LONDON – Britain’s Saturday newspapers lavished praise on a spectacular opening ceremony to the London Olympic Games, watched by an estimated one billion TV viewers around the world.
The country’s often sceptical press all ran upbeat headlines about the glittering four-hour show which played out in front of 80,000 spectators in the Olympic Stadium in east London.
After seven years of planning, the Games officially began in the gleaming new stadium in a once rundown area of the British capital with a colourful showcase devised by “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle.
The centre-right Times ran with “A Flying Start” headline emblazoned over a souvenir wraparound photograph of the Red Arrows demonstration team flying over the stadium as the sun set in the background.
The regular front-page headline of the paper inside was “Shaken and Stirred”, a reference to Queen Elizabeth II’s role in a spoof film shown at the ceremony alongside James Bond, alias actor Daniel Craig.
The film showed the pair parachute from a helicopter into the stadium before the real monarch took her seat to loud applause.
The hard-to-please Daily Mail went with “Blast-Off!”, splashing a picture of five Olympic rings showering fireworks onto the stage below during the ceremony.
The rival Daily Mirror went with “Maj-ical”, another reference to Her Majesty the queen, while The Guardian ran with “Night of Wonder”, a nod to the show’s official title “Isles of Wonder”.
The pro-Conservative Daily Telegraph went with the headline “Going for Gold” over the same picture of fireworks cascading from the Olympic rings, while the Sun tabloid went with “Golden Wonder” printed over the same image.
The often unconventional Independent went with “On your marks, Get wet, Go!” beside a photo of diver preparing for a training centre at the Aquatics centre at the Olympic Park.
Meanwhile the Financial Times business broadsheet went with “Cue London for greatest show on earth: Olympics open with celebration of Britain” above a picture taken from among the spectators at the ceremony.
More than 80 world leaders and royals attended the show which kept Boyle’s promise to showcase British history while maintaining the nation’s quirky sense of humour, tracing time from a bucolic past through the Industrial Revolution.
The show even included a tribute to Britain’s state-run National Health Service while actor Kenneth Branagh, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling and “Mr Bean” Rowan Atkinson all had roles.