London’s Olympic Ceremony Draws in 27 Million UK Viewers

By Community | July 28, 2012

London’s Olympic opening ceremony drew in an audience of 26.9 million viewers in the UK, becoming one of the top 20 most-watched programmes in history.

Danny Boyles’s acclaimed Olympics opening ceremony was watched by a peak of nearly 27 million viewers on BBC1. 

The ceremony, which lasted more than three hours and featured stars such as Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Kenneth Branagh and about 7,500 volunteers, averaged 22.4 million viewers, an 82.5% share of the audience, from 9pm on BBC1 on Friday. 

At its peak at 9.50pm, a huge 26.9 million viewers were watching. 

The average audience of 22.4 million was the highest for any TV programme since England’s defeat by Argentina in the 1998 World Cup on ITV, watched by 23.8 million people. 

It was the biggest audience on BBC1 since a Christmas edition of Only Fools and Horses in 1996, watched by 24.35 million. 

BBC1 controller Danny Cohen said: “BBC1 is all about bringing the nation together for its biggest moments and I’m thrilled by the huge audiences who tuned in to watch last night’s historic events. Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony was an absolute triumph! 

“I am very proud of the two BBC Drama films that formed part of the ceremony. The audience response to the film featuring the Queen and James Bond was one of my highlights.” 

The ceremony’s peak audience of 26.9 million topped the previous sporting highs of 2012, including England’s defeat by Italy in Euro 2012 (23.2 million) and the Wimbledon final, in which Andy Murray lost to Roger Federer, which peaked with 17.1 million. 

It also puts it in the upper echelons of the most-watched TV programmes of all time.

It beat the 21.6 million who tuned in to Dallas to find out who shot JR in 1980, and the 21.3 million who watched the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in 1977.

But it was no match for the 30.15 million who watched Den divorce Angie in the EastEnders Christmas special in 1986, the UK’s biggest ever non-news or sport programme, or the most-watched TV programme in the UK of all time, England’s 1966 football World Cup win, watched by 32.3 million people.

The three-and-a-half hour ceremony was rehearsed more than 200 times, with each of the 7,500 volunteers spending on average 150 hours practising during the build-up.

The event used 12,956 props and boasted a million-watt PA system using more than 500 speakers.

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