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London 2012 Olympics: London 2012 gets off to a spectacular start

"It was beautifully interwoven, so much so that it brought a lump to the throat and made you proud to be British." - Tony Bugby reports on Danny Boyle's masterpiece as it opens the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The eyes of the world were on London as billions watched and Danny Boyle certainly delivered with a spectacular opening to the Olympic Games.

How could London, the only nation to have hosted the Olympics three times, possibly match Beijing’s amazing ceremony four years earlier had been the daunting task which artistic director Boyle had been confronted with?

They couldn’t was the answer, but Boyle still came up with a show which had the wow factor and which also blew away the sceptics who believed the shadow of Beijing and its grandiose start would hang over London throughout the Games.

There had even been concerns whether Boyle had been the right choice, even though he is an Oscar winning director given the sombre subjects featured in his films.

What Boyle conjured in his £27million showpiece was a flavour of Britain entitled ‘Isles of Wonder’ over the past couple of hundred years from the rural idyll of yesteryear, morphed through the industrial revolution to modern day and even an appearance by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web.

There was even an unexpected cameo by The Queen and her beloved corgis alongside 007 James Bond aka Daniel Craig as they made their acting debuts.

It was beautifully interwoven, so much so that it brought a lump to the throat and made you proud to be British.

Organisers had also installed 70,799 pixel screens between the spectators’ seats which produced amazing show of visual images and visual effects.

There was intrigue when images of the rural snapshot of England were revealed and the cast would include nearly 100 real animals including 40 sheep, 12 horses, ten chickens, ten ducks, nine geese, three cows, three sheep dogs and two goats. How possibly could they be incorporated?

It was certainly different to traditional opening ceremonies as was the country cottage, waterwheel, lake, cricket match, four maypoles, tree which represented the Holy Thorn at Glastonbury as well as fake clouds just in case it didn’t rain.

It was to prove a serene setting and backdrop as spectators entered the stadium and settled into their seats and waited for the action to begin at 20:12 with the prelude.

The main action began at 9pm when Bradley Wiggins, the only British winner of the Tour de France, appeared on stage in his coveted yellow jersey to ring in the games on the giant Olympic Bell.

There was an aerial three minute aerial dash from the source of the Thames to the capital, the waterway again being the essence of Britain, and featuring all the usual historic buildings.

Suddenly the vision Ye Old Merrie England was replaced by the industrial revolution – dark satanic hills, the Jarrow Crusade. It was a show packed with symbolism of Britain’s past. One of the most striking images was of the foundry forging the five Olympic rings which was ingenious.

There were the Chelsea Pensioners marching alongside Pearly Kings and Queens, a colliery band as well as many well-known figures such as Sir Kenneth Branagh, dressed as Brunel, reciting Shakespeare and JK Rowling reading the opening lines from JM Barrie’s best-known work.

Boyle also included a fabulously choreographed tribute to the National Health Service and in particular Great Ormond Street Hospital.

British film and television was not forgotten as we transcended through time to the modern day from the embryonic Pathe News to the World Wide Web which has transformed communications. The pace was frantic, but it captured the essence of British life and the nation’s culture.

Music saw classics such as Jerusalem and Abide With Me to more recent times and appearances by Mike Oldfield, the Artic Monkeys and Sir Paul McCartney who brought the curtain down on the night.

Without doubt the most amusing interlude was the appearance of Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean who was a member of the London Symphony Orchestra which was conducted by Sir Simon Rattle as it played the Chariots of Fire theme.

But the biggest coup had to be The Queen agreeing to take part as she left Buckingham Palace with 007 with corgis at heel to the airlifted to the Olympic Park where she parachuted into the stadium. It was cleverly done.

The parade of competitors from the 205 competing nations saw flag bearers include sporting greats such as Usain Bolt, Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova and Great Britain’s Chris Hoy.

There was further drama as David Beckham brought the Olympic Flame to the Olympic Park by speedboat along the River Thames from the centre of London passing through Tower Bridge to a stunning fireworks display.

The great beauty was that this hadn’t already leaked into the public domain as was also the case of who was to light the flame? The money had been on Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Roger Bannister.

In the end Redgrave took the torch into the stadium where it was passed to seven youngsters who had been nominated by each of seven former British Olympic champions.

And it was they who had the honour of lighting the cauldron in the centre of the Olympic Stadium.

It certainly took the bookmakers by surprise but again was a novel. While honouring and remembering the past and our great Olympians, the theme was that we cannot only live in the past and must look ahead to the future.


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