LONDON — Think of it this way: If the Opening Ceremonies of an Olympics are designed to celebrate the concepts of friendship and peace while also paying tribute to a host nation’s history and traditions, those who welcomed the world to the London 2012 Games on Friday evening did so with varied success.
One problem: The show might still be going.
I have to believe Queen Elizabeth II hasn’t stayed up this late since that little coronation party in 1953, because when the Olympic cauldron had finally been lit by seven young athletes no one knew and a game Paul McCartney struggled through a rendition of “Hey Jude,” 3 hours and 46 minutes had passed since the crowd in Olympic Stadium was shown an opening film of the city’s landmarks along the River Thames.
That came 90 minutes after the pre-show began and nearly seven hours after most began filing into their seats at 6 p.m.
The Olympics were scheduled to open on July 27. It was really July 28.
Who you didn’t want to be at 12:46 a.m.: The badminton athletes scheduled to compete at 8:30 in a venue 60 minutes from the Olympic Village.
It wasn’t China. Nothing might ever again be China. The bar for fantastic theatrics and staging and technical mastery for Opening Ceremonies was set so high four years ago in Beijing, it would have been impossible for London and its pencil-thin budget to match.
But how can you go totally wrong with Queen Elizabeth parachuting from a helicopter with James Bond?
The fact producer Danny Boyle of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame convinced the 86-year old monarch to build her entrance around a scene with movie star Daniel Craig — no, neither really jumped, although that would have topped China — brought a sense of humor to an evening built around the ideals of generosity and prosperity.
“All of my life I have loved sport,” said Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London organizing committee. “There is a truth to sport, a purity, a drama, an intensity, a spirit that makes it irresistible to take part in and irresistible to watch. London 2012 seeks to capture all of this. London 2012 will inspire a generation.”
London 2012 hit some high notes with its Opening Ceremonies and missed badly on others.
One such blunder was solely the fault of the International Olympic Committee, which again ignored an opportunity to properly honor the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Games. They held a moment of silence Friday for all those who sent in pictures of friends and family lost, but nothing to acknowledge such a terrible moment in Olympics history 40 years ago.
I believe those farm animals used to help portray a scene of farmers pursuing traditional country tasks might be smarter than IOC president Jacques Rogge.
They’re definitely more compassionate.
It was an evening that spanned generations, from the age of industry to one of social media. There was a rock montage and a reading from “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling. Mr. Bean played piano with an umbrella while texting. Muhammad Ali made a cameo near the end.
It was funny in parts. Highly creative in others. Touching, too.
Long. Really long.
There were doves and dancing and speeches and oaths and children with the most beautiful voices. Seven billion pieces of paper were dropped when the British team made its way into the stadium as the last group of athletes to be recognized. One piece for each person on the planet.
Boyle formed his vision around the idea that these Games really are for everyone, for the world, for the athletes from Chad and Cyprus and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as much as those from Spain and China and the United States, which is why he likely chose seven teenagers to light the cauldron and not a famous name of past Olympic glory from England.
A ring of fire rose in the air in the middle of the stadium and London 2012 was officially underway. There have been far more dramatic lightings, far more showy beginnings to the Games, but it got the job done.
“In the next two weeks, we will show the world what has made London one of the greatest cities in the world,” Coe said. “A city that never stands still, one which our history has prepared us for today. This is our time. Let us determine, all over the world, that London 2012 will see the very best of us.”
As Opening Ceremonies go, London 2012 wasn’t the very best.
But it wasn’t half-bad, either.
Farm animals and queens trading lines with James Bond and thousands jamming to the Beatles and The Who and The Rolling Stones.
Things could have been much worse.
And, well, much shorter.
Ed Graney is a sports columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He also is writing an Olympics blog at www.lvrj.com/blogs/graney. Follow him on Twitter @edgraney. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.