Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 07/28/2012 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
LONDON -- The Queen and James Bond gave the London Olympics a royal entrance like no other Friday in an opening ceremony that rolled to the rock of the Beatles, the Stones and The Who.
The creative genius of Danny Boyle spliced it all together.
Brilliant. Cheeky, too.
The highlight of the Oscar-winning director's $42-million show was pure movie magic, using trickery to make it seem Britain's beloved 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II had parachuted into the stadium with the nation's most famous spy.
A short film showed Daniel Craig as 007 driving to Buckingham Palace in a black London cab and, pursued by the royal corgis, meeting the Queen, who played herself.
"Good evening, Mr. Bond," she said.
They were shown flying in a helicopter over London landmarks and a waving statue of Winston Churchill -- the Queen in a salmon-coloured dress, Bond dashing as ever in a black tuxedo -- before leaping into the inky night over Olympic Park.
At the same moment, real skydivers appeared as the stadium throbbed to the James Bond theme. Moments later, the monarch appeared in person, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip.
Organizers said it was thought to be the first time she has acted on film.
"The Queen made herself more accessible than ever before," Boyle said.
In the stadium, she stood solemnly while a children's choir serenaded her with God Save the Queen, and members of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force raised the Union Jack.
Boyle sprang another giant surprise and picked seven teenage athletes for the supreme honour of igniting the Olympic cauldron. Together, they touched flaming torches to trumpetlike tubes that spread into a ring of fire.
The flames rose and joined elegantly together to form the cauldron. Fireworks erupted over the stadium to music from Pink Floyd. And with a singalong of Hey Jude, Beatle Paul McCartney closed a show that ran 45 minutes beyond its scheduled three hours.
Organizers said the cauldron would be moved Sunday night to the corner of the stadium where a giant bell tolled during the show.
Boyle turned the stadium into a giant jukebox, with a non-stop rock and pop homage to cool Britannia that ensured the show never caught its breath.
The high-adrenaline soundtrack veered from classical to irreverent. Boyle daringly included the Sex Pistols' Pretty Vacant and a snippet of its version of God Save the Queen, an anti-establishment punk anthem once banned by the BBC.
The encyclopedic review of modern British music continued with a 1918 Broadway standard adopted by the West Ham football team, the Rolling Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, Bohemian Rhapsody by the band Queen, and other tracks too numerous to mention but not to dance to.
The athletes marched in after the show. The Canadian team got a nice pop from the spectators at Olympic Stadium when it was introduced.
Flag-bearer Simon Whitfield was beaming as he led the Canadian contingent into the stadium as thumping dance music blared throughout the venue. The veteran triathlete proudly waved a large Maple Leaf as the sold-out crowd roared its approval.
"What a rush. It was so amazing and was such an honour to be here tonight leading all of the athletes that I respect," Whitfield said.
Decked out in red and white jackets, khakis and white sneakers, dozens of Canadian athletes waved to the crowd and took pictures as they followed Whitfield along the infield.
A total of 277 athletes will compete for Canada at the Games, but just under half that number were able to participate in the ceremony. Many had to skip it to prepare for their events.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has extended his best wishes to the team. Governor General David Johnston was in attendance Friday night, along with other Canadian dignitaries.
The evening started at 8:12 p.m. with fighter jets streaming red, white and blue smoke roaring over the stadium, packed with a buzzing crowd of 60,000 people.
Boyle, one of Britain's most successful filmmakers, had a ball with his favoured medium, mixing filmed passages with live action in the stadium to hypnotic effect. Some 15,000 volunteers took part in the show.
Actor Rowan Atkinson as "Mr. Bean" provided laughs, shown dreaming that he was appearing in Chariots of Fire, the inspiring movie of a Scotsman and an Englishman at the 1924 Paris Games.
International Olympic Committee president Rogge honoured the "great, sports-loving country" of Britain as "the birthplace of modern sport," and he appealed to the thousands of athletes assembled before him for fair play.
The Queen then said: "I declare open the Games of London, celebrating the 30th Olympiad of the modern era."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 28, 2012 C1
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