Though competition is already underway, the London Olympics will officially begin with Friday’s opening ceremony, starting at 9 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET).
English film director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) is overseeing the $42.3-million US show at London’s Olympic Stadium, where thousands of athletes from 204 countries will congregate to mark the opening of the 30th Summer Games.
The opening ceremony is expected to draw an estimated global television audience of one billion.
Boyle’s show, entitled Isles of Wonder, is inspired by William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. It will include nods to such British cultural icons as James Bond, Peter Pan and Paul McCartney. The former Beatle is expected to appear in person.
An 86-song set list has been reported, including songs by English artists The Beatles, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Queen, Blur, Radiohead, Coldplay, Oasis and Adele.
An appearance by the Queen at the outdoor event in this notoriously rainy city will be “weather dependent,” Boyle said.
As at any Olympics the big question is who will light the Olympic cauldron? Sir Roger Bannister, 83, the iconic English athlete who in 1954 became the first person to run a sub-four-minute mile, is the heavy favourite. British bookmaker William Hill stopped taking bets on Bannister after handling a flurry of action on the retired neurologist.
Whitfield leads Team Canada
The Canadian team will be led into the stadium by Simon Whitfield, the two-time Olympic medallist in triathlon who was selected as Canada’s flag bearer.
Not all 277 of Canada’s Olympians will take part in the ceremony. The swimming and rowing teams plan to skip the festivities to prepare for the start of their events on Saturday morning. The women’s soccer team has a match against South Africa on Saturday in Coventry, about 150 kilometres away, so they’ll stay away, too.
Though competition in London began on Wednesday with the opening matches of the women’s soccer tournament (Canada lost 2-1 to World Cup champion Japan), the first medals will be handed out Saturday in archery, road cycling, fencing, judo, shooting, swimming and weightlifting.
One of the most anticipated events in the pool will take place Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET, when American stars Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are expected to go head-to-head in the final of the men’s 400-metre individual medley.
Opening Day in London: Live Blog
With files from The Canadian Press