LONDON -- The Olympic torch was paraded around London on Thursday after spending 70 days traveling through 1,019 cities, towns and villages in the British Isles. It probably got lost in Wales, trying to find Crwyggstnplff, but then everybody does.
The Torch Relay has generated a sense of pride that the British conceal beneath their wicked sense of humor.
Unexpectedly large crowds have lined the route.
Seven years of construction and disruption culminate with London’s official welcome to the world Friday, with Opening Ceremonies entitled “Isles of Wonder,” directed by Danny Boyle. It’s sure to be a loving, clever look at this place layered with so much history.
Walk inside Westminster Abbey and find yourself stepping on the gravestone of Charles Darwin.
Climb around the Tower of London and you’ll wind up in the quarters where Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned.
Blue historical plaques turn up on the sides of houses with impressive frequency. It’s fun to keep a list, the same way bird watchers do, and you just might add Lawrence of Arabia when exploring the streets near Parliament.
Over the next two weeks, the Olympics will be a showcase for London and Great Britain. The home team is also excited about its medal prospects.
Contenders include Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy in cycling; Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah in track and field; Tom Daley in diving; and Rebecca Adlington in swimming. Rowers, sailors and equestrian athletes will shine. Andy Murray gets another shot at Wimbledon.
But what if, while sitting at a pub with your mates, you had to create an all-time, all-star cast? A dream team.
Here are suggestions to get you started:
• William Shakespeare: Decathlon, because the Bard did it all, and in 400-plus years, no one has broken his record as World’s Greatest Wordsmith.
• Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Dickens said upon winning the marathon (he was good at the really long events), but in four hours, much slower than his PR.
• Isaac Newton: Gymnastics.
• Ricky Gervais: Fencing, because of his rapier wit.
• Prince Harry: 100-meter dash, because he beat Usain Bolt in Jamaica.
• Queen Elizabeth: Equestrian. She knows her way around a horse.
• Mick Jagger: Race walking, what else? Quick feet, wiggling hips, perpetual motion.
• Sean Connery: Shooting.
• Monty Python: Tennis. If they can subdue the Blancmange, they can defeat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
• John Donne: Rhythmic Gymnastics. Intricate.
• Adele: Shot put. Has the heft and voice for it.
• David Beckham: Should be on the Olympic soccer team, no question. He grew up in East London, no less!
• Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice: Women’s boxing, lightweight division.
• Chris Robshaw: Rugby. He’ll get his turn when sevens is added at the 2016 Olympics.
• James Cook: Sailing.
• Ernest Shackleton: Wait for the Winter Olympics.
• Boris Johnson: Cycling. Boris Bikes are what everyone calls the rentals popping up in this congested city, even though Barclay’s is the sponsor.
• Kevin Pietersen: Cricket. Sorry, Kev, but cricket was dropped off the Olympic docket decades ago, as was tug-of-war and croquet. But if they can add golf, why not bring back cricket?
• Roger Bannister: 1,500 meters.
• Sebastian Coe: 800 meters. Chairman of the London organizing committee still runs 60 minutes per day.
• Charlie Chaplin: Modern pentathlon. Give him the combo of shooting, fencing, swimming, horseback riding and running, and watch him turn it into a slapstick classic.
• Edina and Patsy of Ab Fab (torchbearers in Kensington): Synchronized swimming.
• Helen Mirren and Judi Dench: Beach volleyball. They can still bring it.
• T.S. Eliot: Judo. Excruciating.
• Damien Hirst: Greco-Roman wrestling. What is it, exactly?
• Winston Churchill: Weightlifting. Possessed the strength and gut, and plenty of weightlifters’ smoke.
• Henry VIII: Beheading. It’s not an Olympic sport, but it would be if he was still king.