Friday's Opening Ceremonies mark the official launch of the 2012 London Olympics, and Britain called in a bevy of performances for director Danny Boyle's grand party.
The festivities started with an illustrious trip through England's early years and the industrial revolution. Kenneth Branagh performed an excerpt from Shakespeare's "The Tempest," which Boyle had said inspired the show.
Other characters figuring prominently included Daniel Craig's James Bond, who appeared in a pre-recorded skit with the Queen. A stunt version of the pair parachuted into the stadium as the Bond theme played.
Among the surprises was Mr. Bean himself. Rowan Atkinson appeared among the London Philharmonic, looking annoyed at the dull keyboarding duties he was assigned. He then went joined some athletes for training, though he tired quickly of a beach run and called for a taxi. A cab promptly appeared and took him zooming past the supposed Olympians.
Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort also appeared during the proceedings, but fear not: He was vanquished by a fleet of Mary Poppinses. The segment included a number of villains from children's books, including Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Dizzee Rascal performed during a musical montage, rapping his 2009 hit, "Bonkers." After the athlete march, the Arctic Monkeys took the stage to perform a medley of their song "You Look Good on the Dance Floor" and The Beatles' "Come Together."
Of course, the biggest music moment of the evening was Paul McCartney's performance. The Beatle sang "Hey Jude," eventually leading a gigantic sing-a-long with the entire crowd in the stadium. It was a special moment, as the beautiful and intricate Olympic torch had just been lit.
McCartney implored "just the men" and then "just the women, just the girl" to sing the song before bringing the entire crowd in for a cathartic final few verses.
It's hard to imagine how expectations for Friday's event could have been higher. London's Olympiad follows Bejing's 2008 masterful ceremonies, during which, for example, over 2,000 drummers worked in unison to create a once in a lifetime light show. Boyle and the Olympic committee repeatedly said they were not trying to mimic the scale of 2008's proceedings.
The renowned "Slumdog Millionaire" filmaker pleaded with those present for dress rehearsals to not tweet or leak details from the show. Though a surprisingly small amount of information has made it out, here's what the Associated Press was able to gather in advance:
The ceremony will open at 9 p.m. with the sound of a 27-ton bell – the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world – forged at London's 442-year-old Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which made London's Big Ben and Philadelphia's Liberty Bell.
A pre-recorded segment has been filmed inside Buckingham Palace, reportedly involving Queen Elizabeth II and Daniel Craig as secret agent James Bond. If rumor is to be believed, a stuntman dressed as 007 will parachute into the stadium to start the show.
The opening sequence will evoke a pastoral idyll, the "green and pleasant land" described in William Blake's poem "Jerusalem," which has been set to music and is regarded as England's unofficial national anthem. There's a meadow, livestock, a farmer plowing his field, a cricket match – and, in a nod to Britain's plethora of rural summer music festivals, a mosh pit.
A leaked playlist was also floating around in advance of Friday's events. Most of the usual suspects (The Beatles, Stones, Duran Duran) were included, but Elton John, Sting (and The Police), The Smiths and The Cure were among the noticeably absent names on the pre-ceremony version of the list.
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