Stunt men took their places on the jump, of course. But between the music of Sir Paul McCartney and his lads in time from Liverpool, between Muhammad Ali courageously bearing the Olympic flag with other athletes-turned-humanitarians, between all the pomp and pageantry that could only be culled from Britain’s remarkable history, the host threw one splendid party Friday night to officially open the 2012 London Games.
There was magic in the choreography and the pyrotechnics, wondrous dance and lights used to illuminate everything from the Industrial Revolution to J.K. Rowling reading from “Peter Pan.”
There was meaning in the parade of nations as Saudi Arabia for the first time had a contingent of women marching in the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. And there was a wall of sound when the British Olympic team marched into the stadium as the last athletes introduced.
And finally, nearly four hours after it began, torches held by teenagers were used to light larger torches, which amazingly converged into one monstrous flame. After plumes of smoke from the fireworks flooded the sky, Sir Paul belted out “Hey Jude” as 60,000 swayed to the music.
Some of the theatrics and bits were over the top and the opening felt too long and labored. But, hey, when the world’s nations come together under one flag for two weeks every four years, they’re entitled.
What other country can curtsy to a monarch with a 60-year reign? Indeed, something about Britain parlaying this party off the queen’s diamond jubilee just makes sense. When she was introduced and she smiled briefly, the reverence was palpable. In that way, these are the Jubi-lympics.
From now until next Sunday, Usain Bolt will try to become the first man to ever win back-to-back gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter finals at the Games. Ryan Lochte will attempt to become the greatest swimmer in the world, and to do it, he will have to beat only the man who figures to finish his career as the greatest Olympic champion, medals-wise, in any discipline ever, Michael Phelps.
Kobe, Melo, LeBron and the fellas from Team USA will rout inferior basketball nations by 30 points or more and hope beyond hope that Pau Gasol and Spain don’t ruin their gold-medal dream. (Memo to Pau and Manu Ginobili, Lithuania and anyone else with a decent team: It’s not happening.)
And amid the famous, there will be the anonymous — the real stories of the Olympiad, the disposable heroes who become famous every four years. Those are the ones we need to watch and emulate most.
Such as South Korean archer Im Dong-hyun, who pulled back his bow to set a world record Friday night. Oh, he’s legally blind.