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Queen Elizabeth and James Bond steal the show
Over the following 17 days, the drama of sporting contest takes hold the length and breadth of Britain as more than 16,000 athletes from 204 countries will strive to achieve their ultimate dream - Olympic gold
July 28, 2012 8:57 by Reuters
James Bond actor Daniel Craig and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth stole the show at a spectacular 2012 Olympic opening on Friday, appearing together in a comic film beamed to 60,000 people in the main stadium and a billion viewers around the world.
After an eccentric and exuberant trip through British history and culture, athletes took centre stage in London as the Greek team kept Olympic tradition and led out thousands of competitors dressed in national costumes.
They marched around the stadium in double quick time, urged on by the up-tempo beats of the Bee Gees band and others, and the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt strod confidently with the Jamaican flag while playing up to cameras and cheering fans.
Libya and Egypt represented a new chapter in their history after the tumultuous events of the Arab Spring, while the first female Olympic athletes from Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar made history by making an appearance.
Earlier, footage featuring the 86-year-old monarch complemented a show that “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle turned into an unabashed celebration of the host nation stamped with an unmistakeably cinematic style.
While it struck the wrong note with some media commentators covering the ceremony around the world, the packed live audience was swept along in the drama.
In the tongue-in-cheek film Craig wears his trademark tuxedo and enters Buckingham Palace. The queen, with two corgis at her feet and in her cinematic debut, turns from a writing desk and says simply: “Good evening, Mr. Bond.”
The moment drew a huge cheer from the crowd, not used to seeing Her Majesty play such an informal part in proceedings, and coincides with a resurgence in the royal family’s popularity following the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Doubles of Bond and the queen then parachuted from a helicopter above the stadium, built on the Olympic Park in a once derelict area of London’s East End, and the national anthem sang by schoolchildren and Union flag raising followed.
The surreal footage and stunt had been kept a closely guarded secret in the buildup to the ceremony, which ends with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.
Over the following 17 days, the drama of sporting contest takes hold the length and breadth of Britain as more than 16,000 athletes from 204 countries will strive to achieve their ultimate dream – Olympic gold.
The ceremony, inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and backed by rousing music from across the centuries, began with a playful recreation of an English rural idyll with grassy meadows, fences, hedges, a water mill, maypoles and a cottage.
A cast including shepherdesses, sheep, geese, dogs and a village cricket team filled the stage during the one-hour prologue to the show that included a dramatic, low-level fly-past by the jets of the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows stunt team.
After “England’s green and pleasant land” came the “dark Satanic mills” of William Blake’s famous poem.
Titled “Pandemonium”, the next phase saw the grass uprooted and fences torn down to be replaced by a blackened landscape of looms and foundries that conjured the Industrial Revolution.
To the deafening beat of hundreds of drummers, giant chimneys rose from the ground and began to belch smoke as a small army of volunteers, dressed as 19th century factory workers, forged one of the five Olympic rings.
The giant orb was raised to the sky to join the four others, letting off a fountain of sparks and drawing gasps from many in the audience.
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