2020." Said Gilles Grapinet, head of Atos' Global Functions, "The guy sitting calmly with a beer, or a Diet Coke, with some peanuts and watching alone — this armchair fan will die." Instead, "a new breed of spectator will make and publish his own content and share it with other people."
Here’s hoping that as armchair fans get more social, the world in general becomes more ‘enlightened’ about the courage and excellence modeled by paralympians.