Opening Ceremonies

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You can’t watch the Opening Ceremonies till tonight, but we’ll be providing live updates here from columnist Mike Wise.

To get the full live blog experience, be sure to join in the conversation.

FRIDAY, July 27

NBC

7:30 p.m.-midnight (ET/PT)
Opening Ceremonies

The 'wow' opening ceremony finale

It ended with an epic power blast of fireworks and the sounds of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” then segued right into Sir Paul McCartney doing “The End” and “Hey Jude” as Olympic hopefuls swayed in the golden glow of the London Olympic Stadium lights.

The opening ceremonies felt a bit long, and to some, a bit like an acid trip. But even if you didn’t care for the entirety of Danny Boyle’s work — though personally, I admired quite a bit of it, especially the digital era portion — you had to give it up for that ending, even though McCartney’s vocals faltered a bit..

“Wow might be an understatement,” Bob Costas said of the display. I was inclined to agree.

And I’m definitely inclined to agree that it’s time to put this live blog — and ourselves — to bed. Watching athletes from various nations march in colorful outfits is hard, you guys.

The torch bearers' surprise

It’s supposed to be the big cliffhanger of every Olympics ceremony: who will set the flame alight? This year, after looking to the past for the entire show, Britain chose to look to the future with a selection of seven, young Olympic hopefuls. I’m sure they’re all fantastic folk. But, er, yawn…

Quinn Rooney/Reuters

Butterfly bikers take the field

Sean Kilpatrick/AP

Royal viewing

Turning away from the endless festivities on television, we’re looking online for some Olympic moments. It turns out the stars of the show are decidedly royal. The first family of England played a key role in the opening ceremonies, and the women have taken the lead so far in terms of generating viral content.

Queen Elizabeth had her James Bond moment.

Then Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, had her own moment in .gif-fame, while caught in the act of laughing with London mayor Boris Johnson.

But the following image of Queen Elizabeth reigning over the festivities has became the first official meme of the games. The somewhat dour expression on her face led some Internet pranksters to label her with slogans such as “Let the Hunger Games begin,” and “Now you’re just some country that I used to own.

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Update: Danny Boyle spoke to Meredith Viera after the show about how “gracious” the queen was during filming. It was not the first time the queen’s sense of humor was noted. If so, she’ll probably enjoy her newly meme’d fame.

The Arctic Monkeys cover the Beatles during opening ceremony

The Arctic Monkeys just played “Come Together,” while what looked like a bunch of flying monkeys bicycled around the stadium.

Actually, the flying monkeys were really representations of doves of peace or E.T., if you side with the Costas version of events. Either way they made for striking imagery.

The Arctic Monkeys did a fine job with the Beatles cover. Though didn’t it seem odd since … isn’t an actual Beatle on the premises?

The most moving and ridiculous Olympic commercial so far

Coca-Cola just aired an commercial during the opening ceremonies featuring a montage of past medal winners, set to the tune of Sia’s “Breathe Me.”

Naturally, it had us all at Sia, since that song could make hardened criminals with no tear ducts cry. But as moving as it was, its ultimate claim was kind of ridiculous.

“If you’ve had a Coke in the past 40 years,” the voice-over says, “you’ve had a hand in making an Olympic dream come true.”

So … by drinking a sugary soft drink, I’ve helped people achieve their physical potential? Just haven’t achieved it myself?

The Olympics: It's about athletic achievement. Also, tourism.

I just received a press release in my inbox from Visit Britain, a tourism group already encouraging the masses to visit some of the wonderful UK sites alluded to during the opening ceremonies.

This is an actual paragraph from the press release:

“If you liked Lord Voldemort … The Dark Lord was vanquished again at the stadium to the delight of Potter fans. The films were shot all over Britain, and it is possible to visit Platform nine and three quarters at Kings Cross, the Great Hall (Christ Church College, Oxford) and the site of Madame Hooch’s first flying lesson (Alnwick Castle) as well as dozens more Harry hotspots. ”

According to the travel Web site HomeAway.co.uk, 881,000 visitors will be coming to London for the entire games and 5.5 million will come in for day trips.

Judging the quality of NBC's Opening Ceremony commentary

The Internet seems a bit frustrated by the NBC commentators acting as our guides to the Opening Ceremonies broadcast.

Shut-up Matt Lauer” became a running theme on Twitter where Jillian York compiled the outrage. Some, like this Philly Inquirer writer, praised Bob Costas for acknowledging the IOC’s decision not to have an opening ceremony moment of silence for the Israeli victims of the Palestinian terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Games. This year marks the 40th anniversary of that sad incident. But others on Twitter are accusing Lauer and Costas of doing their parade of nations research on Wikipedia.

Slight professional bias: it’s not easy yammering through four hours of live opening ceremonies coverage!

 

The Post's Mike Wise assesses the opening ceremony

If you’ve been reading this live blog all day — and if you have, the Post thanks you but, for the record, is not going to pay your eye doctor bills — then you already know sports columnist Mike Wise was actually in London, watching these opening ceremonies unfold in real time.

His assessment of the kick-pff has just been published online. You can read it here.

Is this parade of nations dragging?

It’s inspiring to see all these athletes so happy to have finally made it to the Olympics. It really is.

But as primetime TV, it’s not exactly compelling viewing, despite the upbeat music. Here’s a bold suggestion: at the next Olympics, the parade of nations should be handled in montage form, with a full version available for viewing online.

Am I right or do I just need to develop greater opening ceremony endurance?

The parade of nations soundtrack

Matt Lauer noted a few moments ago that the athletes are moving at a good clip, perhaps because of the pop music being played in the stadium.

What would you like to enter the stadium to? Adele? The Pet Shop Boys? Underworld?

For the record, the mobile music service Shazam is pulling in all of the opening ceremony music into a playlist, as many have noted on Twitter.

 

And the medals for most unique uniforms go to...

The U.S. beret:

United States's Mariel Zagunis carries the flag during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics. (David Goldman/AP)

The Czech wellies:

(Murad Sezer/Reuters)

German gender dress:

(Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

Bland Taiwan:

(Mark Humphrey/AP)

The Finland tin foil:

Clive Rose/Getty Images

The face dress makes its Olympic debut

It was designed to recognize various Olympic volunteers who assisted with the Games. It also may or may not have been created during a challenge on Project Runway.

Max Rossi/Reuters

Reader CrossWC writes in the chat (Join here!):

“I am especially interested in the women carrying the National signs. They look like they are suffering from some horrific neck injury and are wearing some sort of diabolical Halo neck brace device.”

Twitter reactions to the opening ceremonies so far...

The range of Twitter responses to the Olympics kick-off is wide and in many cases hilarious. Here are a few assessments:

 

 

 

The parade of nations has begun

And Twitter can enjoy a second round of judging the fashion sense of the international community at large.

David Beckham is steering a boat toward Olympic Stadium

And the boat is carrying the torch. And David Beckham looks just like he does in those Burger King commercials.

Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images

 

Dizzee Rascal is making the opening ceremonies 'Bonkers'

The song that Rascal is rapping, “Bonkers,” was huge in the UK in 2009 but never broke super-big in the U.S. In case you’re wondering what the non-Olympics mix sounds like, here it is:

The Olympics just became the best '80s dance party ever

Then, just liike that, it flipped to Prodigy and the ’90s and “Trainspotting” and Hugh Grant.

Things move so quickly in the digital era.

And now glam rock

We get Bowie!

And now the dance company’s air guitaring to Queen. Which can only mean one thing: it’s almost the ’80s, which won’t begin until after a commercial break.

It's the '60s at the Olympics

We’re being treated to the sounds of The Who, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and Meredith Vieira singing Mick Jagger.

The dancers have formed a peace scene. We’re following two young lovers crossing through the musical genres of England. Frankie and June are now on their way into the ’70s.

What do we think, is this the hippest opening ceremony ever? It certainly boasts the best music. (Sorry, Sydney.)

The opening ceremony enters the digital age

In a tribute to the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, this is the part of the ceremony with pop-up video and texting and young kids out on the town to the sound of the Jam.

So, basically, it’s the best episode of “Skins” ever.

Rowan Atkinson runs the race

And now he’s taking bows. As you can see, a fine performance.

Mr. Bean on the keyboards

He’s playing along with Vangelis’s “Chariots of Fire” and stealing the opening ceremonies with his madcap antics.

The Olympics: It’s always better with a quality nose-blowing joke.

What's with the giant baby?

From Post colleague Emi Kolawole


 

Jae C. Hong/AP

Dementor comes to the Olympic ceremony

That huge specter — the big Dementor or Voldemort or whatever he is — is about to get destroyed by a posse of Mary Poppinses.

Look out, baddie. They’ve got at least 50 spoonfuls of sugar. And they are not afraid to use them.

A child's take on the ceremony

From my 5-year-old son: “And then: pow! Peter Pan arrives!”

Well, not, Peter Pan. But J.K. Rowling does show up. Which is just as good.

Now the tribute to the National Health Service

Beds and children pour onto the field in honor of the country’s free health care system. In case you’re wondering, this is “Tubular Bells,” composed by Brit Michael Oldfield. But if you think some of these kids might start spitting up pea soup while their heads spin around, I can understand why.

The Internet approves of the James Bond/Queen entrance

Thus far, Twitter response is very positive to the opening ceremonies. To wit:

Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira on the Queen's entrance

“That moment is going to be written about in every newspaper tomorrow,” says Lauer.

“No,” corrects Vieira. “It’s already viral.”

Thank you, Ms. Vieira, for thinking digitally.

Here’s the Queen’s starring role one more time:

Daniel Craig and corgis join the opening ceremonies

This Olympics is brought to you by Buzzfeed.

No, actually, this is pretty great. After a quick movie montage starring the Queen and her pups, James Bond and the Queen are riding a helicopter to the Olympics. Except that it’s pretty clear Queen Elizabeth is not in the helicopter. We’ll suspend our disbelief.

Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

The rings just burst into flames

And one more history lesson: there are actually five rings to rule them all. And those Olympic rings were forged in a stadium in London.

It turns out the stadium had the smells of Industrial England pumped into the crowd. I wonder how much it cost to perfume polluted air.

And now we cut to commercial for Bounty? On the plus side, Daniel Craig is coming up in a moment.

History lesson

To summarize: so far NBC has taught me that Keep Calm and Carry On was the official British slogan during WWII. And that the Industrial Age was spearheaded by Kenneth Branagh smoking a cigar.

As someone with minor theater experience...

…I have to say this is a hardcore set change.

Hooray, here comes Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band. They’re a bit cheerier than all those faces streaked with industrial age smoke.

 

Entering a new era

Like minds!

Smoke stacks are now invading the Shire

The sweet pastoral life is giving way to the industrial age. Kenneth Branagh is leaving and his posse of look-alikes is looking angry. There are drums. And drums, drums, and drums.

(Markus Schreiber/AP)

First commercial

That was, what, 10 minutes into the ceremony? Clearly there needs to be advertising, but boy does it disrupt the flow.

Kenneth Branagh has entered the building

In that stovepipe hat, I believe he is reading dialogue from “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

No, just kidding. It’s from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

The ceremony is starting

And it looks much like the beginning of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Ah, the Shire!

I also like the kids singing “Danny Boy,” which is very close to Danny Boyle, the fine director of the ceremonies as well as “Slumdog Millionaire.”

 

 

Twitter is already angry

Because Tom Brokaw and Bob Costas mentioned the issue of security at the Olympics. And also because Brokaw said “Keep Calm and Carry On” was the official British motto during World War II. Come on. Everyone knows Urban Outfitters came up with that catch phrase.

 

Torches form a cauldron

Matt Slocum/AP

Back in London in real time:

The young athletes light a ring of torches in the middle of the stadium. The circle of torches grows to include dozens, and the dozens of torches rise as bells toll, forming a great flame of unity — a symbol of all of the nations coming together — in the center of the stadium. The torches represent copper leafs of a cauldron. Fireworks explode above the stadium, and Paul McCartney sings “In the End” and “Hey Jude.”

NBC spares no expense...

They gave Tom Brokaw a Keep Calm and Carry On sign on what appears to posterboard from FedEx Kinko’s…

I know, I know. The special effects we are about to see — smoke! fire! dementors from “Harry Potter” — will compensate for the low tech beginning of the programming.

The torch enters the stadium

Back in London in real time:

Redgrave runs with the torch into the stadium. He runs through an Honor Guard and stands for a moment, addressing the crowd, before passing the flame to seven young British athletes led by rower Cameron MacRitchie. The athletes represent the youth worldwide the organizing committee has sought to inspire through sport. The group jogs around the stadium, then each get a torch and MacRitchie shares the flame with each.

 

Welcome to the 2012 Olympics (on NBC)

The broadcast is beginning with a montage. Get used to this. The Olympics is all about inspirational montages.

On another note, are they going to show Duran Duran at all? Every time the gymnastic fab five is mentioned, I yearn for Simon Le Bon.

Rower Stephen Redgrave takes the torch

British rowing great Stephen Redgrave, who won medals at five straight Olympic Games, receives the torch on a dock beside the Thames moments before the Olympic oath is taken. Who will light the cauldron — and where it is located — remain a mystery.

The Queen opens the Games

Queen Elizabeth II formally kicks off the Olympics, saying, “I declare open the Games of London celebrating the 30th Olympiad of the modern era.” The Olympic flag — white with the Olympic rings in the center — is now carried in, and fans across the stadium hold up placards that make the Olympic flag seem to appear throughout the stands. Muhammad Ali, who walks with an assistant, briefly joins the ceremonial flag bearers.

Getting ready for the NBC broadcast

Hi there. Jen Chaney here, Celebritology blogger and analyzer of pop culture. I’ll be live-blogging the live broadcast beginning in about 5 minutes. You know, for those of you who haven’t already absorbed everything that happened during the opening ceremonies from the sports team’s excellent live blogging. We’ll still be getting feeds from London, so it may seem as if we’re playing with a bit of time travel here. Bear with the oddities of London/U.S. live blogging.

I’ll start when NBC thinks this whole thing is starting: 7:30 p.m. Eastern…

 

Sebastian Coe: "This is our time."

Sebastian Coe, chair of the London 2012 Organizing Committee, pays tribute to the fans and athletes in a speech that marks the official opening of the Games. As the crowd listens in a quieted stadium, Coe says: “In the next two weeks we will show all that has made London one of the greatest cities in the world, the only city to have welcomed the Games three times. Each time we have done it, the world faced turbulence and trouble, and each time the Games have been a triumph… This is our time. One day, we will tell our children and our grandchildren that when our time came, we did it right.”

Singing and cycling

All 204 nations have entered the stadium, giving way to a live performance by the Arctic Monkeys, who perform “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and Lennon and McCartney’s “Come Together.” The group kicks off a segment intended to celebrate the bicycle — for its role in the Games and ordinary life. The performance features dozens of cyclists pedaling in near darkness around the stadium infield. The cyclists are illuminated by glowing wings.

Sketch features the Queen, James Bond

Here’s the video Mike Wise spoke of earlier:

Britain enters the stadium

Britain gets a big welcome. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Prince Harry has grabbed a seat next to Princess Kate as the parade winds down. Massive roars and applause come as Britain’s team enters to a storm of confetti — 7 billion pieces of paper are dropped, one for each person on the planet. With the song “Heroes” by David Bowie providing the background beat, Olympic champion cyclist Chris Hoy leads a jubilant, grinning delegation wearing white zippered jackets with shiny gold trim and collars.

Team USA enters

Fencer Mariel Zagunis leads the American delegation. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The United States got huge cheers as Mariel Zagunis, the Olympic champion fencer, led the American delegation in their Ralph Lauren duds, navy jackets and berets and white skirts and pants. The large contingent — many filming and snapping pictures with their handheld cameras — included sprint star Tyson Gay, NBA stars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, swimmer Natalie Coughlin and others.

 

Semenya carries flag for South Africa

South Africa's Caster Semenya carries the flag. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo)

In a powerful gesture, Caster Semenya, the former 800-meter world champion from South Africa whose gender was controversially called into question during the 2009 world championships in track and field, carried the flag for South Africa. NBA star Pau Gasol led Spain’s delegation, subbing for tennis star Rafael Nadal, who was selected for the honor but withdrew from the Games two weeks ago.

A female first for Qatar

Shooter Bahiya Al-Hamal, Qatar’s first-ever female athlete, also gets the honor of carrying her nation’s flag; she stands tall as she leads a small delegation in a long black dress and black head covering. Soon after, tennis star Maria Sharapova leads the Russian team in a sports jacket and long white pants, followed not long after by tennis champion Novak Djokovic, wearing a red sweater and navy pants and cheerfully waving the Serbian flag as he all but skips into the stadium. The first Saudi woman — the third nation to allow women for the first time to participate in the Games — walks with her teammates, but does not carry the Saudi Arabian flag.

Video sneak peek of Opening Ceremonies

Rating the uniforms

German athletes walk in the Parade of Nations.

  • Belarus = MAJOR fashion fail on all fronts for men. Bad suits, ties, shirs and hats. — Clinton Yates
  • Here comes Italy. Very exuberant — and ruining the line of their exquisite clothing. — Sally Jenkins
  • GAMBIA, FTW. Best parade unis by ten miles. Those were awesome. — Clinton Yates
  • Germany marching in baby blue and pink. Maese says, “Like they don’t know the sex of their babies.” — Sally Jenkins
  • And then….the Fins showed up looking like the Siberian Special Forces dude from Goldeneye. Alrighty then. — Clinton Yates
  • Contest: which uniforms most resemble Braniff flight attendant outfits from yesteryear? Young readers need not play. — Sally Jenkins
  • Remember that line from “Airplane” about it being a bad week to stop sniffing glue? About those uniforms from Estonia … — Alan Abrahamson

What did you think was the best and the worst? Let us know.

The parade continues....

Young runner Kirani James, who last year became the world 400-meter champion at 18, leads Grenada’s olive-jacketed delegation; Marshall Island’s athletes show off traditional grass skirts; Mexico’s delegation parades in bright, multi-colored shirts and skirts and were led by taekwondo star Maria Espinoza, Nigeria’s athletes wear flowing white skirts and robes with green accents and green headwraps.

 

Here's the Queen

Britain's Queen Elizabeth watches the Opening Ceremonies. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Who will light the torch?

The parade continues; more than 10,000 athletes will eventually line up along the infield. Thus far, Canada, China and Brazil have received the loudest applause. One is part of the Commonwealth and the other two bookend as hosts of the Summer Games to Great Britain, so that’s expected.

Via Olympic protocol, Greece always goes first as the originator of the Games and the host nation goes last. Chris Hoy, a cyclist, will carry the flag for Britain.

Still much curiosity about who will light the torch. Personally, I think it’s going to be either Sir Steve Redgrave, the five-time medalist rower, gold medalist decathlete Daley Thompson or, my pick, Sir Roger Bannister.

Though Bannister never medaled in the Games, he broke the 4-minute barrier in the mile in 1954, as you’ll see in my story here.  And, he’s 83 years old, he’s been knighted and that name resonates around the world, not just in the U.K.

Plus, I’ve got an incredible anecdote about Bannister from when London hosted the 1948 Games that would make a great note in my column about the ceremonies in tomorrow’s Post.

While I’ve been writing, Ireland just received the loudest ovation of the night. And, yes, Usain Bolt, the Jamaican flag-bearer, has drawn cheers. Everyone, it seems, is taking pictures of Bolt, who in about a week will run on this track for history as the only person to win both the 100 and 200 at back-to-back Olympics.

All right, we’re at Kenya. It’s a colorful assortment out there. Best unis: I like all the Polynesia nations, just because they wear nice Aloha shirts and remind me of the islands.

Worst: Bulgaria and Estonia. Washed-out gray, lousy fedoras, cheap jeans. Someone has to do some fashion consulting over there.

 

Parade continues as Usain Bolt enters

Usain Bolt leads the Jamaican delegation. (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

British royalty looks on as the march continues; a pan of the camera reveals Prince William and bride Kate Middleton — otherwise known as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge — with heads together grinning at the parade below. Seven-foot Chinese basketball player Yi Jianlian led China’s red-jacketed delegation. Finland featured its first female flag bearer ever, swimmer Hanna-Maria Seppala; a green-jacketed female boxer Katie Taylor carries Ireland’s flag. Usain Bolt enters in a black jacket and yellow pants, grooving to the beat as he carries Jamaica’s flag.

Parade of athletes under way

Members of the Australian team parade into the stadium. (Lars Baron/Getty Images)

With an electronic music beat at 120 beats per minutes to encourage athletes parading into the Olympic Stadium to keep things moving, the parade of nations is underway. Taekwondo athlete Alexandrros Nikolaidis led Greece, traditionally the first nation. An early highlight: the flag for Brunei was carried by the nation’s first-ever female athlete, runner Mazhiah Mahusin, who wore a white head-covering and gray sport coat.

Could Twitter buzz boost NBC's show?

Artists perform during the Opening Ceremony.

If you’re in the U.S., you likely can’t watch the Opening Ceremonies until tonight, thanks to a decision by NBC. While the television company can postpone most of the visuals leaking, it couldn’t stop the reaction flowing over on social media. And those watching sound impressed:

“London opening ceremonies are blowing my mind!” said The Post’s Liz Clarke. “The Queen acting, JK Rowling reading in public, can you top this?” said sportswriter Philip Hersch. “Most creative, mind-bending Olympic ceremony since Philippe Decoufle’s low budget flight of fancy at 1992 Winter Games,” said sportswriter Christopher Clarey. “Danny Boyle providing a masterclass in how to be mainstream and subversive at the same time. It’s genius,” added James Ducker.

With an hour and a half before the show’s start on NBC primetime, the early buzz may be the best advertising ever — or it may burn out viewers before they ever settle down in front of their TVs. Do you think NBC’s decision was a good one? Let us know.

William, Catherine and Harry watch

Prince William (left), Catherine Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry watch the Opening Ceremonies. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Saluting Britain's great musical past

Enjoyed a mosaic of all the musical greats from Great Britain — Kinks, ‘Stones, Beatles, Annie Lennox, The Who, Sid Vicious. (I’m kidding. There was no Sid and Nancy; this is G-rated.)

I keep feeling it’s all a prelude to Sir Paul taking the stage and delivering a fantastic performance. But, alas, no Sir Paul yet.

(Blog interlude: I once had a chance to see McCartney live at FedEx Field, but my wife made me go to her friend’s Fourth of July party in the sticks of Maryland. Above-ground pool. Sparklers. Watermelon. Woo-hoo. Sir Paul sure missed out that night on our shindig.)

Lots of shimmying from maybe 12,000 teens, lots of neon, lots of good music. But no Sir Paul. Where are you, Mr. McCartney?

(Eds. note: The Telegraph has a list of what they say is the full document of all 86 amazing melodies. Who can make a Spotify playlist the fastest?)

The journey of the torch

David Beckham passes under Tower Bridge while driving a speed boat named "Max Power." (Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

The Ceremonies next display a video montage of the torch’s journey across Britain, concluding with a blast across the Thames in a powerboat driven by soccer megastar David Beckham. Next, Scottish singer Emeli Sande’ sings “Abide by Me,” the favorite song of Mahatma Gandhi that was played by the band on the Titanic when it sank. A solemn dance sequence choreographed and led by Akram Khan — a Londoner born of Bangladeshi parents — follows.

National Health Service honored

Children representing the Great Ormond Street Hospital, the NHS and children's literature take part in the Opening Ceremony. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The glowing bed routine was supposedly a tribute to the National Health Service, the BBC reports.

“Olympic opening ceremony now celebrating Britain’s socialized health system with a dance routine. Really.” Slate’s @AnnieLowrey tweeted.

“Good thing romney didn’t see a rehearsal of that..” The Post’s conservative blogger @JRubinBlogger responded.

Mr. Bean is... Brilliant!

Things just got humorous, almost fall-down funny.

So the orchestra launches into a wonderful rendition of “Chariots of Fire,” which I’m sure will link to my story from today right here.

And Rowan Atkinson, who plays the silent character Mr. Bean (you Brits will know who I’m talking about) is actually playing the synthesizer. Now he’s running down the white sand beach in St. Andrews, just like the opening scene of the movie. And he’s pushing people out of the way. It’s freakin’ hilarious. Which leads me to my first…Brilliant!

J.K. Rowling makes rare public appearance

Before we get to the creator of Harry Potter, these grade school-aged children just gave a stirring rendition of Britain’s national anthem. Something about that music resonates more when the most well-known monarch in the world, reigning for 60 years now, is watching the children sing from the Royal Box.

Now we’ve entered a fancy-free, more lively part of the Opening Ceremonies. A bunch of beds have been rolled out and a celebration of children’s literature in the U.K. has begun.

J.K. Rowling, who’s sold more books than anyone in the history of the world (including John Feinstein), reads from the opening paragraph of “Peter Pan.” The music explodes into a crescendo of percussion, mostly techno-sounding. There are literally a thousand or so beds on the infield of the stadium, each with children in them, and nurses beside them.

Now it looks like a giant Lord Voldemort has come out of the stage, followed by dozens of Mary Poppins lookalikes falling from the sky with umbrellas.

A baby’s likeness has just materialized. This whole portion of the program is pretty spectacular, but a little convoluted. But that’s nitpicking. It will translate well on TV in a few hours.

The Queen makes an entrance

A performer in the role of Queen Elizabeth II parachutes out of a helicoptor into the stadium. (Lars Baron/Getty Images)

A performer in the role of Queen Elizabeth II parachutes out of a helicoptor into the stadium. (Lars Baron/Getty Images)

The Queen, in her long pink dress, appears to jump out of the helicopter with James Bond, their parachutes decorated with the British flag.

The actual jumpers landed outside of the stadium as the real Queen emerges with International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge from a private box. The pair takes a seat in the stands.

James Bond arrives

So, we’re all watching this movie at Olympic Stadium in which James Bond (Daniel Craig) walks into the Royal Palace. He’s followed by two mutts and suddenly walks in to see, yes, Queen Elizabeth. It’s her first role. Ever!

The Queen and James Bond start walking out of the palace with the two little dogs of the Queen trailing behind. Now she gets on a helicopter headed toward, yes, the Opening Ceremonies.

It’s corny, cheesy, altogether over the top. And it works! The place is going wild as the helicopter makes its way around London, goes through  the Tower Bridge* and, yes, your Majesty, they skydive out of the helicopter with Bond music playing through the stadium.

This is awesome. The queen has just been introduced. I’m 50 yards from her. This is awesome!

*Thanks to reader PB Andrew for pointing out that the London Bridge is too low to fly under.

Britain's past celebrated

Actors stand in a pen set up for the Opening Ceremonies. (David Gray/Reuters)

Britain opened the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Games with spectacular special effects that accompanied the beginning of a march through its history. After an ode to Britain’s agrarian past, in which the actor Kenneth Branagh quoted from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the ceremony journeyed to a brilliant depiction of the Industrial Revolution. Some 2,500 cast members in peasant attire and others in top hats and frock coats filled the stadium floor for a segment that ended with a giant ring being forged from medal — which joined four others. Those five molten rings — the Olympic rings — rose high above the field of play, exploding with showers of light.

The Olympic rings are illuminated with pyrotechnics as they are raised above the stadium. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

Bradley Wiggins rings Olympic Bell

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins rings the Olympic Bell.

A moment of silence as ceremonies start

After children sing “Danny Boy.” The symphony begins and the mood changes.

Kenneth Branagh just finished reciting Shakespeare and the celebration of the Industrial Revolution has begun. An elaborate procession of performers, with coal smudged on their faces, is making its way around the Olympic Stadium.

They’re literally carting off the plants and flowers from the infield. A huge smokestack is rising from the ground. Now three of them. It’s the most live performers I’ve ever seen on an infield. I didn’t make it to Beijing, but the sheer numbers in London trumps Atlanta, Athens and Sydney.

15 minutes in, everything stops. A hush falls and everyone stands in silence and remembers people lost in war. It was very memorable and well done.

Rain falls on Opening Ceremonies

It’s raining in London, which Mike Wise calls a “huge surprise.”

Spectators shield themselves from the rain.

U.S. women's soccer watches from Glasgow

The U.S. women’s soccer team, which beat France on Wednesday, opted to skip the Opening Ceremonies and remain in Glasgow, where it will face Colombia on Saturday. But as promised, the players dressed up in their official outfits anyway. Check out the photo that Carli Lloyd posted on Twitter here.

Red, white and blue flyover

The Red Arrows fly over Olympic Stadium. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

 

London Olympics Filtered

A sneak peek from my seat for the ceremony.

(Sneak peek from Toni’s seat for the ceremony.)

Post photographer Toni Sandys will be using Instagram to capture behind-the-scenes moments at the Olympics; you can see more of them here.

The scene inside Olympic Stadium

Eight rows up from the floor of Olympic Stadium, the anticipation builds for the Opening Ceremonies to the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Not to give away any secrets, but it looks like Bilbo Baggins’s neighborhood at the moment. The infield resembles a “Lord of the Rings” movie set. There is a miniature stone house, replete with smoke coming from the chimney stack, a garden and a grassy berm with wildflowers that have to be real. Beyond that are a waterwheel and a man-made mountain with a tree on top. They are definitely going green tonight in East London.

The Queen, Wills and Kate will attend, along with First Lady Michelle Obama. Sir Paul McCartney, David Beckham and an assortment of British music and celebrity will take part.

Or as The Sun, Britain’s most popular paper, declared on its front page this morning: “Bond, Becks, Beatles, The Baked Bean….Brilliant!”
Should be fun. I’ll be giving updates for most of the festivities.