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Industrial Revolution to James Bond, Opening Ceremonies Honor British History

July 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s time for the Games to begin. The opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics got under way just a few hours ago. It’s a big moment for London, where excitement has been growing.

We start with a report from Paraic O’Brien of Independent Television News.

PARAIC O’BRIEN: Twelve minutes past 8:00 this morning, the country’s Olympic alarm clock went off, a nationwide art project to greet the official start of London 2012.

PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON, United Kingdom: It’s very exciting, I think there is a huge sense of excitement and anticipation because Britain is ready to welcome the greatest show on Earth.

PARAIC O’BRIEN: On HMS Belfast, his culture minister was managing expectations, which was just as well as.

JEREMY HUNT, British culture secretary: There’s a huge amount to get right. And there are always going to be one or two teething problems. But I’m very confident that we’re ready.

PARAIC O’BRIEN: And as we all hold our breath, he gave us a delicious chance to exhale.

WOMAN: Can we get a ring of the bell?

JEREMY HUNT: Yes, sure.



Oh, my goodness. Are you all right? We are. This was a terrible moment there. Health and safety. Are you OK? OK. There we are. Disaster averted. 

PARAIC O’BRIEN: Michelle Obama was encouraging children to participate in sport. She was also giving American athletes permission to take a deep breath, albeit with slightly more panache.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: You all take advantage of everything. Stop. Look around you. I know, in my position, sometimes, I don’t get a chance to breathe or take it in. This only happens every few years. So try to have fun. Try to breathe a little bit, but also win, right?


MICHELLE OBAMA: In the end, winning is good.

PARAIC O’BRIEN: And all the while, the torch getting closer and closer.

It’s been seven years coming. There have been security concerns, transport worries. It’s cost over nine billion pounds. Once in the clear, Sir Matthew Pinsent brought it to the royal barge, the Gloriana.

SIR. MATTHEW PINSENT, torchbearer: I have been fortunate enough to run with the flame twice before, not in London. I did Vancouver and Athens. But to have a torch with London on it, that’s — and especially today. It’s such a big day for the Games today. And to be even a small part of it is lovely.

PARAIC O’BRIEN: Sixteen British oarsmen took it on board, including. Then it was on to Tower Bridge and the final stage of the relay.

Ahead of tonight’s ceremony, the queen greeted world leaders.

QUEEN ELIZABETH II, United Kingdom: To me, this spirit of togetherness is the most important part of the Olympic ideal. And the British people can be proud of the part they have played in keeping the spirit alive.

PARAIC O’BRIEN: Soon, we will get answers to the questions that remain. How many medals will we win? Will Britain pull it all off?


PARAIC O’BRIEN: And who knows. After tonight’s ceremony, we might even be closer to an answer to this question: Who are we?