Olympics open starring James Bond, the queen and Mr. Bean

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 28, 2012 - 7:18 AM

London threw an Opening Ceremony bash that let the Brits shake off some of the doubts that plagued the runup to these Games -- and kick off the Olympics with a long-overdue dose of fun.

view larger photos

  

The last time the Olympics came to London, they served as a salve to a war-scarred world. The British took on the task of hosting the Summer Games in 1948, when their cities still wore the devastation of World War II and their people still faced shortages of food and gasoline.

Yet they pulled it off, keeping the Olympic ideal alive after 12 dormant years when it seemed the world might never come together again. That is what they do in this country: They keep calm and carry on, true to their wartime slogan. Friday, London welcomed the Olympics back to its green and pleasant land under much happier circumstances, throwing an Opening Ceremony bash that let the Brits shake off some of the doubts that plagued the runup to these Games -- and kick off the Olympics with a long-overdue dose of fun.

The ceremony at Olympic Stadium was decidedly unstuffy, a departure from the seriousness of Beijing's pageant four years ago. It blended high art and low comedy, Mr. Bean and Johnny Rotten, pop culture and agriculture. Even the queen got into the spirit, playing herself -- for the first time on film -- in a cheeky bit with James Bond.

The 1948 Olympics were dubbed the "Austerity Games,'' because the war's devastation meant a frugal budget and no new venues. Austerity has been an undercurrent in these Olympics, too, as the European economic crisis caused many Brits to question spending 9 billion pounds on a sporting event. But that didn't seem to matter Friday, as they plunged headfirst into the Olympic spirit.

"I have never been so proud to be British and to be part of the Olympic movement as I am on this day, at this moment,'' said London Games chairman Lord Sebastian Coe, to his countrymen's raucous cheers. "For us, too, for every Briton, just as the competitors, this is our time. And one day we will tell our children and grandchildren that when our time came, we did it right.''

Coe, a four-time Olympic medalist who headed London's bid, might have been making a subtle dig at those who doubted Britain's ability to handle this vast undertaking. Some of the criticism came from outside, including comments made Thursday by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Some came from within, as the country fretted about the weather, the traffic, the aging subway, security and anything else that might go wrong.

A number of political gaffes -- including the botched translation of an Arabic sign and displaying the South Korean flag for the North Korean team -- raised further questions. Friday's ceremony muscled those incidents into the background, putting Britain's rich history and love of country on full display.

Earlier in the day, the Olympic torch cruised down the River Thames on the boat Gloriana, adding to the crowd of more than 3 million citizens who had come to see it since its arrival in London. Another 80,000 gathered in Olympic Stadium, the centerpiece of a former industrial wasteland transformed into the Olympic Park in East London.

The show cost 27 million pounds to produce, and it showcased Britain's endearing quirkiness. What other country would boast about its National Health Service by having 600 medical personnel dance in front of a worldwide audience of 4 billion? Would any other nation dare to play the Bee Gees while the delegation from Fiji entered the stadium, led by flagbearer Josateki Naulu in a grass skirt?

The 203 other nations happily played along. The Czech Republic, in a nod to Britain's damp weather, sported Wellington rain boots and umbrellas. The 529-member American delegation followed its longstanding tradition of not dipping the flag when it passed the Royal Box, but many athletes waved to First Lady Michelle Obama and danced arm in arm.

"You could feel it all the way through your body when you walked into the stadium,'' said U.S. Greco-Roman wrestler Justin Lester. "It was everything and more than you can imagine.''

The home team wore white, with a daring touch: sparkling gold trim, indicating its confidence that it will rack up medals. The first could come Saturday, as cyclist Mark Cavendish is favored to take the road race.

In his speech, Coe alluded to London's history as Olympic host in times of trial. It welcomed the 1908 Games as a substitute for Rome, which could not host after Mount Vesuvius erupted. Its postwar Olympics of 1948 revived spirits at home and around the world.

These Games suffered their own blow the day after they were awarded to London in 2005, when a series of suicide bombings on the public transport system killed 52 people and injured 700. But the British kept calm and carried on, as they always seem to do. Friday, when seven young athletes lit petals of flame that folded up into the Olympic cauldron, they symbolized what Coe hopes these Games will show: the very best of all of us.

"[London is] the only city to have welcomed the Games three times," Coe said. "Each time, we have done it when the world faced turbulence and trouble. And each time, the Games have been a triumph."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - J. Guthrie 7:07 PM
San Francisco - T. Hudson
San Diego 21 FINAL
Denver 35
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Dallas 6:00 PM
Orlando
New York 6:30 PM
Toronto
San Antonio 7:00 PM
Houston
Miami 7:00 PM
Memphis
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Chicago
Phoenix 8:00 PM
Utah
Sacramento 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
Denver 9:30 PM
Golden State
Portland 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Dallas 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Colorado
Carolina 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Columbus 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Houston 7:00 PM
Chicago
Montreal 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close