False claim: London Olympic Games ceremony symbolically predicted the COVID-19 pandemic

A Facebook post falsely claims that the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games contained a symbolic ritual predicting the coronavirus pandemic.

Fireworks explode as the Olympic Cauldron is seen alight during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium July 27, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT)

Photos of the ceremony, showing nurses dancing around hospital beds and a death-like figure looming above, have been shared with the suggestion they foreshadow the COVID-19 crisis ((here).

The caption accompanying the photos questions “the very strange tribute that was paid to the NHS (National Health Service) which saw Doctors, Nurses and Surgeons all gallivanting and dancing around empty hospital beds and was all overseen by a grim reaper(DEATH) looking character”.

“Empty Hospital Beds, Dancing Nurses, Doctors and Surgeons, Death^^^^ All this sounds terribly familiar don’t you think?????”

The performance has no real link to the coronavirus. Not only was the ceremony planned eight years before the pandemic, but the themes questioned by the post can be logically explained .

The opening show was designed by Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle as an ode to British history and culture. In the second of three “acts”, Boyle paid homage to the NHS, a much-loved national institution to many Britons. (here) .

The sequence, which can be seen in this video of the ceremony at 45 minutes in, features hundreds of nurses dancing and roller-skating around hospital beds (here) .

Later on, representations of famous villains from English literature are seen rising from the beds. The grim reaper-like figure that the post claims symbolises “death” is actually Lord Voldemort – the main antagonist in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series.

According to the Olympic media guide, the performance honours “two of Britain’s greatest achievements: its amazing body of children’s literature and its National Health Service”.


The post goes on to claim the “countryside theme” the ceremony opens with is a reference to the positive impact the coronavirus crisis has had on the environment.

“Since the Covid-19 lockdown we’ve seen greener grass, the sky bluer and the clouds fluffy white(amazing coincidence hey),” the post reads.

While it is true that coronavirus lockdowns have caused air pollution levels to improve across the world, this has nothing to do with the performance. (here)

The Olympic website explains that the sequence actually represents the “green and pleasant land” mythologised by romantic poet William Blake in his poem “Jerusalem” (here) .


False: the Olympic ceremony was a celebration of British history and culture, with no link to the coronavirus pandemic.