Beginning of London dreams

Britain showcase their splendid past in a spectacular opening ceremony to usher in the 30th Olympiad

Beginning of London dreams

Opening ceremonies, very often, are children of history. The host nation delves deep into its past and presents to the world the best of its art, culture and might.

Danny Boyle’s three-hour creation to open the Games of the 30th Olympiad on Friday night did just that, with precision, power and panache.

When the acclaimed movie director flipped through the pages of his country’s history, he found the towering figure of William Shakespeare on the way. The Bard’s Tempest set the tone for the programme that took the 80,000 spectators at the Olympic Stadium and millions of television viewers around the globe on a rollercoaster ride through the time machine.

“Be not a feard, the isle is full of noises,” said the Bard. For a brief while at least, it did look like a show ‘full of sound of fury signifying nothing’, but it was only for a while and a riot of colour and music pulled it through to a rip-roaring climax, with Sir Paul McCartney applying the finishing touches with a rendition of Beatles super hit ‘Hey Jude’ amidst spectacular fireworks.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who appeared in a filmed sequence along with Daniel ‘James Bond’ Craig earlier with her double parachuting down from a helicopter, formally declared the Games open, as the athletes of the world looked on.

The lighting of the cauldron, kept a secret till the very end, provided the anti-climactic touch with none of the favoured sportsmen getting the honour. David Beckham brought the torch in a boat before handing it over to five-time gold medallist Sir Steven Redgrave, who in turn passed it on to seven children picked by legendary British sporting figures.

The children lit the cauldron, made of 204 copper petals representing the competing nations and the petals slowly rose up to form a fierce flame in the middle of the field. Scotching all the speculations on the topic by a safe method was, however, the only Boyle surprise of the night.

As he promised, the show began with a village scene from 19th century Britain, with green meadows, grazing cows and sheep, gentlemen playing cricket and commoners kicking a football around. Monstrous factory chimneys, heralding the start of the Industrial Revolution then altered the scene dramatically, even as iron rings forged from the factories magically formed the Olympic rings above the ground. Changes in the society were captured through a racy love story with music from the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties, culminating in the age of the World Wide Web, invented by Londoner Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

British humour had a central place, with Rowan Atkinson – better known as Mr Bean – turning up as an incompetent member of the London Symphony Orchestra and dreaming of a winning presence in Chariots of Fire’s iconic scene on the beach. Harry Potter author JK Rowling read a page from Peter Pan to mark her presence while Boyle also paid tributes to the National Health Services, by throwing in a hospital scene. As the athletes marched in to mark the protocol part of the programme, IOC President Jacques Rogge implored them to compete as true sportspersons. “Reject doping, respect your opponents, remember that you are all role models. If you do that, you will inspire a generation.”

London’s goal for these Games were stated firmly by Lord Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the organising committee. “In the next two weeks, we will show all that has made London one of the greatest cities in the world. “For us, for every Briton, just as the competitors, this is our time. And one day we will tell our children and our grandchildren that when our time came, we did it right,” he said. Boyle’s team, indeed, did it right on day one. It is the competitors’ time to step in now and make the fiesta a true spectacle.

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