Best & Worst of the Olympics Opening Ceremony: David Beckham, James Bond and Jet Packs!

Reviewing and recapping Danny Boyle's huge spectacle opening the London Games

By Leslie Gornstein Jul 28, 2012 12:55 AMTags
Opening Ceremony, London OlympicsADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/GettyImages

It's finally here, the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. Behold the glory and spectacle! Young hopefuls from 205 countries! Academy Award winner (and zombie-movie director) Danny Boyle lording over a stadium-sized replica of England! 

David Beckham in a speedboat!

And, um, Mr. Bean playing "Chariots of Fire."

Did the ceremony live up to the synchronized awe of the Beijing games? Who lit the torch to make a surprise appearance? And where did that guy get that jet pack?

We've rounded up the best, strangest, most awkward and most beautiful moments of the event seen 'round the world! Such as? Hey, glad you asked.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Best Bit of Pomp, If Not Ceremony: Before the broadcast cut to the big show, a pre-recorded voice-over informed us that we were in Great Britain: "Here towers time's most famous face…we divide the hemispheres…and set our clocks to an imaginary line." Well, all righty then.

Biggest Disappointment: David Beckham in a suit, bearing the Olympic torch as he speedboated toward the ceremony. Fine and good, but consider: The man is one of the fittest guys on the planet, not to mention the prettiest. Let him squeeze into a Speedo and swim there with the torch. Then maybe train a camera, or eight, on him as he climbs out in slow motion. You know, for queen and country.


Most Tearjerking Moment: Four countries worth of children's choirs took turns opening the ceremony, from stations around the U.K., as performers dressed as British peasants and toffs cavorted on a bonny sod built just for the opening extravaganza. That was followed by what had to be the most mind-blowing set of secondswatching real, multistory smokestacks, representing the Industrial Age, emerge from under the floor of the stadium.

Classiest Spectacle: We loved the squadron of volunteers dressed in top hats. Among them? Actor Kenneth Branagh, reciting lines from Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Best Use of a James Bond: A pre-filmed scene of Daniel Craig, clad in a tuxedo and accompanied by two Corgis (the royal breed, if you must know) picking up Queen Elizabeth II in a helicopter. The film gave way to the live "arrival" of Craig and his queenly date...via parachute. The parachuters were stunt performers, of course, but Her Majesty really did appear at the ceremony moments later.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Funniest Bit: Comedic actor Rowan "Mr. Bean" Atkinson in a Bugs-Bunny-esque mockery of classic film scores. Clad in his own tux, Atkinson checked his iPhone and made creative use of an umbrella while sitting in with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Most Rockin' Moment: A nod to four decades of British music included a snippet of David Bowie, accompied by performers tricked out in futuristic jet packs!

Most Awkward Statement? U.S. host Matt Lauer revealed that the seats in the Olympic stadium had been tricked out with more than 70,000 little screens, allowing the whole venue to be turned into a giant LED display. "One more thing I don't understand," cohost Meredith Vieira commented. Hey Meredith? They're lights.

Best Mix of Old and New: J.K. Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter series, reading aloud from the J.M. Barrie novel Peter Pan, in a segment celebrating British children's authors.

Best Freestyle: Not swimming, dancing! Hats off to the three independent Olympic athletes—essentially competitors without a country—who burst into spontaneous gyrations when it was their turn to march in the Parade of Nations. The folks were from the area once known as Netherlands Antilles.

Biggest Sarotorial Surprise: The flashy, white-and-metallic-gold hoodies and cropped pants sported by Team U.K. during the same parade. No sooner did the host country's athletes march onto the field than Stella McCartney, who designed a different set of uniforms for Great Britain, sent out a very pointed tweet: She had nothing to do with the white and gold "ceremony suits."


The Seriously Biggest Sartorial Surprise: Guys dressed as giant doves riding bikes while the Arctic Monkeys covered the Beatles hit  "Come Together".

Most Refreshing Handoff: The real star of an Olympic opening ceremony is usually its final torchbearer. In this case, use the plural: The final folks to handle the flame were a clutch of rising young British athletes, currently unknown, who each took turns running the torch to its destination.

Best Use of Englishness: The spectacle was closed by none other than Paul McCartney, that national treasure who holds a knighthood on top of it all. Now that is British.