London: 90 minutes past midnight tonight in India, the 30th Olympic Games will get underway here to provide the stage for some 10,500 sportsmen and women from 204 competing nations to fulfil their dreams, among them Indian medal hopefuls in boxing, shooting, archery, tennis and wrestling.

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In a re-run of bungling that plagued New Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010, there have been transport bottlenecks, complaints about food and other facilities at the Games village, and above all an 11th hour shortage of security personnel finally made up by bringing in the Army. But unlike CWG, there are no corruption charges, only complaints of inefficiency.

However, with only hours to go, pessimism was giving way to joyful expectations as the British capital appeared set to host the world's greatest sports event for an unprecedented third time. Rain and gloomy weather in the past few weeks has yielded to warm sunshine but organisers are keeping their fingers crossed, reminding everyone that the British weather is particularly unpredictable.

The 17-day festival of sports excellence will commence at 9 pm local time (1.30 am IST) with a three-hour long opening ceremony directed by Danny Boyle, who made a name for himself with the Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire" notwithstanding the criticism that he had exploited Mumbai's slums.

A global audience of up to 4 billion people is expected to watch the 27-million pound spectacle on television as several cows, horses, sheep, dogs and synthetic clouds team up with thousands of athletes and others to transform the stadium into a rural British Idyll.

Details of the opening ceremony are as closely guarded as the crown jewels, but what is known is that there will be 'angels' with moving, illuminated wings cycling around the stadium.

Never before in the history of the Games has security been as intense as it is here, with roof-top missiles being deployed around key Olympic sites, and the Army and the Police leaving nothing to chance.

Media has been full of stories for weeks about terror plots, purportedly involving a wide variety of militant outfits from al-Qaida to Irish Republican Army (IRA) but security bosses maintain that there is no specific threat.

India has sent more sportspersons - 81 - than to any other Olympics in the hope that they will better the country's best performance at Beijing four years ago when the nation won one gold and two bronze medals.

More than 10,000 performers will take part in the opening extravanganza which would bring about the country-side scenes - a cricket pitch, traditional country side cottages, mining wheel and people dressed in the Victorian era.

The competitive action will unfold tomorrow as the athletes will battle for glory and honour in the next 17 days with powerhouses USA and China expected to retain their supremacy.

Beijing bronze-winning wrestler Sushil Kumar will lead the contingent by holding the Indian tricolour and soak in the electrifying atmosphere at the brand new stadium built at a cost of 486 million pounds for the mega-event.

Apart from the fireworks and absorbing cultural programmes, the heart-touching entry of many of the strife-torn countries would be some of the highlights of the nearly three hour opening ceremony depicting the theme "Isles of Wonder".

A segment featuring bike stunts was earlier scrapped from the opening ceremony due to fears that an overrunning show would cause bottlenecks on public transport.

The Ceremony will kick off with the sound of the largest harmonically tuned bell in Europe, produced by the Whitechapel Foundry, and the Stadium would be transformed into the British countryside for opening scene 'Green and Pleasant', which will include real farmyard animals.

The Ceremony would also include a special sequence celebrating the best of the British, featuring volunteer performers from the NHS.

After the dignitaries take their seats, the procession of the participating teams in the Stadium would begin with Greece entering the arena first as per Olympic convention while the host nation Great Britain coming in last amidst rousing cheers from the vociferous home crowd.

Once all the nations arrive into the Stadium, LOCOG Chairman Sir Sebastian Coe would give a brief speech, followed by Jaques Rogge. They would end their speeches by inviting the Head of State to officially declare the Games open.

Once the Games were declared open, the Olympic Flag would then be carried into the Stadium and hoisted into the air as the respective Anthem was played. The Olympic Charter states that each flag must fly for the entire duration of the Games – placed in a prominent position in the main Stadium.

A participating athlete, judge and coach from the Host Nation would then stand on the rostrum and, holding a corner of the IOC flag in their left hand and raising their right, take the Oath, vowing to compete and judge according to the rules of their respective sport.

The big finale would be the entrance of the Olympic Flame into the Stadium. It would be passed through the athletes to the final Torchbearer, who would ceremoniously lit the Cauldron, indicating the beginning of the Games. The Flame will continue to burn for the whole of the Games.


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