Remember when people doubted that London could put on a great Games? We can’t either. But there were skeptics aplenty. Now, bathed in the glow of hindsight and Team GB’s 29 gold medals, nobody quite recalls the grounds for pessimism or when they began to realize that London’s Olympics might turn out really rather well.
So here’s a reminder: the moment came on July 27, before the torch was lit or a javelin had been thrown in earnest. Film director Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony began dramatically, with a green and pleasant vision of England giving way to the dark, satanic mills of industrialization. The Olympic stadium was packed to its triangular roof supports with celebrities, politicians and royalty. William! Kate! Harry! Charles! Camilla! This was almost a royal flush, but the Queen and her doughty consort Prince Philip were missing.
It seemed unthinkable that the monarch, celebrating 60 years of indefatigable service on the throne, should miss such a key event in British life. And it was indeed unthinkable. Her Majesty suddenly appeared on giant screens around the stadium, persuaded by James Bond, in his Daniel Craig–shaped incarnation, to leave Buckingham Palace in a helicopter. As the noise of its rotors intensified, spectators spotted the aircraft hovering above the stadium and two figures looking remarkably like the Queen and OO7 executing a daredevil parachute jump. Heartbeats later, Elizabeth II entered the stadium to take her seat. It was the first and biggest win of the Games.
Next Fantastic Farah