Monday, December 9, 2013
The Associated Press
LONDON - The queen and James Bond gave the London Olympics a royal entrance like no other in an opening ceremony Friday that rolled to the rock of the Beatles, the Stones and the Who.
Mariel Zagunis, a fencer, leads more than 500 American athletes into the stadium Friday night during the opening ceremony in London.
Photos by The Associated Press
Queen Elizabeth declares that the games are open – not the only thing she did to play a major role during the opening ceremonies.
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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 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth had parachuted into the stadium with the nation's most famous spy.
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 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 dress, Bond dashing in a black tuxedo -- before leaping into the night over Olympic Park.
At the same moment, real skydivers appeared as the stadium throbbed to the James Bond theme. And moments after that, the monarch appeared in person, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip.
Organizers thought it was the first time she 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.
Boyle sprang another giant surprise and picked seven teenage athletes for the honor of igniting the Olympic cauldron. Together they touched torches to trumpet-like tubes that spread into a ring of fire.
The flames rose and joined elegantly together to form the cauldron. Fireworks erupted over the stadium to music from Pink Floyd. And with a singalong of "Hey Jude," Paul McCartney of the Beatles closed a show that ran 45 minutes beyond its scheduled three hours.
Organizers said the cauldron would be moved Sunday night to the corner where a giant bell tolled during the show.
Boyle turned the stadium into a giant juke box, with a nonstop rock and pop homage to cool Britannia that ensured the show never caught its breath.
The soundtrack veered from classical to irreverent. Boyle daringly 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.
The encyclopedic review of modern British music continued with a 1918 Broadway standard adopted by the West Ham football team, the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," by still another Queen, and other tracks too numerous to mention.
The evening started with fighter jets streaming red, white and blue smoke, and roaring over the stadium, packed with of 60,000 people, at 8:12 p.m.
Boyle, one of Britain's most successful filmmakers, who directed "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.
There was a high-speed flyover of the Thames, the river that winds like a vein through London.
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.
Opening the ceremony, children popped balloons with each number from 10 to 1, leading a countdown that climaxed with Bradley Wiggins, the new Tour de France champion.
Wearing his yellow winner's jersey, Wiggins rang a 23-ton Olympic Bell from the same London foundry that made Big Ben and Philadelphia's Liberty Bell.
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.
But that "green and pleasant land," to quote poet William Blake, took a darker 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.
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LeBron James of the Miami Heat, and a member of the U.S. men’s basketball team, takes pictures Friday night along with other American athletes while parading into the stadium during the opening ceremonies in London.