Best show on earth opens even betterBy Ted S. Melendres
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LONDON—The nation which gave the world the Beatles, Shakespeare, Harry Potter, James Bond, the jet engine and the train, among other things, opened the London Olympics a record third time in dazzling, eye-popping ceremonies here Friday night (Saturday morning in Manila).
Lost in the eccentric celebration of everything that is good about being British was the march-past of the tiny Philippine delegation that was led into the Games by female weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and refreshingly included more athletes than officials, 11 to 8.
As the stadium announcer called in the Philippines and prefaced the introduction with “A winner of seven Olympic medals but still has to make the Big G (for gold),” the contingent waved to the 70,000 spectators and then promptly took its place among the Games’ lesser lights.
Behind Diaz, also a veteran of the Beijing Olympics, marched chief of mission Manny Lopez, Philippine Olympic Committee chair Monico Puentevella, shooting chief Mikee Romero and the athletes’ coaches.
No other city has hosted the Summer Games three times and no other head of state has declared the Games open twice. Queen Elizabeth also did the honors at Montreal, Canada—a British Commonwealth nation—in 1976.
The $50-million 3-hour production, directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle, did not aim to best the impossibly high standard set by Beijing 2008. Instead, Boyle’s army of 10,000 volunteers and his creative genius made the Beijing model irrelevant.
After Bradley Wiggins, Britain’s heroic Tour de France winner, rang in the Games using a golden 23-ton bell made specially for the occasion, the ceremony exploded in a brilliant haze of colors and culture.
Lights shone down on kaleidoscopic scenes of British life as the show featured amazingly complex images and visual effects.
Actor Kenneth Branagh recited Shakespeare, a boy sang a spellbinding solo of William Blake’s Jerusalem, and as the transfixed audience roared their approval, chimneys rose up behind a water wheel to symbolize Britain’s Industrial Revolution.
Doctors and nurses sashayed among luminescent hospital beds in a dazzling cabaret, and images of British life past and present took a starring role as the scenes galloped through the history of the British Isles.
In a salute to wicked wizardry, a 41-foot puppet of Lord Voldemort, the evil wizard from the Harry Potter books, materialized over the performers.
Comedian Rowan Atkinson of Mr. Bean fame brought the house down with a couple of antics—a sneeze-ruined performance on the grand piano and a slow-motion act in a scene from The Chariots of Fire.
In a change of tempo to the breathtakingly fast show, Daniel Craig as James Bond Agent 007 fetched the Queen at Buckingham Palace and, in a realistic video, introduced her and her husband to the Olympic gallery after parachuting from a helicopter.
“Let the Games of the 2012 London Olympics begin,” the Queen later said, by way of declaring the competitions—also hosted by London in 1948 and 1908—open.
“The show was spectacular and everyone in our group enjoyed the way Britain opened the Games in such style,” said Lopez. “Compared to the other opening ceremonies in the past, this one paid attention to the athletes’ welfare. Apparently, the organizers did not want the athletes to leave the event tired.”
All 11 Filipino athletes, garbed in Rajo Laurel-styled Filipiniana attire, joined the parade.
Archers Mark Javier and Rachelle Anne Cabral, who both saw action earlier in the day in the 70-meter classification round, joined BMX rider Daniel Caluag, boxer Mark Barriga, long jumper Marestella Torres, 5,000-meter runner Rene Herrera, swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jesse Khing Lacuna, skeet shooter Brian Rosario and Filipino-Japanese judoka Tomohiko Hoshina in the parade.
“What a show,” gushed Caluag, the Filipino-American former four-time US No. 1, who was the last to check into the Olympic Village Thursday. “That’s what the Olympics is also all about.”
“It’s the best show on earth made even better,” said Ed Bartran, 21, a Filipino volunteer garbed in the Games’ red, pink and purple uniform.