Why David Bowie Rejected Offer to Play the Olympic Opening Ceremony in 2012

As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics continue, focus has been put on Olympic Games from the past. The 2012 Summer Olympics notably opened in spectacular fashion with an artistic spectacle entitled Isles of Wonder that put British music on center stage with performances from the likes of Paul McCartney, Arctic Monkeys, Mike Oldfield, and Dizzee Rascal. However, missing from the London Games Olympics Opening Ceremony lineup was London native David Bowie, a leading figure in the music industry up until his death in 2016.

The 2012 Opening Ceremony artistic spectacle, which is mandated by the Olympic Charter, was directed by Academy Award-winning British film director Danny Boyle. While Boyle put on quite a show, he later admitted to the Toronto Star that not every aspect of Isles of Wonder was as he had initially hoped. According to Boyle, he originally intended for Bowie to be included in the lineup, though the singer ultimately declined the offer out of a desire not to carry out further live performances.

"We met in New York, which was a big thing for me, because he's a hero of mine, a serious hero. You meet a lot of people, including the Queen, who don't really make you nervous. But I was really nervous meeting him," Boyle said. "He sadly didn't want to do anything live. But I'd still love to do something with him."

At the time of the 2012 Summer Olympics, Bowie hadn't toured in nearly a decade and had been in semi-retirement. After releasing Reality in 2003 and embarking on its accompanying world tour, the A Reality Tour, Bowie took a step back from his musical career after he suffered a heart attack. In the years that followed, his musical output was minimal, with Bowie making only one-off appearances on stage and in the studio. However, in early 2013, just months after the 2012 Summer Olympics, Bowie released his 24th studio album, The Next Day, his first studio album in a decade. He released his 25th studio album, Blackstar, in January 2016, just days before his death.

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Bowie sadly passed away "peacefully, surrounded by his family" at the age of 69 in January 2016 after an "18-month battle with cancer." A statement posted on the artist's official social media accounts at the time read, "David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family's privacy during their time of grief." In the years since his passing, Bowie has continued to be remembered as music icon.