WITH ROYALTY AND ROCK, BRITAIN OPENS ITS 3rd OLYMPICS / DANNY BOYLE
THE OPENING:James Bond and David Beckham starred as Britain welcomed the world to the Olympics in an eccentric opening ceremony showcasing the country's rich history and sense of fun, which closed with a spectacular fireworks display.
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[PHOTO -Queen Elizabeth II (R) and Jacques Rogge (L), President of the International Olympic Committee, attend the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (July 26, 2012 - Source: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe)]
LONDON, JULY 31, 2012 (INQUIRER) By John Leicester Associated Press - The queen and James Bond gave the London Olympics a royal entrance like no other Friday in an opening ceremony that rolled to the rock of the Beatles, the Stones and The Who.
And the creative genius of Danny Boyle spliced it all together.
Brilliant. Cheeky, too.
The highlight of the Oscar-winning director’s $42 million show was pure movie magic, using trickery to make it seem that Britain’s beloved 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II had parachuted into the stadium with the nation’s most famous spy.
A short film showed 007 driving up to Buckingham Palace in a black London cab and, pursued by her majesty’s royal dogs — Monty, Willow and Holly, playing themselves — meeting the queen, who played herself.
“Good evening, Mr. Bond,” she said.
They were shown flying in a helicopter over London landmarks and a waving statue of Winston Churchill — the queen in a salmon-colored gown, Bond dashing as ever in a black tuxedo — to the stadium and then leaping out into the inky 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.
Organizers said it was thought to be the first time the monarch has acted on film.
“The queen made herself more accessible than ever before,” Boyle said.
In the stadium, Elizabeth stood solemnly while a children’s choir serenaded her with “God Save the Queen,” and members of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force raised the Union Jack.
Much of the opening ceremony was an encyclopedic review of British music history, from a 1918 Broadway standard adopted by the West Ham football team to the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” by still another Queen.
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 in the 24-hour time observed by Britons.
[PHOTO -Fireworks light up the Olympic Stadium at the end of the opeming ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. AFP]
An explosion of fireworks against the London skyline and Paul McCartney leading a singalong were to wrap up the three-hour opening ceremony masterminded by one of Britain’s most successful filmmakers.
Boyle, the director of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Trainspotting,” had a ball with his favored medium, mixing filmed passages with live action in the stadium to hypnotic effect, with 15,000 volunteers taking part in the show.
Actor Rowan Atkinson as “Mr. Bean” provided laughs, shown dreaming that he was appearing in “Chariots of Fire,” the inspiring story of a Scotsman and an Englishman at the 1924 Paris Games.
There was a high-speed flyover of the Thames, the river that winds like a vein through London and was the gateway for the city’s rise over the centuries as a great global hub of trade and industry.
Headlong rushes of movie images took spectators on wondrous, heart-racing voyages through everything British: a cricket match, the London Tube and the roaring, abundant seas that buffet and protect this island nation.
Boyle turned the stadium into a throbbing juke box, with a nonstop rock and pop homage to cool Britannia that ensured the show never caught its breath.
The throbbing soundtrack included the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant” and a snippet of its version of “God Save the Queen” — an anti-establishment punk anthem once banned by the BBC. There were The Who’s “My Generation” and other tracks too numerous to mention, but not to dance to.
Opening the ceremony, children popped balloons with each number from 10 to 1, leading a countdown that climaxed with Bradley Wiggins, the newly crowned Tour de France champion.
Wearing his race-winner’s yellow jersey, Wiggins rang a 23-ton Olympic Bell from the same London foundry that made Big Ben and Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell. Its thunderous chime was a nod to the British tradition of pealing bells to celebrate the end of war and the crowning of kings and queens, and now for the opening of a 17-day festival of sports.
The show then shifted to a portrayal of idyllic rural Britain — a place of meadows, farms, sport on village greens, picnics and Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne’s bear who has delighted generations of British children tucked warmly in bed.
But the British ideal — to quote poet William Blake, of “England’s green and pleasant land” — then took a darker, grittier turn.
The set was literally torn asunder, the hedgerows and farm fences carried away, as Boyle shifted to the industrial transformation that revolutionized Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, the foundation for an empire that reshaped world history. Belching chimneys rose where only moments earlier sheep had trod.
The Industrial Revolution also produced terrifying weapons, and Boyle built a moment of hush into his show to honor those killed in war.
“This is not specific to a country. This is across all countries, and the fallen from all countries are celebrated and remembered,” he explained to reporters ahead of the ceremony.
“Because, obviously, one of the penalties of this incredible force of change that happened in a hundred years was the industrialization of war, and the fallen,” he said. “You know, millions fell.”
Olympic organizers separately rejected calls for a moment of silence for 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Two of the Israelis’ widows appealed to audience members to stand in silence when International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge rose to speak later at Friday’s ceremony. The Israeli culture and sport minister planned to do just that.
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 the thunderous applause that greeted the British team, which marched to the David Bowie track “Heroes.” A helicopter showered the athletes and stadium with 7 billion tiny pieces of paper — one for each person on Earth.
Both Bahrain and Brunei featured female flagbearers in what has been called the Olympics’ Year of the Woman. For the first time at the games, each national delegation includes women, and a record 45 percent of the athletes are women. Three Saudi women marching behind the men in their delegation flashed victory signs with their fingers.
“This is a major boost for gender equality,” said the International Olympic Committee president, Jacques Rogge. These are his last games as head of the IOC. He steps down in 2013 after completing the maximum two terms.
Rogge honored the “great, sports-loving country” of Britain as “the birthplace of modern sport,” and he appealed to the thousands of athletes assembled before him for fair play.
“Character counts far more than medals. Reject doping. Respect your opponents. Remember that you are all role models. If you do that, you will inspire a generation,” Rogge said.
The queen declared the games open. Last month, the nation put on a festive Diamond Jubilee — a small test run for the games — to mark her 60 years on the throne, a reign that began shortly after London’s last Olympics, in 1948.
The Olympic cauldron was to be lit with a flame that was kindled May 10, at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics in Greece, from a reflection of the sun’s rays off a mirror.
Since then, 8,000 torchbearers, mostly unheralded Britons, have carried the flame on a 70-day, 8,000-mile journey from toe to tip of the British Isles, whipping up enthusiasm for a $14 billion Olympics taking place during a severe recession.
The identity of the last torchbearer, the one to light the cauldron, was kept secret — remarkable given the intense scrutiny at what have been called the first social media Olympics.
Speculation focused on Roger Bannister, the first man to run a four-minute mile, in 1954, and on rower Steve Redgrave, among others.
The show’s lighter moments included puppets drawn from British children’s literature — Captain Hook from “Peter Pan,” Cruella de Vil from “101 Dalmations” and Lord Voldemort from J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, as well as Mary Poppins.
[PHOTO -Performers dressed up as Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond parachute out of a helicopter above the Olympic Stadium. Credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images / Quite how the Queen was persuaded to take part in a mock James Bond film and then pretend to parachute from a helicopter into the Olympic stadium one can only imagine. It provided another hilarious moment of lightness. AFP]
Read more: http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/2012-london-olympics-opening-ceremony-the-highlights-2012287#ixzz227Gtxmlu
Their appearance had a serious message, too — the importance of literacy.
“If you can read and write, you’re free, or you can fight for your freedom,” Boyle said.
Boyle’s challenge was daunting: To be as memorable as Beijing’s incredible, money-no-object opening ceremony of 2008, the costliest in Olympic history.
“Beijing is something that, in a way, was great to follow,” Boyle said. “You can’t get bigger than Beijing, you know? So that, in a way, kind of liberated us. We thought, ‘Great, OK, good, we’ll try and do something different.’”
For the last time as president of the IOC, Rogge was to watch the Olympic flag being raised. He will step down in 2013 after completing the maximum two terms.
Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, planned to attend the ceremony with his wife, Ann. Romney caused a stir in Britain by suggesting earlier this week that the country had “disconcerting” problems preparing for the games.
Other political leaders from around the world, U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and her daughters, and a sprinkling of European and celebrity royalty were also attending.
Olympic Games 2012: 'Singular vision' as £27m worth of secrets unveiled Owen Gibson, Olympics editor guardian.co.uk
Danny Boyle, the director of the London 2012 opening ceremony, has admitted it will be impossible to satisfy everyone
[PHOTO- Danny Boyle has produced what has been described as a 'singular vision', with music by Underworld and other top British acts. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/Getty]
It must distil thousands of years of history into just over an hour, reflect a nation unto itself, promote Britain to the world, satisfy the demands of politicians and organisers, entertain 1bn viewers and bring the curtain up on the planet's biggest sporting event. So no pressure.
Film director Danny Boyle, the creative director of Friday night's £27m London 2012 opening ceremony, has already admitted that it will be an impossible task to satisfy everyone.
Instead, he has produced what has been described by overall ceremonies creative chief Stephen Daldry as a "singular vision", with music by electronic duo Underworld and other top British acts and with a denouement they are confident will stay secret despite the best efforts of the media.
The identity of the person who will light the Olympic cauldron is also a closely guarded secret, but bookmaker William Hill suspended betting on Thursday on Roger Bannister, the first man to run a four-minute mile, after a run of big bets.
Earlier, Team GB chef de mission Andy Hunt, who has some input into the decision, said a number of Britain's "truly great Olympians" would be involved in the "final sequence" of the ceremony, but would not reveal the identity of the cauldron lighter. British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan was keen for Sir Steve Redgrave, winner of five Olympic gold medals for rowing, to light the cauldron, but Hunt's comments suggest he will be part of the final countdown rather than the ultimate bearer of the flame.
Boyle this week paid tribute to the 10,000 volunteers who have rehearsed for months, first in the old Ford plant in Dagenham, Essex, and then in the stadium, often in atrocious weather, to bring his script to life.
"This is a show that has been built out of our volunteers – 10,000 people who've turned up in rain and terrible conditions. This show is theirs, this country is theirs, they really are the best of us," he said.
A troupe of nurses are among those appearing, even though culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is believed to have questioned their inclusion at a time when government NHS reforms have provoked controversy. Footballer David Beckham will also play a role, he has confirmed.
"The ceremony is an attempt to capture a picture of ourselves as a nation, where we have come from and where we want to be," the director of Trainspotting and the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire has said.
The show, titled Isles of Wonder after a speech by Caliban in Shakespeare's The Tempest, begins with a pastoral vision of a "green and pleasant land" complete with real sheep, pigs and goats, before transforming into a more urban landscape to reflect the "dark satanic mills" of William Blake's Jerusalem.
It will begin at 9pm with the ringing of the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world, which hangs at one end of the stadium.
Preceding the main event, beginning at the symbolic time of 20.12, will be a warm-up show, chiefly designed to get the crowd in the mood.
The prime minister, David Cameron, said on Thursday he had no fears about Boyle's ability to deliver.
"I've had some presentation meetings with Danny Boyle and Stephen Daldry and others and spoken to people lucky enough to go to the rehearsals. I've always had that tingling feeling on my spine and the hairs standing on the back of my neck with the treatment they're giving it," he said.Whereas Beijing's opening ceremony was remembered for its jaw-dropping scale, Daldry said Boyle would employ creativity and humour.
Cameron acknowledged the size of the task, but said Boyle was up to it.
"We have to celebrate all that is great about the past but also all the potential Britain has in the future. There are so many things to celebrate about our country that packing all that in must be a pretty tough task."
Asked whether the message of the opening ceremony would be Beefeaters or Blur, he said: "Both."
The three-and-a-half-hour ceremony, which has had to be tightened up by 40 minutes to avoid overrunning, comprises the hour-long cultural showcase, the parade of athletes and officials from 204 nations and the protocol of flags, anthems and speeches, before the lighting of the cauldron and the obligatory fireworks.
The International Olympic Committee has issued a no dawdling edict, asking for athletes to maintain a steady pace around the track in order to keep the show on time. Some of Team GB's biggest names will be missing because they have not yet checked into the athletes' village or because they are competing within 48 hours of the ceremony.
Hunt said 260 of Team GB's 542 athletes would take part in the parade, led by flag bearer Sir Chris Hoy. Only 40 British officials will parade because numbers have been limited for the first time to speed proceedings along.
About 120,000 people who attended dress rehearsals on Monday and Wednesday have been asked to "save the surprise" and not reveal what they had seen. The campaign has been largely successful, although organisers had to step in to have a handful of videos removed from YouTube.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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