LONDON – Five things to know about Friday, the day the London Olympics kicked off with the opening ceremony:
• Surprise torch lighters highlight dazzling start to games.
• Legally blind archer sets world records.
• The 2012 version of the Dream Team meets the press.
• A headscarf standoff poses a problem for a Saudi judo fighter.
• The IOC calls London’s prep for games “excellent.”
Who will light the flame? The question vexed Olympic fans for years. Roger Bannister? Steve Redgrave? David Beckham?
Nope, nope and nope.
Seven teenage British athletes lowered torches to trumpet-like tubes that spread into a ring of fire during one of the signature moments of director Danny Boyle’s $42 million show. The copper “petals” then rose skyward and came together to form the elegant cauldron.
Fireworks erupted over the stadium to music from Pink Floyd. With a singalong of “Hey Jude,” Beatle Paul McCart-ney closed a show that ran 45 minutes beyond its scheduled three hours.
The other big highlight? A clever video that gave the illusion of Queen Elizabeth II parachuting into the Olympic Stadium with James Bond, aka actor Daniel Craig playing Britain’s most famous spy.
Earlier Friday, Im Dong-hyun broke his own record in the 72-arrow mark and helped South Korea set a team record in the ranking round.
“This is just the first round, so I will not get too excited by it,” said Im, who has 10 percent vision in his left eye and 20 percent in his right.
Im bettered the record he set in Turkey in May by three points with a score of 699. He also combined with Kim Bub-min and Oh Jin-hyek, smashing the record for 216 arrows with a total 2,087. That was 18 better than the mark South Korea set in May.
Im has said that when he looks at the targets, he sees colors with blurred lines between them. He doesn’t wear glasses in competition, saying he relies on distinguishing between the bright colors of the target.
The U.S. men’s basketball team held its opening press conference, arriving a bit late after the bus drove to the wrong gate.
Though the gold-medal favorites include some of the world’s most recognizable athletes, they tried to act like regular Olympians, touring the athletes village Thursday.
“It got crazy. It got hectic, but in a fun way,” forward Carmelo Anthony said. “Everybody wanted pictures. We was out there just having fun, mingling with the other athletes, not just from the U.S. but from other countries. It feels good to be loved around the world.”
Talks were under way to allow judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani to compete after the sport’s governing federation said she would not be allowed to wear a headscarf.
Saudi Arabia, which sent its first two female athletes to the games, had only agreed to let women participate if they adhered to the kingdom’s conservative Islamic traditions, including wearing a headscarf.
Nicolas Messner, a spokesman for the International Judo Federation, said there was “good collaboration” to find a solution among judo officials, the International Olympic Committee and Saudi Arabia.
Messner said wearing a headscarf could be dangerous because the sport includes chokeholds and strangleholds.
IOC President Jacques Rogge praised the local organizing committee, saying the preparations were “excellent.”
“The key ingredients for successful games are good security, a good village, venues and transportation that works,” he said. “If we have all that, we will have very good games. I am optimistic and confident.”
Asked to compare London’s readiness to previous host cities.
“I would think in terms of readiness these games equal the readiness of Sydney and Beijing definitely,” he said. “But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Ask me again at the closing ceremony.”