WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 — A billion people around the world will be watching when the 2012 Olympics extravaganza, aka the Opening Ceremony in London, kicks off on Friday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. EDT. It will run for three hours and cost £ 27 million or about $42 million.
Will it live up to the stunning spectacle of the Beijing Olympics four years ago? That is the question. Two movie directors, Oscar winner Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and Oscar nominated Stephen Daldry (“Billy Elliott”), have teamed up to direct the largest live show London has ever produced and the pressure is on.
Most of the events and performers at the Opening Ceremonies are hush-hush to give it more of a Wow factor, and other moments are leaked out to tease the appetite of the fans, who will be glued to their TV sets. People who are on the inside have been sworn to secrecy. Still tidbits are seeping through and this is what we know so far.
Isle of Wonder
The theme of opening ceremonies is called “Isle of Wonder,” supposedly inspired by a quote from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” “Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises.”
But don’t look for an island paradise. This Isle is also about a land recovering from its industrial revolution. Must say that sounds grim even with lights, music and a cast of thousands.
The ceremony will open with the ringing of the world’s largest harmonically tuned bell, weighing in at 27 tons. Then comes a short film called “The Arrival” that is reported to show Daniel Craig, aka James Bond, being knighted by Queen Elizabeth, followed by Craig (probably a stuntman) parachuting into the Olympic Stadium. Although there has been a rumor that “he” might descend down a rope ladder dangling from a helicopter. Stay tuned.
Then follows a pastoral scene, dubbed “Green and Pleasant,” complete with farmers tilling, livestock grazing, teams playing cricket, and dancers cavorting around May poles. An ideal bucolic scene of England. The scene then abruptly changes to the Industrial Revolution and all it wrought upon the world.
A Hodgepodge or a Salute to Britain?
Next comes the celebration of the Brits’ love of Saturday nights out, the right to protest, a tribute to the nation’s nurses, and a salute to British music from the 60s until now. How’s that for a concoction of entertainment? In between there are to be a homage to Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan with a cast of 15,000. And lots of music.
Next up is Sir Paul McCartney, accompanied by 50 Sergeant Peppers, concluding with a “Hey Jude” sing-a-long with 60,000 extras. Rumors abound that some of Britain’s other music legends might perform like the Rolling Stones or even the Spice Girls. And, yes, Beckham is back in the opening ceremonies, somewhere.
The Queen will close out the festivities with the march of the competing Olympic athletes through the stadium. First Lady Michelle Obama will head up the U.S. delegation. Finally the Olympic torch will reach the end of his journey, igniting the Olympic flame as fireworks illuminate the night sky.
If all of this sounds a bit wacky and over the top it is, according to people who saw the rehearsals, and loved it. The organizers say it is filled with what some call madcap humor and lots of laughs, British style.
While those lucky enough to view the rehearsals were sworn to secrecy about the details, the virtual reactions have ranged from “jaw dropping” to “Splendidly British and magnificently bonkers.”
For American viewers it will be fascinating to see the reactions of NBC hosts Bob Costa, Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira. Will Americans find it charming, tasteless, or puzzling?
Are we ready for the Olympics meets “Fawlty Towers?”
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