The London 2012 Olympic Games have begun with the toll of a bell, a James Bond-style arrival by the queen and a spectacular Opening Ceremony which culminated in a breathtaking burst of flame as 204 individual copper petals formed the Olympic Cauldron.
“I declare open the Games of London, celebrating the 30th Olympiad of the modern era,” said Queen Elizabeth, who had earlier made a rather spectacular entrance of her own, but more on that later.
It will be the third time Britain has hosted the Olympics, which this year will see women represented for the first time in Olympic history in all 204 countries participating. To view the photos as a slide show, click any image and follow the arrows.
“This is a major boost for gender equality,” Olympic IOC President Jacques Rogge, told the audience.
“Character counts far more than medals,” Rogge also said. “Reject doping. Respect your opponents. Remember that you are all role models. If you do that, you will inspire a generation.”
“Your talent, your dedication and commitment brought you here. Now you have a chance to become true Olympians,” he continued.
Setting the tone for the Opening Ceremony, Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, rang what the BBC described as “the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world.”
Cheers and applause from an enthusiastic audience of 80,000 faded as a young soloist sang Sir Hubert Parry’s setting of William Blake’s poem, Jerusalem.
The center stadium was set as a traditional English pastoral scene with green lawns, milkmaids, and a village cricket match underway. All four countries of the United Kingdom were represented in song—Jerusalem, Danny Boy, Flower of Scotland, and Bread of Heaven.
As the scene transformed from traditional English countryside to the industrial age, five molten steel Olympic rings rose from the ground in a shower of color and sparks. Amidst the confusion, Buckingham Palace appeared on massive television screens. A black taxi pulled up onscreen and out jumped James Bond actor, Daniel Craig, who ran up the stairs and into the palace. The next scene saw him walking through the corridors with the queen. The two left the palace, and amazingly, stepped into a waiting helicopter. Then a helicopter flew over the Olympic Stadium, and two figures parachuted out, one dressed as the queen.
As the film finished, the Queen Elizabeth appeared in the Olympic Stadium, walking down the steps into the Royal box, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and Jacques Rogge.
It was a magic moment in the £27m ($42.5 million) Opening Ceremony, directed by the Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle, and televised to an estimated one billion people.
Best known for hit movies “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” Boyle had given few hints of what the world could expect from the ceremony.
“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,” he said in a statement on the London Olympic website. “The best part of telling that story has been working with our 10,000 volunteers,” he added.
He also said there would be “no spectators—everyone in the stadium will be part of the magic.”
By all accounts, Boyle achieved his goal.
“How could you watch those Opening Ceremony sequences and not feel incredibly proud to be British? #WellDoneDannyBoyle,” British MP Ed Balls tweeted in summing up the mood.
The three hour Opening Ceremony included humor and ceremony, dancers, drummers, and actors; favorite children’s characters, Mary Poppins, and Harry Potter’s Voldemort; and performances by the London Symphony Orchestra, with Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean on keyboards, Mike Oldfield playing Tubular Bells, and Sir Paul McCartney singing Hey Jude.
It was the much-anticipated lighting of the Olympic Cauldron, however, that had the assembled celebrities, athletes, volunteers, and audience members gasping.
The athlete that would light the cauldron had remained a secret, even from the IOC president, it was reported.
As it turned out, it was not one person but seven young athletes, nominated by British Olympic champions, who took the Olympic Flame from five-time Olympic gold medalist rower, Sir Steve Redgrave, as he carried it into the stadium.
Individual torches lit from the flame were then used to ignite the 204 copper petals, which rose together to form the Cauldron.
“I don’t think anything will ever showcase their nation as well as London’s opening ceremony. Beyond flawless. It was breath taking, perfect!” tweeted Louis Vuitommo.
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