Can London Olympics opening outglitz Beijing 2008?
Around one billion people are expected to watch Friday’s opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.
The show at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London, will mark a break with the well-drilled extravaganza that launched the Beijing Games four years ago.
Back then before 90,000 people in the Bird’s Nest Stadium, the film director, Zhang Yimou, pulled the strings to create a four-hour epic that highlighted 1,000 years of Chinese culture and achievement.
There were 2,008 Fou drummers, dancers, singing children, martial arts performers and of course fireworks. National pride was duly swollen in a production estimated at 81 million euros.
Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, described it as an “unforgettable and moving ceremony that celebrated the imagination, originality and energy of the Beijing Games”.
He went on to laud the Bird’s Nest Stadium as "one of the world's new wonders".
Rogge’s eloquence might not be summoned following Danny Boyle’s more modest 34-million-euro offering.
Shrewdly conceding the unlikelihood of eclipsing the Beijing ceremony, the 55-year-old Oscar-winning director will unveil the "Isles of Wonder" to the watching world.
The story will be about national history including a vignette depicting West Indians who sailed to Britain in 1948 on the Empire Windrush to start the first big influx of immigrants from the Caribbean.
The parade will also underline the fight for women to gain the vote. A group representing the suffragettes will be led by a latter-day Emmeline Pankhurst.
Culture won’t be forgotten. The strains of Edward Elgar will waft through the stadium as part of a playlist taking in songs by Delphic and the Chemical Brothers.
Boyle will at least be able to surpass Beijing by wheeling out a living legend in the shape of Sir Paul McCartney.
The 70-year-old will close the show with a rendition of the 1968 hit Hey Jude.
A couple of weeks ago at Hyde Park in central London, organisers worried about their licence stopped McCartney in full flow as he performed with Bruce Springsteen.
With 15,000 or so athletes from 204 nations attending on Friday night and the eyes of the watching world, his Maccaness will be able to Beatle his way into the early hours of Saturday morning, if he wishes.
There might not be any public transport to take the spectators home but at least they’ll leave knowing that they’ll have probably seen the only Briton with enough worldwide heft to have been the entire opening ceremony.