The opening ceremonies last night in London were the vision of Danny Boyle who directed the Oscar winning “Slumdog Millionaire”.
People have come to London for centuries for art, commerce and sport but have not come for the Olympics since 1948.
All eyes are on the 17 year old Missy Franklin from the US, Michael Phelps the multiple gold medal swimmer from the US and Usain Bolt the extraordinary gold medal runner from Jamaica.
The Canadian team of 277 athletes are inspired by the Winter Games in Vancouver 2010 and are anxious to make Canada proud again. There is much conversation, of course, about the cost of the Olympics (42 million dollars) in a depressed European economy and of terrorism as everyone is remembering the Israelis in Munich in 1972. Security is of optimum concern.
Despite these very real concerns the games must go on. The opening ceremonies began with a pan of the beautiful countryside of the British Isles. The popular hymn “Jerusalem” was sung in England, Danny Boy in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales was represented also with soccer scenes, old village life scenes and Clydesdales leading up to the Industrial Revolution.
Sir Kenneth Branagh, famous Irish actor, recited a section of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, and a blind drummer and a host of other drummers beat the drums throughout the opening ceremonies.
Suffragettes were represented and Trade Unions. Poppies were dubbed again The Symbol of Remembrance and all this to the iconic Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The 5 rings of the IOC were launched in spectacular style followed by a tour of Buckingham Palace and James Bond (Daniel Craig) arriving to escort the Queen to the opening ceremonies in a helicopter which the Queen (stunt double) jumps out of to take her place with Prince Philip.The Union Jack was then raised by members of the armed forces and the National Anthem was sung.
Mike Oldfield played through the tribute to the National Health Service and the GOSH hospital which is the best know International hospital largely funded by the proceeds from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.
There was a rare appearance from Harry Potter’s writer, J.K. Rowling, the most successful children’s author in history and other British children’s authors were honored.
There was a sequence of the GOSH Hospital with 320 volunteers.
Sir Simon Rattle conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in “Chariots of Fire” which included a comical performance by Rowan Atkinson. (Mr. Bean).
We were then taken into a retrospective of British music or the British Invasion, if you will, which culminated in a tribute to the technology we now enjoy thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee who invented the internet.
Emeli Sande from Scotland sung “Abide With Me” which was a beautiful and very poignant moment as we are also marking the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
I forgot to mention that the cyclist, Bradley Wiggins rung the bell to open the ceremonies.
Then came the Parade of Athletes proudly representing their countries.
There were short speeches by Sir Sebastian Coe and the IOC President, Jack Rogge and the Olympic Flag was raised.
Muhammad Ali, who lit the cauldron in Atlanta in 1996, was on hand. David Beckham brought the flame up the Thames River. Sarah Stephenson, 2008 Tai kwon do, reads the oath of the athletes, judge’s oath was read by Mik Basi and Eric Farrell read the oath of the coaches.
The torch entered the stadium with a 500 strong honor guard of those built Olympic Park. The cauldron (designed by Thomas Heathwick) was lit in a spectacular fashion by 7 young non- Olympian but promising British athletes.
Sir Paul McCartney sang “Hey Jude” which was extremely well received by the audience.
I am sure I have left out (not intentionally) many details but my overall reaction was one of great pride in my heritage and thoroughly enjoying a sensational and very entertaining opening ceremony.
Let the games begin!