Seven teenagers light the Olympic cauldron; Sushil Kumar carries Indian flag

Britain proudly projected its rich history, literature and humour in a spectacular opening ceremony brilliantly crafted by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle. Yet, it swung to a revolutionary climax, as it made seven young athletes light the cauldron, on an unforgettable night that was a fusion of light, colour and music.

The British imagination was at its best as a clip showed the Queen flying with ‘James Bond’ Daniel Craig in a helicopter from Buckingham Palace on a mission, across the iconic landmarks of the city, and jumping straight into the stadium, even as she was actually escorted by International Olympic Committee president Dr. Jacques Rogge, to declare open the 30th Olympic Games of the modern era.

Stress on youth

Much in contrast to the revered tradition of a great athlete of the host nation lighting the cauldron, London chose to stress on youth even as everyone was busy guessing, after more than three hours of the ceremony and the parade of athletes, whether it would be Sir Roger Bannister or Sir Steve Redgrave.

David Beckham, along with young footballer Jade Bailey, sailing on the Thames in a speedboat, handed over the Olympic torch to Sir Redgrave who carried it into the stadium and passed on to a young athlete.

Seven athletes carried the torch in turn around the track, and soon were presented a torch each by some of the greats of British sports — Lynn Davies, Duncan Goodhew, Dame Kelly Holmes, Dame Mary Peters, Shirley Robertson, Daley Thompson and Sir Redgrave himself.

Copper petal

In an elaborate plan, each team had been given a copper petal on its arrival with the country’s name that was carried during the athletes’ parade, and those 205 petals united after being lighted to emerge as the Olympic cauldron, right in the middle of the stadium, surrounded by the athletes. It was a bit of an anti-climax, to an otherwise memorable fare.

With a budget of $42 million, it was clear that London would not be able to match Beijing that had taken the stage to a different level, and it was natural that London chose to play to its strength and put its people as the heart of the matter.

After opening with a countryside scenario of people leading a simple life, and Bradley Wiggins, the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, sounding the 27-tonne Olympic bell, the stage kept changing dramatically to depict the industrial revolution, the health service, to the digital era, apart from rich theatre and music.

The most successful author in British history, J. K. Rowling, creator of Harry Potter, read from Peter Pan, while the most loved and recognised comic character Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson, was seen at his best, performing with the London Symphony Orchestra and dreaming about being part of the scene from the movie ‘Chariots of Fire’.

The athletes’ parade lasted for about an hour-and-a-half, and wrestler Sushil Kumar carried the flag for India, to be a part of a galaxy of stars to have the honour.

The U.S. and Britain, the biggest contingents, were cheered heartily.

The Chairman of the Organising Committee, Sebastian Coe, said he had never been so proud to be British and be part of the Olympic movement as he was at the moment.

The Olympic flag was carried by eminent personalities, revered musician Daniel Barenboim, Goodwill ambassador for Children of Peace Sally Becker, the director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, Nobel Peace prize winner Leymah Gbowee, greatest distance runner of all time Haile Gebrselassie, Doreen Lawrence, who founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust in memory of her murdered son, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and crusader for the Brazilian rainforest Marina Silva. The final touch of magical aura was extended by ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali.

“There is a truth to sport, a purity, a drama, an intensity, a spirit that makes it irresistible to take part in and irresistible to watch.

London 2012 seeks to capture all of this. London 2012 will inspire a generation,” said Coe.

Homecoming

IOC President Rogge, said, “in a sense, the Olympic Games are coming home tonight.

The great, sports-loving country is widely recognised as the birthplace of modern sport.”

He pleaded with the athletes to stay clean, as he said, “Character counts far more than medals.

Reject doping, respect your opponents. Remember that you are all role models,” he said. Sarah Stevenson took the oath on behalf of the athletes, Mik Bassi on behalf of the officials, and as a new addition, on behalf of the coaches, Eric Farrell took the oath. London did rise to the occasion, though the programme was a bit unwieldy as it tried to recapture numerous aspects, and tired out a lively audience of about 80,000 that soaked in the atmosphere.

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