A billion people are expected to watch Friday’s Opening Ceremony for the London Olympics, and that includes us. British filmmaker Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) created the three-hour extravagna, which begins at 9 p.m. London time. NBC’s prime-time telecast, hosted by Bob Costas, Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera, runs from 7:30 p.m.-midnight.
The ceremony’s theme is “Isles of Wonder,” inspired by William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.
What you can expect to see:
- The ceremony will open with the sound of a 27-ton bell — the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world — forged at London’s 442-year-old Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
- A prerecorded segment filmed inside Buckingham Palace, reportedly involving Queen Elizabeth II and Daniel Craig as secret agent James Bond. A stuntman dressed as 007 will reportedly parachute into the stadium to start the show.
- The opening sequence evoking a pastoral idyll, the “green and pleasant land” described in William Blake’s poem “Jerusalem.” The elaborate set will comprise rolling hills, fields and rivers, complete with picnicking families, sport being played on a village green and farmyard animals.
- Aerial photographs of the set for the second section of the show depict dark buildings and smokestacks with the River Thames running through it. This is the other side of the country described in “Jerusalem” — a land of “dark satanic mills.”
- A third act showcasing the regeneration of east London, where the Olympics are taking place, as parkland and a creative heartland, home to many artists, designers and Internet startups.
- Vignettes drawing on British history, including Depression-era jobless protesters and nurses performing a tribute to the National Health Service. Performers dressed as miners and factory workers have also been seen going into the stadium, and one set piece is a model of the Empire Windrush, a ship that brought hundreds of Caribbean migrants to Britain in 1948.
- A section featuring characters from children’s fiction classics including “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan” — and a showdown between Voldemort, the villain of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books, and a horde of flying magical nannies based on Mary Poppins.
- Kenneth Branagh is rumoured to be reciting a speech by Caliban from the play, replacing Mark Rylance, who pulled out after the death of his stepdaughter.
- Soccer star David Beckham will headline a sporting parade of athletic stars that could include Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Sir Steve Redgrave, gymnasts Larisa Latynina, Nadia Comaneci and Olga Korbut and swimmers Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps.
- Music including songs by The Beatles, The Who, the Sex Pistols, and Vangelis’ theme from “Chariots of Fire.” Also songs by newer acts, including Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah.
- The final act will be former Beatle Paul McCartney leading the audience in a sing-along of “Hey Jude.”
- Who will light the cauldron? The heavy favorite is Roger Bannister, 83, the first person to run a sub-four-minute mile in 1954.
- Not everything planned will make the show. Boyle has already cut a stunt bike sequence to try to keep the show to its allotted three-hour running time so everyone can use public transport to get home.
- Weather forecast: cloudy.
- NBC will tease its telecast with a short film voiced by Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt.