GAME ON! Olympics opens with royalty and rock
LONDON, England (AP) — The Queen and James Bond gave the London Olympics a royal entrance like no other yesterday 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-coloured 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.
Organisers 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 8:12pm — or 20:12 in the 24-hour time observed by Britons.
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 favoured 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 their 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, AA 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 revolutionised 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 honour those killed in war.
Olympic organisers 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 yesterday'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.