Olympic Viewing Guide: The Opening Ceremony

The Queen, Paul McCartney and James Bond reportedly coming together to launch London 2012

An estimated one billion people will stop what they are doing to watch the London 2012 opening ceremony Friday, as athletes from across the globe officially open the games of the 30th Olympiad during a $42 million extravaganza.

The opening ceremony -- titled “Isles of Wonder” -- was created by Oscar winning director Danny Boyle of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Trainspotting” fame. Leading up to the blockbuster show, Boyle said: “Our Isles of Wonder salutes and celebrates the exuberant creativity of the British genius in an opening ceremony that we hope will be as unpredictable and inventive as the British people.”

When to watch

The ceremony will be broadcast at 7:30 p.m. ET / PT on NBC.

What You’ll See

Not all details are known (but there are plenty of predictions) and Danny Boyle no doubt has some surprises in store for the 62,000 people in the stadium and those watching at home. His chosen title was inspired by a speech in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” “It is about the wondrous beauty of Caliban’s island and his deep, deep devotion to it,” Boyle told The Guardian.

Boyle has crafted a special short film featuring actor Daniel Craig in the role of James Bond along with Queen Elizabeth II, who will naturally play herself, according to The Sun. In the film, Bond reportedly arrives at Buckingham Palace where he is knighted and then sent on a special mission to open the London Games. Bond boards a helicopter that will fly up the Thames, under Tower Bridge and drop the British Secret Service agent at the Olympic stadium.

The official ceremony begins with the ringing of a bell – the largest bell ever cast in Europe – that will hang at one end of the stadium.

The stadium will be transformed into a British countryside scene featuring fields, meadows and live animals including sheep, horses, cows, chickens and goats. According to the Daily Mail, there’ll be a cricket pitch and synthetic clouds will reportedly hang above the bucolic pastures. Four giant Maypoles will represent England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

The green will give way to an industrial landscape featuring the Houses of Parliament and Royal Albert Hall. Performers will then recreate the Jarrow march of 1936 when 200 walked to London to protest poverty and unemployment in the north east. There will be a tribute to the suffragette movement and the British National Health Service will be honored by real nurses pushing hospital beds around the arena.

More than 10,000 volunteers will take part in the performances. And soccer star David Beckham will be in there somewhere.

The 86 musical tracks selected for the ceremony were mixed by techno group Underworld and will include the theme from “Chariots of Fire,” "London Calling" by The Clash, "Firestarter" by The Prodigy, the Eton Boating Song, and the theme from the English drama series “The Eastenders.”


As the head of state, the Queen will be received at the stadium’s entrance by the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jaques Rogge.

The above will be followed by the procession of athletes who enter nation by nation.

Once the approximately 10,000 athletes are in their places, former British Olympic medalist for middle distance running Sebastian Coe will make a speech and then Rogge will invite the Queen to officially declare the Games open.

After the declaration, the Olympic flag will be carried into the stadium and hoisted into the air as the official Olympic anthem is played. The Olympic Charter states that the flag must fly for the duration of the Games in a prominent position in the main stadium.

A participating athlete, coach and judge from the host nation will then stand on the rostrum, each holding a corner of the IOC flag in their left hand. They will then raise their right hand and take the Olympic Oath, vowing to compete and judge according to the rules of their respective sports.

Lighting the Flame

The climax of the ceremony will be the arrival of the Olympic flame at the stadium – which is rumored to be approaching the venue from the water – and the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron at around midnight London time.

Who will actually light the cauldron is shrouded in mystery. Traditionally it is a former Olympic athlete from the host nation.

Hey Jude!

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney confirmed that he will end the opening ceremony with a musical performance. While the exact song list has not been released, the Sunday Times reports that it will include a sing-a-long version of the 1968 Beatle hit “Hey Jude.” The rumors concerning the choice of song began when McCartney omitted playing “Hey Jude” as part of his Diamond Jubilee performance last month.


No Olympic opening ceremony is complete without a dazzling display of pyrotechnics to end the event. Topping the spectacular fireworks that concluded the Beijing 2008 Games may be difficult, but London officials are sure to end the evening with a glittering extravaganza.

More on the Opening Ceremony plans and predictions.

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