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Opening Ceremony Kicks Off London's Olympics


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

In London, the Olympic opening ceremony is under way. So far, it's been a raucous celebration of British culture, from Shakespeare to James Bond. Athletes have yet to parade into the stadium. NPR's Howard Berkes is in London. He's going to tell us what's going on in the Olympic Stadium. And if you don't want us to spoil it for you before the delayed broadcast of it on American television, we forewarn you. You can tune back in in about three minutes. Howard, what's happened so far?

HOWARD BERKES, BYLINE: Well, this has been quite an opening ceremony for an Olympic Games. We've had everything from the queen of England - or somebody pretending to be the queen of England - and James Bond jumping out of a helicopter and parachuting down toward the stadium.

The queen herself actually appeared shortly before that in a scene in which she acted the part of the queen, leaving her castle and flying to the stadium and jumping out. And we've had the odd scene of Lord Voldemort being vanquished by, oh, a couple of dozen Mary Poppins flying down with umbrellas.

SIEGEL: Howard, just to be clear, the real Queen Elizabeth II didn't jump out of the helicopter, I assume.

BERKES: No, someone acting that part did.


BERKES: But this has really been an opening ceremony so far that's steeped in British history, starting with a sort of pastoral kind of scene, a longing, I suppose, to a past of what's portrayed as better times. I'm not sure they were better times for the people who lived them.

And then - so this kind of pastoral scene suddenly breaking out into this more industrial kind of setting where you had actual smokestacks, you know, belching, coal-type smoke rising out of the ground and then workers being yelled at by bosses. It's like the 1 percent versus the 99 percent.

And that represents the sort of rapid industrialization of the country, and then quickly moving into the era of war and honoring the victims of war. And then we get to the Beatles. I mean, it's a real mishmash sort of mix of things here.

SIEGEL: Everything from sheep to dark satanic mills and more. You've been to the Olympics eight times by now. Is this pretty much what everybody does before the games, or is it special?

BERKES: Well, you know, in most Olympic Games, what you see is some celebration of local culture, but also asserting specific themes about how great a country is for specific reasons. You know, in Beijing, it was all about the technology that China had brought to the country and also just asserting the might of China, the strength.

This is all about what's kind of cool and funky about British culture. And right now they're in the middle of a love story. You can tell that this was something that was put together by Danny Boyle, you know, the Hollywood producer because it's unfolding like a film.


SIEGEL: And in the middle of the stadium, you mean.

BERKES: In the middle of the stadium and with video to go with it and with hundreds and hundreds of actors.

SIEGEL: Sounds like a great show, Howard. Thanks for talking to us about it.

BERKES: Sure. I'm happy to do it.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Howard Berkes, telling us about the Olympic opening ceremonies in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.