The show, which Boyle called “a celebration of the creativity, exuberance and, above all, the generosity of the British people,” brought viewers on a tour of British history — sports and otherwise — beginning with bucolic scenes of livestock and maypole dancing followed by a transformation of the landscape into a quasi-nightmarish industrial arena and culminating with the Olympic rings forged from molten metal, the BBC reported.
At one point, a troupe of Mary Poppinses descended from the sky to chase off Harry Potter villain Voldemort during a section of the show honoring the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.
The production, described as a live film, incorporated several recorded scenes, including Daniel Craig as James Bond escorting Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace to the Olympic stadium via helicopter and parachute. The queen then appeared in the royal box alongside the duke of Edinburgh and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge.
The parade of nations began as always with Greece, then ran alphabetically until team Great Britain brought up the rear, led by four-time Olympic track cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy to the tune of David Bowie’s “Heroes” amid 7 billion piece of biodegradable confetti. Moments earlier, the 530 athletes comprising Team USA — the most successful team in Olympic history — were cheered on from the stands by first lady Michelle Obama.
“London has an unmatched record for hosting the Games that spans more than a century,” Rogge said after the parade, thanking the “diverse, vibrant and cosmopolitan” city.
“This is the birthplace of modern sport, the concepts of sportsmanship and fair play were codified here. Where sport as part of the educational curriculum was born,” Rogge said, adding, “For the first time in Olympic history all of the teams have female athletes — and this is a major boost for gender equality.”
The queen then declared the Games of London open as the Olympic flag was carried into the stadium by, among others, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who earlier issued the Olympic truce, calling on all countries to declare peace during the fortnight. Boxing icon Muhammad Ali led the flag bearers.
Sir Steve Redgrave, the retired British rower who won gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games from 1984 to 2000, accepted the Olympic flame on the banks of the River Thames from a speedboat-driving David Beckham and began his run into the arena, where he passed an honor guard of 500 workers who built the stadium, the BBC said. He then passed the flames to seven young athletes who lit the Olympic cauldron, which was formed during the parade as each nation deposited a single copper petal on a hill until all 204 petals were assembled as one.
Sir Paul McCartney then appeared and led the stadium in a rendition of “Hey Jude.”
Earlier, British cyclist and 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins struck the world’s largest harmonically tuned bell to open the official ceremony, which was prefaced by a flyover by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, better known as the Red Arrows, trailing red, white and blue smoke.