London 2012: What a start!
2012 Games open after stunning ceremony
The Olympic Games were opened amidst a riot of colour, culture and chaos at Stratford tonight – and it was such a privilege to be in the audience witnessing it all at first hand.
Following much secrecy, Sir Steve Redgrave carried the flame into the Olympic Stadium, but then it was passed to a young athlete who, with six others, carried it around to the giant Olympic bell.
Joined on stage by some of Britain’s Olympic heroes, including Lynn Davies, Duncan Goodhew, Dame Kelly Holmes, Dame Mary Peters, Shirley Robertson and Daley Thompson, the youngsters returned to the field of play to light a collection of copper petals, handed out to all competing nations for the Games.
These then joined to form the main flame and signal the start of what promises to be an unforgettable 16 days of sport.
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What led up to that iconic moment, over a four-hour span, was something epic.
After a fly past from the Red Arrows, an aerial video montage of Britain, from rural village life to the noisy cities, was shown on the big screens before setting on the iconic view of London, with the River Thames winding its way across the capital – to a backdrop of the Eastenders theme tune!
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Then, after Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins rang the Olympic bell, choirs from the four home nations sang Jerusalem, Danny Boy, Flower of Scotland and Bread of Heaven before Danny Boyle’s Isles of Wonder ceremony, including 15,000 volunteers, proved a fascinating and emotional recall of British history.
Kenneth Branagh quoted Shakespeare’s The Tempest with the line ‘Be not afeard: the isle is full of noises’ and so was the Olympic Stadium.
An earthy drum roll made it feel like the building was shaking as the peaceful, pastoral scene originally laid out before the crowd made way for the industrial age.
Seven chimney stacks sprung up out of the ground as farmers made way for coal-dusted factory hands, who eventually forged five molten circles which lifted into the sky to form the Olympic rings and one of the best overhead views imaginable.
Then Daniel Craig appeared on the screen as James Bond, heading for a meeting with Her Majesty the Queen, which ended in a helicopter ride above the Olympic Park and a sudden appearance in the stands.
After members of the armed forces unfurled the Union Jack, the national anthem was sung by the Kaos singing choir for deaf and hearing children, bringing a lump to most throats among Brits, no doubt.
Tribute was paid to the work of the National Health Service, with more illuminating visuals from Boyle, before children’s literature was honoured.
After some slapstick comedy from Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr Bean, in a Chariots of Fire skit with backing from the London Symphony Orchestra, the focus changed to modern British popular culture, from television, film and music.
All the greats were in there, from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, The Jam, David Bowie, Queen, right up to modern acts such as Bow’s Dizzie Rascal, who blasted out his Bonkers hit.
The soundtrack was backing for a love story between two characters, which also detailed the development of modern technology up to the invention of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who appeared at a desk, typing the message ‘This is for everyone’ on an old-style computer.
West Ham United’s anthemic ‘Bubbles’ also got an airing, before another video montage was shown of the torch relay, cutting to a shot of a young female footballer holding the flame on a speedboat passing under Tower Bridge, driven by David Beckham: his secret role revealed at last!
Emile Sande then sang Abide with Me, as Akram Khan and his troupe of dancers provided a touching image and finale, before the athletes began to enter the stadium, led as always by Greece, as birthplace of the Games.
A real party atmosphere ensued as each nation was led to their own specified spot on the platform, and their flag planted on the ‘Glastonbury Tor’ at one end of the stadium
Defending 100m champion Usain Bolt got a huge cheer as he strutted his stuff in the usual fashion, while leading out Jamaica.
Then, with midnight approaching, Sir Chris Hoy led out Team GB last, as the host nation, to a spine-tingling reception.
And, following speeches from Lord Coe and fellow dignitaries, we had the final surprise with the flame.
What else is in store for us all during these Games?