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July 28, 2012

Opening ceremony gives Olympics a rocking start

LONDON — Shaken and stirred.

James Bond and the queen teamed to give London a wild Olympic opening like no other.

And creative genius Danny Boyle turned Olympic Stadium into a jukebox, cranking up world-beating rock from the Beatles, the Stones and The Who to send the planet a message: Britain, loud and royal proud, is ready to roll.

Now over to you, athletes. It was a brilliant introduction to kick off a 17-day festival of sports.

Queen Elizabeth II, playing along with movie magic from director Boyle, provided the highlight of the Oscar-winner's high-adrenaline show. With film trickery, Boyle made it seem as if Britain's beloved 86-year-old monarch and its most famous spy parachuted into the stadium together.

Daniel Craig as 007, the queen, playing herself, and her royal corgis starred in a short movie filmed in Buckingham Palace.

"Good evening, Mr. Bond," she said before they were shown flying by helicopter over London landmarks and then leaping — she in a salmon-colored dress, Bond dashing as ever in a black tuxedo — into the inky night over Olympic Park.

At the same moment, real skydivers appeared as the stadium throbbed to the James Bond theme. And moments after that, the monarch appeared in person, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip.

Organizers said it was thought to be the first time she has acted on film.

"The queen made herself more accessible than ever before," Boyle said.

Boyle sprang another giant surprise in giving seven teenage athletes the supreme honor of igniting the Olympic flame. Together, they touched torches to trumpetlike tubes that spread into a ring of fire and then rose elegantly to jointly form the cauldron — which organizers said would be moved Sunday night to one end of the stadium.

It was the end of the journey for the flame. Some 8,000 torchbearers, mostly unheralded Britons, had carried it on a 70-day, 8,000-mile journey from toe to tip of the British Isles, whipping up enthusiasm for a $14 billion Olympics taking place during a severe recession. The final torchbearers were kept a closely guarded secret — remarkable given the scrutiny on these, the first Summer Games of the Twitter era.

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