It was quite a night in London as the 30th Summer Games kicked off for a third time in the city. Fireworks exploded off the Tower Bridge, Olympic rings were forged, James Bond took a wild wide with the Queen and bedtime stories were told.
The Olympic rings come together over the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. (Credit Image: © Chuck Myers/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Four years ago, Beijing astounded the world with pageantry and precison pyrotecnics. Friday night, London answered back. Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, who orchestrated the $42 million extravaganza, invited viewers into a story filled with British music, literature, and humor. He took the archetypes of Britain and put them out for all the world to see.
In a city that knows how to do ceremony (did anyone see the royal wedding or the Queen's Diamond Jubilee?) whimsy won out over pomp and circumstance.
Parties took place on both sides of the pond, and an estimated billion viewers watched the event live, except for those in the United States where NBC held back the broadcast until prime-time, a move that pissed off more than a few fans (not to mention the banal butchering the network did to the show).
Eighty-thousand spectators entered a stadium transformed to a pastoral scene, complete with real farm animals, thatched roof houses and a few scattered rain showers. Then the show started, and the world changed. Piece by piece, the English countryside was dismantled and replaced by belching smokestacks – revealing the grime and glory of Victorian England. The opening act asked audiences to consider how the Industrial Revolution that began in English mills changed the world economy, and the human condition.
James Bond can do just about anything, but parachuting into the stadium with the Queen has to be one of the coolest entrances for an Olympic Opening Ceremony. A short film showed Daniel Craig as 007 driving to Buckingham Palace in a black London cab and, pursued by the royal corgis, meeting the 86 year old monarch, who played herself. They were then shown flying in a helicopter over London landmarks before leaping into the Olympic Stadium. It was quite a royal entrance.
J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter fantasy series, made a rare appearance to read from Peter Pan and start off a section on children's literature. The nightmare sequence led to a giant climax and the rumors were true: Mary Poppins fought off the evil Lord Voldemort.
Danny Boyle knows how to pick a soundtrack and he turned the stadium into a giant juke box, with a nonstop rock and pop homage to cool Britannia. Licks from obvious choices like the Beatles, Led Zepplin, Bowie, The Who, Queen and the Rolling Stones Of course, Sir Paul McCartney closed the show out with a sing-along version of "Hey Jude".
Boyle mixed filmed passages projected on giant structures with live action in the stadium and choreographed 15,000 volunteers who took part in the show. He called the entertainment piece of the nearly four-hour ceremony a "celebration of the creativity, exuberance and, above all, the generosity of the British people."
A "Chariots of Fire" salute was inevitable and comedian Rowan Atkinson aka "Mr. Bean" provided laughs, dreaming that he was running along the beach with Harold Abrams and Eric Liddell - the Scotsman and Englishman depicted in the Oscar-winning film.
Twitter followers commented on what they thought about the opening - with many either bored or confused by what they referred to as a hodge-podge. I think Boyle did a great job redefining what can be accomplished on such a grand world stage. It was funny, poignant, quirky, political, a bit chaotic, full of literature, and with an innocence at the heart of it that takes a lot of courage to pull off. It was all about unique individuals expressing themselves. ERII & 007; The Clash and Mike Oldfield; Mr. Bean spoofing Chariots of Fire; JK Rowling reading Peter Pan; Branagh reciting the Tempest. What could be more British than that?
The parade of nations followed featuring most of the roughly 10,500 athletes -- some, like Michael Phelps, planned to stay away to save their strength for competition -- marching behind the flags of the 204 nations taking part. And for the first time, the parade of athletes included a woman in every country's team. Two of the three Muslim nations that finally included women, Brunei and Qatar, marked the occasion with female flag bearers.
With the lighting of the cauldron, Queen Elizabeth declared open the third Summer Games to be held in London and we're off. Two weeks of non-stop competition.
What was your favorite part of the Opening Ceremony?
More from entertainment