LONDON, July 28 (Reuters) - Top that Rio.
With the words “”Good Evening, Mr Bond”, Queen Elizabeth launched her acting career and set the bar at a new high for Olympic opening ceremonies.
Danny Boyle, director of the Oscar-winning “”Slumdog Millionaire”, “always said he could not match the huge budget that “”House of Flying Daggers” director Zhang Yimou was given to deliver Beijing’s spectacular opening in 2008.
Instead, he piled on the British icons - JK Rowling reading from Peter Pan, Mr Bean mocking “”Chariots of Fire” and soccer star David Beckham sweeping up the River Thames in a speedboat with the Olympic torch. For good measure, he threw in a dollop of Shakespeare and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins ringing the world’s largest tuned bell.
But undoubtedly Boyle’s greatest coup was persuading the Queen to make her film debut at Buckingham Palace with Daniel Craig as a suavely attired James Bond. Even the Queen’s corgis got to play cameo roles.
The coup de theatre was delivered with real flair, and matched the wow factor of the jet-propelled “rocket man roaring into the stadium at the start of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.
Both Danny Boyle and Zhang Yimou, as befits fast-paced film directors, showed a sharp eye for the spectacular on a grand scale.
Beijing began memorably with 2008 drummers pounding out a hypnotic beat that rumbled across the Bird’s Nest stadium like thunder, their red drumsticks glowing in the dark.
Boyle went for a more softly softly approach with an idyllic English countryside scene that oozed nostalgia. He then stepped up the pace in a dark portrayal of the Industrial Revolution, with giant chimney stacks belching out smoke across the stadium to an equally insistent drum beat.
The Guardian newspaper called it “”madcap, surreal and moving.” The Independent said the show boasted “”beautiful pace and superb imagery.”
Music has always been a crucial ingredient in an Olympic opening ceremony.
Sydney went for Olivia Newton-John. In Barcelona, the strains of Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe belting out “”Barcelona” were everywhere. In Los Angeles, 84 pianists in white tie and tails launched into George Gershwin’s “”Rhapsody in Blue.” It was pure kitsch.
Boyle topped them with Beatle Paul McCartney singing the show out with “”Hey Jude.”
Britain went for a joint approach to lighting the Olympic cauldron, with seven young athletes bearing torches.
It may have lacked the emotional punch of Muhammad Ali lighting the torch in Atlanta in 1996 — and the London organisers invited him back to accompany the Olympic flag into the stadium on Friday.
Ravaged by Parkinson’s and a pale shadow of the champion who once “floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, Ali cut a poignant figure who will linger long in the memory of viewers — along with the sight of Queen Elizabeth with corgis and Bond in tow. (Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)