The best of Britain past and present was put on display at the launch of the long-awaited 2012 Olympic Games, complete with a depiction of the queen "parachuting" into the stadium with James Bond.
Following their Hollywood-style "descent" into the stadium, with stand-ins parachuting for Queen Elizabeth II and her escort, actor Daniel Craig, a children’s choir serenaded the 86-year-old monarch with their rendition of “God Save the Queen.”
The show then went on to read like a catalog of British musical and literary classics, paying tribute to Peter Pan, Harry Potter, Mary Poppins, "Chariots of Fire," and many other works of art. British rock, pop and classical tunes featured heavily in the festivities.
The show got under way with fighter jets streaming red, white and blue over the 62,000-packed stadium, launching an evening filled with celebrities, actors, sports figures and royalty ringing in the long-awaited Olympic Games.
To wrap up the three-hour ceremony organized by Britain’s most successful filmmaker, Oscar winner Danny Boyle, Londoners witnessed an explosion of fireworks and joined in a sing-a-long with Paul McCartney.
The "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Trainspotting" director mixed films with live action, putting his 15,000 volunteers to great effect in a mesmerizing $42 million show entitled Isles of Wonder.
Waving their flags
The parade of nations featured most of the roughly 10,500 athletes participating in the events, with 204 national flags being flown. Greece took the lead, and Team Great Britain held the last position as the host. The athlete parade is a tradition that began at London’s first Olympics, back in 1908.
The Olympic oath was then taken by Sarah Stevenson, a competitor in TaeKwonDo, on behalf of the athletes. Eric Farrell, canoe sprint coach, then took the oath on behalf of the coaches.
Meanwhile, a boat with footballer David Beckham pulled up to the stadium, handing the torch off to Olympic rower Steven Redgrave, who carried it into the Olympic stadium.
The Olympic cauldron, a compilation of 204 small cauldrons representing the nations taking part in this year’s games, was lit by seven young athletes. The young Brits represented the nation’s hope for the future. Their identity as the final torchbearers had been a tightly kept secret. Once alight, the 204 batons rose in spectacular fashion to form the Olympic flame.
Lit originally on May 10, in the birthplace of the ancient Olympics in Greece, from a reflection of the sun’s rays off a mirror, the torch has been carried by 8,000 torchbearers
Eight thousand torchbearers have since carried the flame on a 70-day, 8,000-mile journey around the nation, boosting enthusiasm for London 2012, which now is officially under way.
Organizers said the Olympic cauldron, currently inside the stadium, will be moved Sunday night to the corner of the stadium, where the giant bell tolled during the opening ceremony.
tm/ai (AP, Reuters)