James Bond, Queen steal Olympics show

Posted at 07/28/12 4:49 AM

Actors portraying the Queen and James Bond arrive via parachute after jumping from a helicopter during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

LONDON (UPDATED) - James Bond actor Daniel Craig and Queen Elizabeth stole the show at an exuberant 2012 Olympic opening on Friday, appearing together in a short film beamed to 60,000 cheering spectators in the main stadium and a billion more viewers around the world.

The comedic, quintessentially British moment complemented a show that film director Danny Boyle, an Oscar winner for "Slumdog Millionaire", turned into an unabashed celebration of the host nation's history, culture and eccentricity.

In the tongue-in-cheek film Craig wears his trademark tuxedo and enters Buckingham Palace, the 86-year-old monarch with her two corgis at her feet, in a dramatic cinematic debut, turns from a writing desk and says simply: "Good evening, Mr. Bond."

The moment drew a huge cheer from the audience, not used to seeing Her Majesty play such an informal part in proceedings and coincides with a resurgence in the royal family's popularity following the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Doubles of Bond and the queen then parachuted onto the roof of the stadium from a helicopter, built on the Olympic Park in a once derelict area of London's East End, and the national anthem and Union flag raising followed.

The surreal footage and stunt had been kept a closely guarded secret in the buildup to the ceremony, which also includes speeches, the athletes' parade and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.

Over the following 17 days, the drama of sporting contest takes hold the length and breadth of Britain as more than 16,000 athletes from 204 countries will aim to achieve their ultimate dream - Olympic gold.

The ceremony, inspired by Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and packed with literary and musical references, began with a recreation of an English rural idyll complete with grassy meadows, fences, hedges, a water mill, maypoles and a cottage.

A cast including shepherdesses, sheep, geese, dogs and a village cricket team filled the stage during the one-hour prologue to the show that included a dramatic, low-level fly-past by the jets of the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows stunt team.

After "England's green and pleasant land" came the "dark Satanic mills" of William Blake's famous poem.

In the next phase titled "Pandemonium", grass was brutally uprooted and fences dismantled to be replaced by a blackened scene that recalled the Industrial Revolution.

To the deafening beat of hundreds of drummers, giant chimneys rose from the ground and began to belch smoke as a small army of volunteers, dressed as 19th century factory workers, forged one of the five Olympic rings.

The giant orb was raised to the sky to join the four others, letting off a fountain of sparks, drawing gasps from many in the audience.

All around, especially designed "pixel" light boxes installed next to every seat accompanied each scene with giant images of waves, flags and words.

At one end of the stadium stands a grassy knoll topped by a tree and at the other end the 23-tonne bell, which Bradley Wiggins, Britain's winner of this year's Tour de France, rang to kick off proceedings.

In front of each is a "mosh pit" of people conjuring the spirit of the Glastonbury music festival and Last Night of the Proms classical concert.

Among the crowd were celebrities, ordinary Londoners, visitors from abroad and dignitaries including U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama as well as presidents, prime ministers and European royalty.

Boyle's colourful and sometimes chaotic vision aims to create a kaleidoscope of what it means to be British.