Fri, Jul 27, 2012 - Page 1 News List

London is ready for Olympic extravaganza

AFP and AP, LONDON

Members of France’s Olympic team are led by a performer into a welcoming ceremony ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Olympic Park yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

The London 2012 opening ceremony is set to be a spine-tingling extravaganza that exceeds expectations, thrilled audience members said after witnessing the final rehearsal for today’s showpiece spectacular.

Despite their excitement, those lucky enough to get a sneak peek vowed to keep the surprises secret after the show’s Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle pleaded with them not to ruin it by giving the game away.

Games volunteers and troops were given tickets to the final run-through as a thank-you for their efforts, while members of the 15,000-strong cast were able to reserve tickets for friends and family.

The 60,000-odd crowd seemed filled with enthusiasm as they flooded out of the Olympic Stadium late on Wednesday.

“That was absolutely amazing. I wanted to whoop,” said Hilary Midgley from Darwen in northwest England, whose daughter was in the show.

“It was beyond my wildest expectations. It would have spoilt it for us had we already known what was in it so we’re not going to tell anybody. Anyone who does should be ashamed of themselves,” she said.

The theme of the £27 million (US$42 million) spectacular is “Isles of Wonder,” inspired by a passage from William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. The show is set to be watched by a vast global TV audience.

Meanwhile, the Olympic torch yesterday began a festive valedictory lap around London, taking in some of the sun-drenched capital’s most famous landmarks on the second-to-last day of its trek across Britain.

The torch — carried by athletes, charity workers and celebrities — thrilled thousands of Londoners as it swept across Regent’s Canal in Camden, through the city’s newly renovated neo-gothic train station at St Pancras and down the winding streets of the ancient City of London.

For many Londoners, it was their first glimpse of a golden beacon that has spent the past 68 days traveling up and down the country, from Loch Ness to Land’s End and beyond. Today, the torch is to complete its journey, lighting the Olympic Stadium’s cauldron in a ceremony marking the official start of the 2012 London Games.

Yesterday’s relay — which began in a burst of sunshine following months of awful weather — seemed to lift London’s spirits.

Londoners who have spent much of the past few weeks worrying about rain, security and strikes appeared to lighten up as the flame made its way across town. In the south London borough of Lambeth, thick, flag-waving crowds chanted: “We want the torch!”

Other runners carried the flame past some of the city’s most impressive landmarks yesterday, including the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, where it was to be greeted by Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Yesterday’s torchbearers also included comedian David Walliams, actress Joanna Lumley and Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan.

Men’s soccer was due to take center-stage yesterday as officials blamed human error for the blunder that prompted a North Korean protest on the opening day of competition.

The greatest sporting show on earth officially gets under way today, when about 80,000 VIPs and spectators are to flock to the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony.

However, the sporting action was launched with the opening matches of the women’s soccer tournament at venues across Britain on Wednesday, with their male counterparts entering the fray yesterday.

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