London 2012: The opening day

It never felt so special to live in London.

Hours before the opening ceremony started, I was off to soak up the Olympic atmosphere.

I took a walk through the congested but well-managed crowd at Hyde Park where there was a concert and a screening of the ceremony. Then I followed Bond Street to Oxford Circus and Trafalgar Square.

London looked like a geography class where the teacher had asked the students to dress up as countries and continents. Different nationalities waved their national flags on the streets, posing for photographs under the Olympic countdown clock that showed 0 days remaining for the 30th summer games. Some were wrapped in their flags, other wore them in forms of t-shirts and as dresses, flashing a smile for the camera only to capture a historic day in this multicultural city.

Soaked up in the Olympic spirit, I then made my way  away from central London to Walthamstow in northeast London. It was indeed a great experience to watch the opening ceremony with people from the community.

“They did it,” said a woman thrilled as the flamed petals representing the 204 countries transformed into the Olympic cauldron. Minutes before, one of her friends came up to her and said that she was not satisfied with the spectacle and that the wow factor was missing.

But for the woman sitting before me, also an NHS staff, was exuberant.

“Maybe I should do this at work,” she said as she saw the dancing nurses. “Our work is quite challenging.”

And it must have been quite a challenge to put together the £27 million spectacle for a global audience. It was in fact like a “live show” in director Danny Boyle’s words.

While Beijing 2008 was larger than life, I think London 2012 was much closer to people’s hearts and had a human element that made it relatable. From the industrial revolution to women’s rights, wars they have fought, people they have lost and the progress that has the country has made over the past decades, a lot of people could relate to it.

The two women in front of me could not agree more.

And talking about British humor, how could the Brits miss it?

It was absolutely a delight to see the Queen as the new Bond girl and Mr. Bean’s contribution in the London Philharmonic’s rendition of soundtrack to Chariots of Fire.

From Shakespeare to John Milton and J.K. Rowling, the British also had their literary history as a part of a historic moment.

And yes, music. From the Beatles to Sex Pistol and Queen–their songs have been the soundtracks to our lives. The musical performance was one of the highlights for me. It was too good to see the Arctic Monkeys perform “I Bet You Look good on the Dance Floor,” but unfortunately the crowd where I was did not show much enthusiasm to them. But they did song along to “Hey Jude” as Paul McCartney ended the event that is supposed to the “greatest show on earth.”

But more than the spectacle and the event, there was an amazing sense of community in the crowd.

The crowd of about 500 was like a global village–it seemed people from almost all nationalities were there. People cheered for countries regardless of their nationalities.

I cheered for Nepal when the triangular flag passed the stadium of 80,000, and also applauded for every other country and their team. And I joined the crowd as they roared for Team GB.

I have been living in London for almost a year now and never have I felt so close to the city and its people. The atmosphere here is not just celebratory but it is communal.

I think London is at its best at the moment, and I am glad to be a part of it.

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