Ever since I arrived in the UK on July 12, signs of the Olympics have been everywhere. Posters, billboards, and television commercials have been constant reminders of the upcoming games, and every day, the headlines of every newspaper have discussed some aspect of the Olympics, both positive and negative. Of course, there has been a great amount of anticipation about the opening ceremonies and what they'll include. The thought has crossed my mind that Beijing's spectacular opening ceremony cannot be topped, but there is a great deal of excitement and pride among Brits as the ceremony has drawn closer, and we'll see what Danny Boyle has come up with.
I'm watching the festivities with my friends, the Hughes family, at their home in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, a couple of hours north of London. At a barbecue with their extended family last night, there was constant speculation about who will actually light the Olympic flame. I'm glad I'm watching it with some Brits as I might not recognize all of the celebrities, including sporting heroes, who will participate in the ceremony. We've marked this special night with take-out fish and chips and are settling in for a marathon event. Whether we'll all make it until 1:30 a.m. remains to be seen, but I definitely hope to make it to midnight, which is the approximate time for the lighting of the Olympic flame.
So, some of my thoughts as I watch…
Pre-event coverage has been showing a full-fledged farm with live animals. I can't wait to see what part they play in the ceremony! It started to rain lightly prior to the start, but hopefully weather won't get in the way.
There is great excitement as Bradley Wiggins, the first British man to win the Tour de France, is announced and rings a bell marking the start. As the show moves on, the shift on the field from beautiful English countryside to industrial Britain is really startling, and how they're coordinating all of these volunteer performers is quite impressive.
Is that really Queen Elizabeth with James Bond at Buckingham Palace?! Quite a response from our viewing crowd here! She is really displaying a sense of humor by taking part in the ceremony in this way; her appearance at the actual ceremony is more typical of her usual stately demeanor.
It's interesting that they're highlighting the National Health Service. My friends and I can't help but wonder what Mitt Romney is thinking?!
I am loving the celebration of children's book characters. There had been a report yesterday that dozens of women dressed as Mary Poppins would face off with Voldemort, and I'm amused to see that the reports weren't completely off!
"Chariots of Fire!" of course they are going to perform the theme! 'No talking' was just declared here as we anticipated the music starting, but then we all burst out laughing when Rowan Atkinson, "Mr. Bean," appeared. Moving on, no surprise that the stars of the British Invasion and David Bowie and Queen are represented and so many other recognizable songs of British artists are included. It's a trip down memory lane for my friends and I, who are very much children of the 80s. There is also a huge response for the inventor of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee. Where would we all be without him?!
Here come the athletes, finally, which is exciting! It's great to see a number of counties who include female participants for the first time. What I love about watching the countries enter is that you really get some sense of the culture of each, and also, although there is obviously great diversity represented, there is a unifying theme as each flag-bearer displays the great excitement and pride of each team. I was really excited watching the USA athletes march in, but my hosts all leapt up at the announcement of Team GB, and are so proud of their athletes, reflecting the excitement in the stadium (I should add they aren't thrilled with the Team GB outfits, designed by Stella McCartney, which really are a bit odd!)
We're getting closer to the lighting of the flame… cyclists with glowing wings as Arctic Monkeys play "Come Together" – interesting!
I'm genuinely thrilled to see Muhammed Ali participating in the ceremony. I knew he was in London, but hadn't thought about him being involved in the ceremony. I've been thinking about him, because his lighting the flame in Atlanta is one of my favorite Olympic memories. Here comes the flame now, with David Beckham in a speedboat! It's almost 12:30 a.m., later than we were expecting to see the lighting. Now Steve Redgrave, perhaps Britain's greatest Olympic champion, has passed the torch to a group of young British athletes, which is an interesting touch. Each has been nominated by a British Olympic legend. As they complete their running of the torches, and light the cauldron, the flame looks amazing! The fireworks display was also spectacular.
And it's Sir Paul! Not a major surprise, of course, but exciting nonetheless. Fun to have a "Hey Jude" sing-a-long at this point of the night... and that's the conclusion, just past 12:45 a.m., so not quite as long as they said, which is just fine with us.
I thought it was a fabulous ceremony overall. We were all really excited watching it together, and we're all even more excited to get to London and experience the Olympic spirit in person!
A BBC commentator called the ceremony "quintessentially British," and one of my friends commented that, "if you were in some far-flung place, and the UK really wasn't on your radar, from watching this, you'd really get an idea of what it means to be British." I think that's got to be part of the goal of the organizers, and hearing it from a native, I'd call the ceremony a tremendous success.