Eric Gay, AP
LONDON — Britain greeted the world Friday with an extravagant celebration that included Bond, the Bard and a Beatle — and a formal welcome from no less a figure than its jubilee queen.
London's seven-year countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games came to a crescendo with a stunning, imaginative, whimsical and dramatic celebration of the host country.
Fighter jets streaming red, white and blue smoke roared over the Olympic Stadium, packed with a buzzing crowd of 60,000 people, at 8:12 p.m. — or 20:12 in the 24-hour time observed by Britons.
An explosion of fireworks against the London skyline and Paul McCartney leading a singalong were to wrap up the three-hour show masterminded by one of Britain's most successful filmmakers, Oscar winner Danny Boyle.
He led off his spectacular in his favored medium, with a high-speed flyover of the Thames, the river that slices like a vein through London and was the gateway for the city's rise over the centuries as a great global hub of trade and industry.
The rush of images showed a cricket match, the London Tube and the roaring, abundant seas that buffet and protect this island nation — set to a pulsating soundtrack including snippets of the Sex Pistols' irreverent "God Save the Queen."
Later, Queen Elizabeth II stood solemnly as the more traditional version of the anthem was sung by a choir of children. Boyle filmed a sequence showing a stunt version of the 86-year-old monarch carried to the stadium by helicopter and parachuting in.
To open the ceremony, children popped ballons with each number from 10 to 1, leading a countdown that climaxed with Bradley Wiggins, the newly crowned Tour de France champion. Wearing his race-winner's yellow jersey, Wiggins rang a 23-ton Olympic Bell from the same London foundry that made Big Ben and Philadelphia's Liberty Bell.
Its thunderous chime echoed around the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium. Bells in Britain have traditionally pealed to celebrate the end of war and the crowning of kings and queens, and now for the opening of a 17-day festival of sports.
The show then shifted to a portrayal of Britain that Britons cling to — a place of meadows, farms, sport on village greens, picnics and Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne's fictional bear who has delighted generations of British children tucked warmly in bed.
But the British ideal — to quote poet William Blake, of "England's green and pleasant land" — then took a darker, grittier turn.
The set was literally torn asunder, the hedgerows and farm fences carried away, as Boyle shifted to the industrial transformation that revolutionized Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, the foundation for an empire that reshaped world history. Belching chimneys rose where only moments earlier sheep had trod.
The Industrial Revolution also produced terrifying weapons, and Boyle built a moment of hush into his show to honor those killed in war.
"This is not specific to a country; this is across all countries, and the fallen from all countries are celebrated and remembered," he explained to reporters ahead of the ceremony.
"Because, obviously, one of the penalties of this incredible force of change that happened in a hundred years was the industrialization of war, and the fallen," he said. "You know, millions fell."
Olympic organizers separately rejected calls for a moment of silence for 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Two of the Israelis' widows appealed to audience members to stand in silence when International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge rises to speak later at Friday's ceremony. The Israeli culture and sport minister planned to do just that.
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