Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

London Olympics 2012: The greatest show on Earth (and it's only just begun)

We cannot know yet what these Olympics will bring us, not in the full sweep of the greatest sports spectacle on earth, but tonight you could feel the weight of all the possibilities

Fireworks light up over the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers dressed up as Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond parachute out of a helicopter above the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: (L-R) Norma Major, Gordon Brown and Chief Executive of LOCOG Paul Deighton during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Gary Connery and Mark Sutton parachute into the stadium as part of short James Bond film featuring Daniel Craig and The Queen during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a scene of an ordinary family arriving home on a Saturday night during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: United States' fans celebrate the openning of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Trafalgar Square on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: British Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt (2L) and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (R) is seen during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: People celebrate the openning of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Trafalgar Square on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: People celebrate the openning of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Trafalgar Square on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Rings representing both the Olympics and the Industrial Revolution are lit during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Rings representing both the Olympics and the Industrial Revolution are lit during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Rings representing both the Olympics and the Industrial Revolution are lit during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: The Red Arrows disappear over London ahead of the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the Olympic Park on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Fireworks are set off during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Paul McCartney performs during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Sir Chris Hoy carries the Union Flag during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Tony Marshall/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Serbia's Novak Djokovic holds his counties flag at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony . Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic flame is lit during the opening of the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Sir Clive Woodward at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic flame is lit during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic Flame burns after it was lit at the end of the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony . Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius waves at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic Flame burns after it was lit at the end of the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's team parade around the stadium led by flag bearer Chris Hoy during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's team enter the stadium led by flag bearer Chris Hoy during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Mohammed Ali is helped to his feet as takes hold of the Olympic flag during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
A performer dressed as a dove during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Paul McCartney is shown live on the big screens at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Jamaica's Usain Bolt carries his countries flag at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Jamaica's Usain Bolt is mobbed by the other athletes at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks are set off over the Olympic Stadium during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony in the Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Sir Clive Woodward and members of the Great Britain Olympic team parade around the stadium during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks are set off during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Steve Redgrave, right, holds up the Olympic flame after entering the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Cameron Spencer, Pool)
Steve Redgrave, right, holds up the Olympic flame after entering the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Cameron Spencer, Pool)
Steve Redgrave carries the Olympic flame into the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Cameron Spencer, Pool)
Steve Redgrave, right, holds the Olympic torch after entering the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)
Fireworks light up over the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Britain's Chris Hoy carries the flag during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Fireworks illuminate the sky over Olympic Stadium during Opening Ceremonies at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Great Britain's Chris Hoy carries the national flag as confetti surrounds the team during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Crowds the fireworks after the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony was screened at the BT Live Event at Victoria Park, Hackney PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS . Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic torch is carried by seven young athletes during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Muhammad Ali and his wife Lonnie during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks are set off over the Olympic Stadium during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony in the Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic flame is lit during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Sratford locals (bottom left) gather to watch the Opening Ceremony on television outside the Olympic Park on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Fireworks during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Sir Steve Redgrave hands the torch to young torch bearers Callum Airlie, Jordan Duckitt, Desiree Henry, Katie Kirk, Cameron MacRitchie, Aidan Reynolds and Adelle Tracey during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Queen Elizabeth II (left) makes a speech at the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic Flame burns during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: John Giles/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
A general view of the Olympic Stadium after the Olympic Flame was lit during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic flame is lit during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Sir Chris Hoy carrying the British flag during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Tony Marshall/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Sir Chris Hoy carrying the Britsh flag leads the teamduring the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Tony Marshall/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Sir Chris Hoy carrying the Britsh flag leads the teamduring the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Tony Marshall/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Sir Chris Hoy carrying the Britsh flag leads the teamduring the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Tony Marshall/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic flame is lit during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Team GB Swimmer Keri-Anne Payne during the Team GB Press Conference at the Main Press Centre in the Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Maria Sharapova of Russia looks on during the practice session ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: A Spanish volleyball player practices during a beach volleyball practice session ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at Horse Guards Parade on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Maria Tsiartsiani of Greece warms up during a beach volleyball practice session ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at Horse Guards Parade on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Greece's Voula Papachristou didn't make it to the games - but she would have been a contender in this discipline
Zara Dampney from Great BritainÕs WomenÕs Volleyball team during a training session on Centre Court at the Beach Volleyball arena at Horse Guards Parade in central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Jessica Ennis during a Team GB athletics training session at the Monte Gordo Stadium in Monte Gordo, Portugal. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tonia Couch during the Diving Training Session at the Aquatics Centre, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tom Daley talks with partner Peter Waterfield (left) during the training session in the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tom Daley takes a shower after practice next to Tonia Couch at the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tonia Couch takes a showers after the training session in the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Stephanie Rice of Australia looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Stephanie Rice of Australia stretches during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Becchara Palmer of Australia warms up during a Beach Volleyball training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at Horse Guards Parade on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Becchara Palmer and Louise Bawden of Australia warm up during a Beach Volleyball training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at Horse Guards Parade on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark looks on during a practice session ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon on July 24, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: (FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE) Team GB weightlifter Zoe Smith poses at the adidas Olympic Media Lounge at Westfield Stratford City on July 24, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images for adidas)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: Moira de Villiers of New Zealand addresses the media during a press conference ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games on July 24, 2012 at the Main Press Center in London, England. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Georgie Twigg of Great Britain looks on during a British Olympic Association Hockey Press Conference ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at the Olympic Park on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Heather Watson (L) and Laura Robson of Great Britain take a break during a practice session ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Swimmer Keri-Anne Payne of Great Britain smiles during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Swimmer Siobhan-Marie Oconnor of Great Britain looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Cook Islands atheletes (L-R) Patricia Taea, Ella Nicholas and Celeste Brown relax in Athletes Village after their official welcome to the Athletes' Village at the Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Federica Pellegrini of Italy looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Dave Berry poses backstage at the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Finale Concert in London's Hyde Park, presented by Coca-Cola on July 26, 2012 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Tom Daley of Great Britain looks on during a diving training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
USA's Serena Williams during the press conference in the Main Press Centre at the Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 24, 2012. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: An Afghanistan Olympic official during the Olympic Village arrivals ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at the Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Street artist James Cochran, Aka Jimmy C puts the finishing touches to a piece of work depicting the face of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt on July 20, 2012 in London, England. The opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic games will take place in seven days on July 27, 2012. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Annabelle Smith of Australia practices a dive during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
A member of Team Australia practices the floor exercise during training sessions for artistic gymnastics ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Training Academy on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Diver Tom Daley of Great Britain shakes water out of his hair as he climbs out of the pool during a diving training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Tom Daley (R) and Peter Waterfield of Great Britain during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Tom Daley of Great Britain dives during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Great Britain's Tim Baillie (left) and Stott Etienne in action in the mens double canoe during the training session at Lee Valley White Water Centre, Waltham Cross. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire.
Athletes from the Great Britain Women's Synchronised Swimming team practice during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: (EDITORS NOTE: Multiple exposures were combined in camera to produce this image.) A Chinese diver trains ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatic Centre on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
The Great Britain synchronize team train ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatic Centre on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
Yang Sun of China swims during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England.
James Goddard of Great Britain looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Swimmer Hayden Stoeckel of Australia swims during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Daniele Matias Hypolito of Brazil chalks her feet on the uneven bars during training sessions for artistic gymnastics ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Training Academy on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It is always the same when we come to this moment of the Olympic Games, this flaring of hope that something unflawed and unforgettable is in the air and it doesn’t really matter where it finds us, whether it is in some foreign place or, as on a rain-smeared evening such as tonight, in our hearts and our home.

This is the time when the fear and the agonising stops and when the blood races with the anticipation of great deeds. We cannot know yet what these Olympics will bring us, not in the full sweep of the greatest sports spectacle on earth, but here you could feel the weight of all the possibilities — and the yearning of a people, somewhat battered in recent years, let us be honest, that this might just be a time to make another mark.



These, certainly, where the stirrings among the crowd of 62,000 when the Red Arrows pierced the dusk and Bradley Wiggins, Britain's first winner of the epic Tour de France, stood in front of the Olympic bell in his yellow jersey and raised his arms to the moist and darkening sky.



There was a superb energy in that moment, a rippling of pride, and as Danny Boyle's £27m Opening Ceremony show began to unfold with beautiful pace and superb imagery, as a pastoral scene turned into a broiling evocation of the Industrial Revolution, it was as though they might be a new and original Olympics.



It is true that there is something of this about all Olympic Games, even one as bad as Atlanta in 1996, when the traditional compliment of the president of the International Olympic Committee that they were great Games was pointedly withdrawn, because in Georgia they did have Muhammad Ali igniting the cauldron after being picked out by a spotlight that made the heart of the world stand still for a moment. Atlanta also had Michael Johnson running in his golden shoes like some ebony Greek god and Carl Lewis winning yet another gold medal.



What the Olympics have, in their formal, cyclical way, is renewal, a wiping-away of the past and a huge investment not so much in the future but the moment. There has been much argument over legacy, of the value of a £9bn-plus investment in circus in these straitened times, but you had to be a brave and resilient polemicist last night to argue this points too strenuously as the excitement began to swell.



This was especially so when it became clear that Boyle, the maker of Slumdog Millionaire, had won his own gold medal on a fraction of the budget that enabled the blockbusting spectacle of Beijing.



The Queen, having consented to a showbiz invitation from James Bond to take a helicopter ride, arrived to thunderous applause, to be greeted by Jacques Rogge, the Olympic president, who had earlier pushed a maybe fragile national pride up another notch by declaring that Britain had virtually invented modern sport.



For the moment, certainly, it had brought a blast of pleasure and exhilaration which you knew would soon enough be powerfully augmented by the arrival of so many icons from the sports fields of the British past.



As the night wore on, speculation on the identity of the man who would ignite London's Olympic cauldron became ever more intense.



We knew that David Beckham, whose celebrity if not significant connection with the Olympics had been used so freely in the bidding victory over the favourites, Paris, would make some kind of cameo appearance but finally, seven young athletes of the future were put in charge of the flame by Sir Steve Redgrave, who was also joined in the ceremonials by Daley Thompson, double gold winner Dame Kelly Holmes, long jumper Lynn Davies, swimmer Duncan Goodhew, pentathlon winner Mary Peters and sailor Shirley Robertson.



The seven young torchbearers then ignited a tiny single flame, triggering the ignition of 204 copper petals carried into the stadium by the athletes. The long stems of the cauldron then gently rose towards each other and converged to form a single "Flame of Unity".



This was a charge of anticipation which will be increased soon enough with the appearance of the titans of today, the men who bestride modern sport and who will be at centre stage of these Olympics.



Usain Bolt, who assuaged growing concerns about his fitness to run in the great race of these Games, the 100m dash he dominated so sensationally in Beijing four years ago, carried the flag for Jamaica.



Jamaica had Bolt, America had Michael Phelps, the tall American swimmer with the huge wing span, who by Tuesday night might well have the greatest haul of gold medals, 21 of them, in Olympic history.



This is the magnetism of the Olympics – and such is the prize Lord Coe, the winner of two Olympic gold medals at the classic distance of 1,500m in Moscow and Los Angeles, stole from beneath the noses of Paris seven years ago in Singapore. The promise was of an inspiration to the youth of the world, and new generations of young Britons long starved of proper sports facilities, and no doubt there will be many who will seek to hold him to that in the future.



But that is the future, something that seemed quite remote in the brilliance and light which came to a neglected, some would say abandoned, corner of east London last night.



The show we were promised, as always, is one of compelling spectacle – and last night it was easy to feel the thrill that every four years comes to new ground – or in last night's case revisits old terrain.



We do not know yet how well Great Britain will do, whether the man who carried the flag, Sir Chris Hoy, will build on his three gold medals won in Beijing or whether Wiggins will reproduce the glory he found so recently in France. The roll call of heroes has not yet begun and there can be no certainty that it will include even the men who caught the eye so strongly last night, the prodigious Phelps, the extraordinary Bolt.



There are so many other men and women eager to find their moment this English summer and last night they flooded into the light. They were received with something more than mere respect. They were saluted as those who for the next two weeks will explain why it is that the Olympics simply march on and on.

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