I've had some special birthdays in my life, but I'm not sure if there will ever be another party like the one this year.
Thanks to friends who kicked off the evening with cupcakes and my very own gold medal, my birthday celebration started in style and ended with a bang.
As spectators of the Opening Ceremonies, we were asked to be in our seats an hour and a half before the show started at 9 P.M.
During that time, we were given our "participants' directions" and treated to some blissful English countryside scenes,
made even more authentic with chirping birds, and 95 different animals--
some of my favorites being the geese who obviously had benefited from many hours of rehearsal.
As the "rain clouds" circled the stadium, so did the ones overhead and just before the show was to start, the clouds broke open up with rain and threatened to spoil the party. But it typical British fashion, it was over soon after it started, and it was time for the party to begin.
A flyover of jets down the River Thames and over the stadium sent the crowds into a frenzy,
and the recently crowned Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, rang the world's largest harmonically tuned bell to mark the official opening of the 30th Olympiad.
After over 200 hours of rehearsals, (many of them in the summer rain) with 7500 volunteer performers and a budget less than half of what Beijing spent, it was time for the "greatest show on earth."
And what a show it was!
I've never been to an event with such sensory overload--there were so many things happening above us, below us, around us, that we couldn't keep up with it all. I'm so anxious to view it on TV to catch all the things I might have missed, that I'm just now reading about in the papers.
After such a pastoral start, we were jolted in our seats by thousands of drummers moving us to the next chapter of Britain's history, the Industrial Revolution.
Giant, bellowing chimneys rose from beneath the stadium floor. I've later learned that the chimneys were inflatables which rose from a height of 3 and a half meters to 30 meters high.
The transformation from such an idyllic country life to the dark, threatening mills of the Industrial Revolution was an amazing feat. It was one of the many breathtaking, hair-raising, goose bump moments of a night that kept astonishing us with one spectacle after another.
One of my favorite moments of the night was when the golden rings descended from above to
join with the ring that had been forged in the steel mill, to form the Olympic Rings.
Absolutely incredible acoustics, coupled with cutting edge lighting
provided us with a light show unlike any other. Over 70,000 digital paddles were attached to the seats,
and some of the lighting tricks were manipulated by us, the spectators!
In a tribute to Britain's NHS system and the country's children, several characters made a special appearance, including Harry Potter's 40 foot Lord Voldemort,
but not to fear, for up from above, a team of 30 Mary Poppins
descended to save the day.
Honoring the children in this segment was another special moment of the night to add to my favorite moments--the Queen's entrance by helicopter with James Bond, and Mr. Bean's contribution to the crowd-favorite music of Chariots of Fire.
The Queen really surprised us all with that one! Danny Boyle, the show's director praised her by saying "The Queen made herself more accessible than ever before."
And finally, it was time for us to honor the reason we were all there:
the athletes from around the world. We were especially proud to cheer for our USA athletes, but also honored
to salute the efforts and ambitions of athletes from around the world.
In a program that was full of spectacle and awe,
the show's directors can be most congratulated for giving us an event with great "heart."
As the 204 copper "petals" that were carried in by each country were lit and began to ascend
into one flame, our pride and gratitude for our adopted country and the show they offered the world brought tears to my eyes.
We're so proud to be a part of this country's welcome to the world of one of the greatest events on earth.