After seven years of preparation, countless concerns over transport infrastructure and cost – and the threat of the traditionally unpredictable British weather – the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic Games, masterminded by Oscar winning film maker Danny Boyle, finally got underway on Friday night (27th July).
Despite intense scrutiny and speculation across all of the major social networks over the previous weeks many aspects of the ceremony itself remained mired in secrecy ahead of the start.
Boyle utilised some 15,000 volunteers in the USD$42 million show. The evening started with fighter jets streaming red, white and blue smoke and roaring over the stadium, packed with a buzzing crowd of 60,000 people, at 8:12 p.m. – or 20:12 on the 24-hour clock.
To open the ceremony, children popped balloons with each number from ten to one, leading a countdown that climaxed with Bradley Wiggins, the newly crowned Tour de France champion, wearing his race-winner’s yellow jersey and ringing a twenty three ton Olympic Bell from the same London foundry that made Big Ben.
The show then shifted to reveal the importance of literacy then to the industrial transformation that revolutionised Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The highlight for many was no doubt a star turn by the British monarch. A short film showed the iconic James Bond driving up to Buckingham Palace in a black London cab and, pursued by her majesty’s royal dogs.
“Good evening, Mr. Bond,” she said.
They were then shown flying in a helicopter over London landmarks dashing to the stadium, with the Queen – in this case a stunt double – leaping out into the humid night.
At the same moment, real skydivers appeared in the skies over the stadium throbbing to the James Bond soundtrack. And moments after that, the monarch appeared in person, accompanied by her husband Prince Philip. Organisers said it was thought to be the first time the monarch has acted on film.
The parade of nations featured most of the roughly 10,500 athletes – some planned to stay away to save their strength for competition – marching behind the flags of the 204 nations taking part.
Greece had the lead, as the spiritual home of the games, and Team Great Britain was last, as host. Prince William and his wife, Kate, joined in thunderous applause that greeted the British team. The queen then said: “I declare open the games of London, celebrating the 30th Olympiad of the modern era.”
Former world heavyweight champion and 1960 Rome Olympic gold medallist Muhammad Ali was cheered when he appeared briefly with his wife, Lonnie, before the Olympic flag was unfurled.
The ceremony ended with a lot of music and fireworks and was expected to reach a global television audience of 1 billion people.
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