London: The London Olympics blasted off with a highly creative ceremony ever witnessed in the history of the hallowed Games on Friday night.
Danny Boyle, one of Britain's most successful filmmakers, who directed "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Trainspotting," had a ball with his favored medium, mixing filmed passages with live action to hypnotic effect, with 15,000 volunteers taking part in the show.
Queen Elizabeth II playing along with movie magic from Boyle provided the highlight of the Oscar-winner's high-adrenaline show. With film trickery, Boyle made it seem that 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.
Actor Rowan Atkinson as "Mr. Bean" provided laughs, shown dreaming that he was appearing in "Chariots of Fire," the inspiring story of a Scotsman and an Englishman at the 1924 Paris Games.
Headlong rushes of movie images took spectators on wondrous, heart-racing voyages through everything British: a cricket match, the London Tube, the roaring, abundant seas that buffet and protect this island nation, and along the Thames, the river that winds like a vein through London and was the gateway for the city's rise over the centuries as a great global hub of trade and industry.
2012 Tour de France champion Britain’s Bradley Wiggins in his yellow winner’s jersey rang a 23-ton Olympic Bell from the same London foundry that made Big Ben and Philadelphia's Liberty Bell. Its thunderous chime was a nod to the British tradition of pealing bells to celebrate the end of war and the crowning of kings and queens.
The show portrayed idyllic rural Britain — a place of meadows, farms, sport on village greens and picnics — that then gave way to the industrial transformation that revolutionized the nation in the 18th and 19th centuries, the foundation for an empire that reshaped world history. Belching chimneys rose where only moments earlier live sheep had trod.
The Industrial Revolution also produced terrifying weapons, and Boyle built in a moment of hush to honor those killed in war.
"This is not specific to a country. This is across all countries, and the fallen from all countries are celebrated and remembered," he explained to reporters ahead of the ceremony.
"Because, obviously, one of the penalties of this incredible force of change that happened in a hundred years was the industrialization of war, and the fallen," he said. "You know, millions fell."
Bahrain and Brunei featured female flagbearers in what has been called the Olympics' Year of the Woman. For the first time at the games, each national delegation includes women, and a record 45 percent of the athletes are women. Three Saudi women marching behind the men in their delegation flashed victory signs with their fingers.
"This is a major boost for gender equality," said the International Olympic Committee president, Jacques Rogge, overseeing his last games as head of the IOC before he steps down in 2013.
Rogge honored the "great, sports-loving country" of Britain as "the birthplace of modern sport," and he appealed to the thousands of athletes assembled before him for fair play.
"Character counts far more than medals. Reject doping. Respect your opponents. Remember that you are all role models. If you do that, you will inspire a generation," Rogge said.
The queen then said: "I declare open the games of London, celebrating the 30th Olympiad of the modern era."
Former world heavyweight champion and 1960 Rome Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali also graced the occasion with his wife, Lonnie, before the Olympic flag was unfurled.
With a singalong of "Hey Jude," Beatle Paul McCartney closed the spectacle that ran 45 minutes beyond its scheduled three hours.
When all is said and done, it has to be said that it was Boyle's show. Everyone is going to remember it for him.
(With inputs from AP)