British brilliance: With royalty and rock, Britain opens its Olympics
LONDON — The queen and James Bond gave the London Olympics a royal entrance like no other Friday in an opening ceremony that rolled to the rock of the Beatles, the Stones and The Who.
And the creative genius of Danny Boyle spliced it all together.
Brilliant. Cheeky, too.
The highlight of the Oscar-winning director's $42 million show was pure movie magic, using trickery to make it seem that Britain's beloved 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II had parachuted into the stadium with the nation's most famous spy.
A short film showed Daniel Craig as 007 driving to Buckingham Palace in a black London cab and, pursued by the royal corgis, meeting the queen, who played herself.
"Good evening, Mr. Bond," she said.
They were shown flying in a helicopter over London landmarks and a waving statue of Winston Churchill — the queen in a salmon-colored dress, Bond dashing as ever in a black tuxedo — before leaping into the inky night over Olympic Park.
At the same moment, real skydivers appeared as the stadium throbbed to the James Bond theme. And moments after that, the monarch appeared in person, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip.
Organizers said it was thought to be the first time she has acted on film.
"The queen made herself more accessible than ever before," Boyle said.
In the stadium, Elizabeth stood solemnly while a children's choir serenaded her with "God Save the Queen," and members of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force raised the Union Jack.
Boyle sprang another giant surprise and picked seven teenage athletes for the supreme honor of igniting the Olympic cauldron. Together, they touched flaming torches to trumpetlike tubes that spread into a ring of fire.
The flames rose and joined elegantly together to form the cauldron. Fireworks erupted over the stadium to music from Pink Floyd. And with a singalong of "Hey Jude," Beatle Paul McCartney closed a show that ran 45 minutes beyond its scheduled three hours.
Organizers said the cauldron would be moved Sunday night to the corner of the stadium where a giant bell tolled during the show.
Boyle turned the stadium into a giant juke box, with a nonstop rock and pop homage to cool Britannia that ensured the show never caught its breath.
The high-adrenaline soundtrack veered from classical to irreverent. Boyle daringly included the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" and a snippet of its version of "God Save the Queen" — an anti-establishment punk anthem once banned by the BBC.
The encyclopedic review of modern British music continued with a 1918 Broadway standard adopted by the West Ham football team, the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," by still another Queen, and other tracks too numerous to mention, but not to dance to.
The evening started with fighter jets streaming red, white and blue smoke and roaring over the 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.
Boyle, one of Britain's most successful filmmakers, who directed "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Trainspotting," had a ball with his favored medium, mixing filmed passages with live action in the stadium to hypnotic effect, with 15,000 volunteers taking part in the show.
Actor Rowan Atkinson as "Mr. Bean" provided laughs, shown dreaming that he was appearing in "Chariots of Fire," the inspiring story of a Scotsman and an Englishman at the 1924 Paris Games.
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