LONDON - “Be not Afeard!” actor Kenneth Branagh proclaimed at the beginning of the 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony on Friday night (July 27). Although the five-time Oscar nominee was in character as Britain’s most revered engineer in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” – by the end of the four-hour theatrical epic directed by Danny Boyle, witnessed by Queen Elizabeth II and featuring Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) taking a hilarious turn in the orchestra, no one in Olympic Stadium was “afeard.” There was no question: London is supremely pumped to stage the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
As everyone waited to see who would light the Olympic cauldron, 204 national delegations marched in – beginning with Greece and ending with the host nation, Great Britain. America’s best athletes filed in exuberantly behind the saber fencer that the team had elected to carry the stars and stripes - Mariel Zagunis, a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
Backstage, a full hour before the announcer even reached the T’s in the alphabet, sprinter Allyson Felix tweeted “Here we go!” Meanwhile, hurdler Lolo Jones pondered how to enter the Olympic Stadium. Walking, she wrote, didn’t seem right for a track athlete.
When the U.S. team was announced, first lady Michelle Obama waved to the squad just as proudly as Kobe Bryant and water polo teammates Merrill Moses and Tony Azevedo greeted the crowd.
"Walking with all of Team USA, being at the ceremony, seeing the torch lit was all amazing,” said women’s match racing sailor and first-time Olympian Molly Vandemoer. “So cool to see all of the fans walking from the Village to the Stadium screaming and cheering for us. Now the Games have begun and we can get to business!"
Many of the U.S. athletes who did not attend because of Saturday morning competition held their own viewing parties. Members of the U.S. women’s soccer team watched live from Glasgow, Scotland, where they are preparing to face Colombia in the second group match at Hampden Park.
“I really liked the variety of moods they had throughout the ceremony,” said defender Rachel Buehler. “I enjoyed the beginning, which was more historic, going through the Industrial Revolution. The gold glowing rings were a really cool visual effect. I liked the music. They had a whole montage of different eras of music and it made you realize how many famous British artists there are. I also thought it was really neat how they involved the Queen and they had a lot of humor in there. It was a great mix of the British culture.”
In addition, Jacques Rogge made his last Olympic Opening Ceremony speech in his long tenure as IOC president, and London prepared to become the first city to host three summer Games.
Another surge of excitement pulsed through the crowd as 1960 Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali appeared in a white suit as one of nine people carrying the white Olympic flag into the arena with his wife’s assistance.
And then – the last leg of the Olympic torch relay. The secret order was five-time Olympic rower and five-time Olympic gold medalist Steven Redgrave and seven teenage athletes in a variety of sports. Then, with ash still thickening the air from the firework display that followed, Paul McCartney took the stage and capped the memorable night with a “Hey Jude” sing-along.