The London Olympics, the 2012 Olympic Games, the XXX Olympiad -- whichever name you choose -- is beginning on Friday.
The international athletic competition always kicks off with an opening ceremony, which allows the host country to celebrate its culture and history while welcoming other nations.
The world will be watching London’s three-hour long opening ceremony with excitement. Traditional elements -- the Parade of Nations, the torchbearers, the speeches -- will rouse the audience as usual. But since the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, host countries have made opening ceremonies increasingly spectacular. Here are the 12 things we’re most excited to see in London’s opening ceremony:
1) The Olympic Flame
The fire symbolizes the games, honoring Prometheus’ theft of the fire of Zeus in ancient Greek mythology. After 70 days of nationwide travel, the 2012 flame has arrived at City Hall on the Queen’s rowbarge Gloriana after navigating the maze at Hampton Court Palace and sailing down the Thames. At the opening ceremony, the fire will light up the Olympic Cauldron - but the identity of the cauldron lighter is a mystery. Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxer, is one famous figure who has lit the cauldron.
2) … and the torchbearer
Soccer player David Beckham and Prince William are rumored torchbearers for this year’s opening ceremony. Who do you think it should be?
3) Slumdog Millionaire Pt. 2.
British filmmaker Danny Boyle, who directed the Oscar-winning movie about the Indian teen who competes on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, will be directing the opening ceremonies. He spent £27 million and employed 15,000 volunteers.
Titled “Isles of Wonder,” the main artistic performance will be based on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
5) English culture and history
The artistic performance will also allow the U.K. to portray the English national narrative. It begins with a scene of the English countryside, with pastoral imagery such as fields, fences, hedges, 70 sheep, 12 horses, nine geese, three cows, shepherdesses, and “even a game of village cricket.” But the peaceful rural scene will darken with sooty chimneys and smoking steel works of ‘dark Satanic Mills,’ symbols of 19th century urban England as imagined by Charles Dickens. Throughout the performance, British music from classical to psychedelic rock to current pop songs will provide the soundtrack.
6) James Bond and The Queen
Boyle reportedly will include a short film featuring Daniel Craig and Queen Elizabeth II. The British duo will begin at Buckingham Palace before exploring London.
7) Downton Abbey
The cast of Downton Abbey, the hit TV series about pre- and post-Great War England, will also make an appearance at some point in the ceremony.
8) Savannah Guthrie and Ryan Seacrest
Although Bob Costas is the main host for NBC, American audiences will be focusing on Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. Guthrie replaced NBC correspondent Ann Curry as co-host of Today earlier this summer with hopes to bringing more warmth and charm. So far, she’s been plagued by migraines that have disrupted her work, so viewers will watch to see if she will be a strong Olympic host. Seacrest, the TV and radio personality, will definitely bring his hosting skills to London. Matt Lauer, Meredith Viera, and Tom Brokaw will also be major hosts. (NBC has spent over $1 billion on the Olympics in attempts to win the brand).
9) “Hey Jude” and “Let it Be”
Sir Paul McCartney, who wrote those iconic Beatles songs, will be closing the opening ceremonies. His playlist is still a secret, but “Hey Jude” is a rumored song.
10) Independent athletes
New country South Sudan and former nation Netherlands Antilles will have athletes at the Olympics. Guor Marial, a marathon runner, is a South Sudanese refugee of a 36-year civil war. These countries do not have National Olympic Committees, however, so they will march under Independent Olympic Athletes in the Parade of Nations tonight.
11) Michelle Obama
The First Lady, the leader of the U.S. delegation in London, will be at the opening ceremony. Between her healthy eating campaign for 1,000 American and British children and her Olympic duties, Obama will be shining tonight.
"Try to have fun. Try to breathe a little bit," Obama said to the U.S. athletes upon arrival. "But also win, right?"
12) Cheering on Team U.S.A. as you listen to this: