Let the games begin: A preview of the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony

Excitement is rising for the London Olympics.

An estimated 4 billion pairs of eyes will be watching, as London becomes the first city in history to host the Olympic Games for the third time. With its prior hosting duties in 1908 and 1948, the city known for its
pomp and pageantry is planning a spectacular opener that will likely
rival even Beijing’s dazzling display in 2008.

As the saying goes, “If the shoe fits, wear it.”

London is home to more than 250 nationalities who fill the air with the hum of 300 languages, making it the natural fit for the world’s most famous international competition. The city is bustling with millions of fans who have traveled here to witness a piece of history, each hoping to cheer their local athletes to glory.

London enlisted the guidance of English director Danny Boyle, famous for his film “Slumdog Millionaire” to coordinate a show-stopping opening ceremony. Boyle reportedly went through $42 million in his effort to tell the story of Britain’s history in an hours-long ceremony that transforms the Olympic stadium into rural England.

Boyle’s spectacular, dubbed “Isles of Wonder,” has called upon the help of 10,000 volunteers. Details have been tightly under wraps, though it has proven difficult to hide an event of such massive scale from the public — final rehearsals caught the attention of people near Olympic Village this week.

Andrew Codling, a Special Constable — or volunteer police officer— has been helping with Olympic preparations for months. He attended a technical rehearsal as a civilian, and while he wouldn’t dish too much about the ceremony, he did give Metro a few photos he snapped on his phone, which suggest the evening display will incorporate fireworks and larger-than-life illuminated Olympic rings.

“The whole performance is stunning with so much going on throughout the whole piece,” Codling told Metro.

Athletes have been arriving all week, filling apartment-style quarters in Olympic Village and shuttling to training centers on specially reserved buses.

Team USA, along with every other country’s team, will be featured in a parade of Olympians, dressed in the official uniforms of their nations (Yes, that includes the controversial “made in China” getup’s produced for Team USA by Ralph Lauren).

“I am really excited and really inspired,” beach volleyball player and two-time gold medalist Kerri Walsh told Metro at 24 Hour Fitness’ ribbon cutting ceremony for the USOC’s High Performance Training Center at the University of East London — the facility Team USA uses to train during the Olympic Games. “I am going for gold here in London and every day the butterflies get a little bigger.”

Tony Azevedo, captain of the U.S. men’s water polo team, also at the event, hinted that the ceremony’s late-night start and lengthy program could be a challenge for athletes who so desperately rely on their legs. While there is no denying the excitement surrounding the Olympic opening ceremony, he said it really marks the beginning of the fight for gold.

“I try to tell the younger guys we are here to focus, but during that time — it is your time to enjoy it. Be that tourist, be that giddy kid,” Azevedo said. “But once we get home [to Olympic Village], it’s business as usual.”

Keep a look out!

When details of Boyle’s multi-million dollar ceremony began to leak to the press, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games launched the hashtag #savethesurprise to encourage people not to share too much.

That hasn’t stopped Olympic enthusiasts from spilling a few details, though. Here’s what Metro’s inside sources say the opening ceremony might include.

— Boyle’s rural England theme has long been rumored to incorporate live animals. Our snitch tells us there will be sheep, goats and cows.

— London is well-known for its dreary skies, though weather is expected to hold tight for the ceremony. Don’t fret — rumor has it, the ceremony will include rain-producing synthetic clouds.

— No British spectacle would be complete without the most famous spy of all — watch closely for an appearance by James Bond in the form of actor Daniel Craig — and he might just be repelling from a helicopter.

— Soccer superstar David Beckham, proud Brit that he is, may be kicking a “flaming” soccer ball into the audience. We’re assuming they’re not real flames.

— Like everything else about the opening ceremony, the musical acts are decisively British. Our sources tell us Sir Paul McCartney and musician Mike Oldfield, of the 1973 album “Tubular Bells,” have both been spotted practicing, though it could be for the opening or closing ceremonies.

Who will lead Team USA?

Only one athlete can carry the American flag and lead the 529 members of Team USA through the opening ceremony. This year, that honor goes to fencer Mariel Zagunis of Beaverton, Oregon. She earned her position as flag-bearer through a vote among her fellow teammates.

Zagunis, 27, is a two-time Olympic champion who won gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and again in 2008 in Beijing. Her win in 2004 made her the first U.S. fencer to win an Olympic gold medal in a hundred years. She is the third fencer to carry the American flag during the opening ceremony, behind Norman Armitage in 1952 and 1956, and Janice Lee Romary in 1968.


SPOILER ALERT!
The photos below were snapped by Andrew Codling, who witnessed some of the preparations and rehearsals. He shared his inside scoop with Metro, but only look if you don’t mind getting a sneak peek!


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