The 2012 London Olympics kick off on Friday, July 27th, with the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremonies, and the organizers have entrusted Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle with the task of topping the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Games four years ago.
Doing so is going to be no easy task.
The opening ceremonies in Beijing cost upwards of $100 million to produce, featured thousands of tightly choreographed performers and were hailed by most as a huge success.
In fact Chinese director Zhang Yimou, who directed the ceremonies, told The Telegraph back in 2008 that he didn't believe Western nations were even capable of pulling off such a spectacle:
"I often joke with (foreign interviewers) and say that our level of human performance is second in the world," he said. "Number one is North Korea. Their performances are totally uniform, and uniformity in this way brings beauty. We Chinese can do it too. After hard training and strict discipline, Chinese achieve that as well."
Well, since Pyongyang isn't likely to be awarded the Games anytime soon, what can Boyle and the organizers do to make the opening ceremonies in London an even bigger hit than those in Beijing (below) were?
The most important thing they can do is make the opening ceremonies theirs, as in order for it to be successful, it needs to be a uniquely British event.
Boyle appears to be off to a solid start in that regard. The ceremonies, dubbed "The Isles of Wonder" will feature a huge set that according to The Guardian will include a cricket team, horses, chickens, sheep, a model of Glastonbury Tor, mosh pits, the biggest harmonically tuned bell in the world and a cloud that produces rain.
Chickens, mosh pits and a working cloud? Now were talking!
Also, Boyle is pulling out a couple of the big guns when it comes to British celebrities. Queen Elizabeth II will open the ceremonies, and Sir Paul McCartney will perform at their conclusion, providing a pair of very British bookends for the festivities.
Let's face it: Yimou was probably on to something, as the military precision of the ceremonies in Beijing would probably be hard to duplicate in a Western nation where, as Yimou put it, "no one can suffer any discomfort because of human rights." (Um, yikes.)
However, if Boyle and the British ramp up the splendor while still focusing on the unique identity and history that makes the UK what it is, then the London Games will begin with opening ceremonies that, while very different from those in Beijing, are every bit as spectacular.