Curious about what went on across the pond? Here's a photographic summary of the London Games opening ceremony.
A Brief History of Great Britian. The ceremony opened with a quick-edit filmed tour of the Thames River, leading into a sequence set on the stadium's initial ye-olde-English-village set celebrating England's idyllic rural beginnings. There was dancing, and sheep, and possibly some dancing sheep. Then Kenneth Branagh arrived in full Abraham Lincoln garb and delivered a speech from Shakespeare, because what else are you going to do with Kenneth Branagh?
This was followed by a slow transformation of the village set into an Industrial Revolution factory, complete with an impressive set of five "smokestacks" slowly rising out of the base of the stadium to tower over the crowd. With a crowd of sufragettes and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band members milling around, the factory ironworkers eventually "forged" a ring that lifted into the sky and joined with four others to create a rather stunning set of Olympic rings.
Mostly ridiculous, yes, but enjoyably so. And hey, giant floating rings of fire are never a bad idea.
Video! NBC has deigned to grace us with a video from the cermonies before they begin airing it at 7:30 ET (6:30 West Coast):
Pop culture galore. Ceremony director Danny Boyle has included two filmed interludes, the first featuring Daniel Craig (as James Bond) escorting Queen Elizabeth II (as Queen Elizabeth II) to a helicopter which transports her to the ceremony ... via parachute.
The second featured an appearance by Rowan "Mr. Bean" Atkinson in the ceremony orchestra and his assistance in performing Vangelis' "Chariots of Fire" theme. This led into a dream sequence in which Atkinson runs along the beach in a recreation of the film's famous scene.
This was followed by a lengthy tribute to the U.K.'s staggering history of pop music (with a helping of film, seen in part above). The good: there's a lot of good British rock. The bad: we only heard 20 seconds or less of any given piece at a time before moving on to a new one. Between the scattershot nature of the sequence and the manic dancing to accompany it, it felt like Boyle was maybe trying too hard to make something traditionally "opening ceremony" into something more exciting.
Voldemort vs. 50 Mary Poppinses: who would win? In the night's other major sequence, a tribute to a famous London children's hospital morphed into a celebration of the U.K.'s children's literature. Various literary villains (see: Mr. Voldemort) portrayed by larger-than-life puppets threatened a collection of hospitalized children, only for an army of literary heroes (see: Ms. Poppins) to chase them away. It was ... something. (For a shot of the Voldemort, see here.)
The usual stuff. The Union Jack was brought in by U.K. armed forces and raised to the strains of a (deaf!) children's choir singing "God Save the Queen" in a genuinely moving moment. Lord Coe and Jacque Rogges made the traditional head of local organizing committee and IOC president comments. They weren't any more interesting than usual.
David Beckham was bringing the torch by speedboat. We saw David Beckham, bringing the torch by speedboat.
Controversy brewing? In what should have been a nice, uncontroversial gesture, ceremony organizers asked attendees to send in photos of their lost loved ones, which were then displayed in the stadium as a kind of In Memoriam as Scots singer Emili Sande performed the song "Abide With Me."
The problem: the IOC inexplicably nixed a request from the Israeli Olympic Committee for a moment's silence during the ceremony for the Jewish athletes infamously murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Munich games. That decision has already come under heavy fire --particularly in the U.S. and Israel -- and will only come under more given that the ceremony did find the time to memorialize a collection of Brits.
Fashion minute. There's been an unfortunate lack of tacky, mockable outfits among the Parade of Nations so far, with most delegations sticking to something classy and befitting of the occasion. (How dare they!) But some have been stylish enough to rise above being merely stately, starting with India:
Matching turbans and saris in that awesome gold? India doesn't win a lot of medals -- they have one of the lowest medals-per-capita ratios in the world, in fact -- but they were winners tonight.
Your required Team USA shot:
The torch-lighting. After weeks of rumormongering and scuttlebutt in the British tabloids about the identity of the final torchbearer, it turned out the man they were looking for was actually several boys and girls--seven young British athletes to whom the torch was literally passed by a collection of Brit Olympic legends.
Those athletes lit a series of copper petals that lit other copper petals and then all of the petals lifted up to form one giant cauldron. That's probably not very clear, so, first it looked like this:
And then it looked like this:
We weren't really a fan of the "passing the torch" idea, since it relied heavily on cleverness and symbolism in a moment that's really about the crowd collectively going That guy! Yeah! That's my favorite guy ever! All right! But there's also no denying the incredible coolness of the cauldron concept.
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All photos by the Associated Press.