Bells rang across Britain yesterday to signal the final countdown to the Olympic Games, which would open with an exuberant and eccentric ceremony last night celebrating the nation in an explosion of dance, music and fireworks inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
The three-hour showcase created by Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle was to take spectators on a journey from Britain’s idyllic countryside through the grime of the Industrial Revolution to end in an explosion of pop culture.
Watched by 60,000 people at the main Olympic stadium built in a run-down part of east London and a global audience of more than 1 billion, the event was to have passages described by British Prime Minister David Cameron as “spine-tingling.”
The spectators were to be urged to join in sing-alongs and help create spectacular visual scenes at an event that would set the tone for the sporting extravaganza, when 16,000 athletes from 204 countries share the thrill of victory and despair of defeat with 11 million visitors.
“There is a huge sense of excitement and anticipation because Britain is ready to welcome the greatest show on Earth,” Cameron said. “This is a great moment for our country so we must seize it.”
Although some details have been leaked about the ceremony, there were still plenty of secrets, including who would have the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron, the moment symbolizing the opening of the Games and ending the Olympic torch’s 14,800km journey the length and breadth of Britain.
Yesterday, the torch made its way up the River Thames aboard the royal barge Gloriana, which was used in Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee last month.
The 86-year-old monarch was to be in the crowd, along with US first lady Michelle Obama and a host of dignitaries and celebrities.
Showers forecast for London after a week of sunshine are expected to clear in time for the ceremony, according to Britain’s Met Office.