London 2012: Opening ceremony full of shocks and surprises
No country on earth knows and understands pageantry more than England. Little wonder Lancashire-born Olympic Games artistic director Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony overcame a typically bleak London night as he traced the ages through Great Britain.
The first half of the two hours-plus duration was stunningly and dramatically different to any Olympic Games opening ceremony we’ve ever seen.
Once the athletes started to march into Wembley Stadium, the magic of the Games began.
Beautiful basketballer Lauren Jackson, the world’s best player in her fourth Games, was Australia’s flag-bearer, Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth, flagged the Jamaicans, and tennis featured three times with Maria Sharapova flagging Russia, and Novak Djokovic for Serbia, with Roger Federer passing up the opportunity for doubles partner Stanislas Wawrinka.
Rafael Nadal was due to flag Spain, but he was a late withdrawal through injury.
In a shock decision by her American team-mates, fencer Mariel Zagunis, individual sabre gold medallist in 2004 and 2008, was named USA flag-bearer ahead of the likes of the world’s greatest swimmer Michael Phelps, the record 14-times gold medallist, and a host of dream-team basketballers.
The Great Britain team was last out, flagged by champion cyclist Sir Chris Hoy as they were blanketed by 7 billion pieces of confetti from a hovering helicopter above the Olympic Stadium representing one for every person on the planet. It was spectacular.
Speeches from LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe, and IOC boss Jacque Rogge followed, with Rogge making the incredible statement London 2012 was the first of 30 Olympics where every one of the 205 nations competing had women competitors. It’s taken only 116 years.
Queen Elizabeth 11 opened the Games, the third Royal to do the honours in London.
The Queen’s great-grandfather King Edward V11 opened the 1908 Games, and father King George V1 the 1948 Games.
It’s interesting how the Olympics have grown over that period.
In 1908 there were 22 nations, 2008 athletes – 1971 men and just 37 women – in 110 events covering 22 sports.
In 1948, remembering it was just after the end of World War 2, there were 59 nations, 4104 athletes – 3714 men and 390 women – in 136 events covering 17 sports.
And 2012 with 205 nations, an estimated 10,500 athletes, no breakdown as yet, in 302 events covering 26 sports.
After a very brief appearance of a tragically ill-looking Mohammad Ali, the biggest shock of the night – the lighting of the cauldron.
The Olympic flame arrived by speedboat on the Thames with soccer superstar David Beckham, who handed it over to Great Britain’s greatest Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave, the world’s most successful oarsman with his five golds from as many Games – 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000 – with nine world championship golds.
But the flame was lit by six Great Britain hopefuls of the future. That was a snub to Sir Steve, Roger Bannister, and Daley Thompson who all deserved the honour.
We are on our way, but not with the smooth opening ceremony where Sydney set the standard in 2000.
One wonders what other shocks London has in store.
- 2012 London Olympics