When Queen Elizabeth appeared to parachute into the Olympic Stadium this summer it was hailed as one of the greatest moments in British television history.
As part of the lavish London 2012 opening ceremony the Queen was shown jumping from a helicopter with James Bond actor Daniel Craig, but ever since there has been mystery surrounding how, exactly, she was persuaded to do it – until now.
Lifting the lid on her first movie role, Lord Sebastian Coe has revealed the audacious stunt had been kept a secret from the Queen’s own dumbstruck family who watched it unfold on July 27 this year.
Prince Charles “roared with laughter” and Princes Harry and William began yelling “Go Granny!” as she was shown flying across the London sky before appearing in the Royal box, he said.
In his autobiography, Running My Life and serialized in The Times, Lord Coe discusses how director Danny Boyle, LOCOG CEO Paul Deighton and even Prime Minister David Cameron had helped make it happen and admitted he was “speechless and nervous” about it.
“When we saw those shoes and peach colored dress disappearing into the night sky under a billowing parachute, we [he and Paul Deighton] looked at each other, both thinking <<Oh my God! What have we sanctioned here!>>,” he wrote.
During the ceremony Prince William and Prince Harry were sat behind Lord Coe, who was sat next to Prince Charles.
“Prince Charles looked at me and began laughing rather nervously, wondering where on earth this was going. And when the film cut to the shot of the Royal back, he had exactly the same reaction as everyone else, which was to assume that it was the lady who does the impersonations. But the moment she turned around and everyone realized <<My God! It really is the Queen!>> he began roaring with laughter. As for his sons, they were beside themselves.
“As she started her descent, two voices behind me [William and Harry] shouted in unison <<Go Granny!>>.”
When Queen Elizabeth appeared to parachute into the Olympic Stadium this summer it was hailed as one of the greatest moments in British television history
Danny Boyle had the original idea and Lord Coe knew the Queen’s deputy private secretary Edward Young. David Cameron was then informed, who also thought it was a great idea, so brought it up with the Queen during their weekly audience at the Palace.
“I’ll never forget when Danny showed Paul [Deighton] and me the finished film. Even though we had been involved at every stage from storyboard to final script. the wit, fun and sheer audacity left us speechless.”
The recorded sequence opened at Buckingham Palace, where a tuxedo-wearing Daniel Craig as 007 was presented to the Queen by her personal footman as she was writing a letter and training her corgis Monty, Willow and Holly to roll over.
Greeting him with an “Evening, Mr. Bond”, the Queen, in a rose-pink dress, was seen striding briskly through the palace with the action hero before climbing into a helicopter emblazoned with the Union Flag.
The two were depicted as soaring over the streets of London and through Tower Bridge until they finally reached the Olympic Park.
As the film reached its climax, spectators inside the east London stadium heard an AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter, which finally appeared hovering above.
As the aircraft steadied in the movie sequence, Bond was seen opening the door and appearing to hesitate. While he dithered, the figure of the Queen pushed past him and dived out into the air followed by 007 – Union Jack parachutes streaming behind them. Meanwhile, from the real helicopter above the stadium, the same two figures appeared to plunge to earth.
And, with the familiar Bond theme tune sounding around the stadium, the spotlight shone on the Royal Box to reveal the Queen in exactly the same dress she wore in the film.
Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen entered to rapturous applause with Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee.
The Union Flag was then carried into the stadium and raised by representatives of the Royal Navy, Army and RAF.
Director Danny Boyle said: “The Queen made herself more accessible than ever before.”
Nic Brown, BBC Director of UK Drama Production, who produced the sequence, filmed in March, said it had required “a huge amount of planning and resources”.
He said he hoped the result was a film “full of warmth, joy, affection, wit, surprise and excitement and sunshine”.
Organizers said that having to secure permission to fly along the Thames through Tower Bridge – which had never been done before – was a challenge in itself.
The two parachutists who actually leapt from the helicopter last night were Gary Connery, a professional base jumper, and Mark Suttan, a former officer in the Royal Gurkha Rifles.
London Olympic Games organizers have received the Olympic flame at a handover ceremony beneath a rainbow in Athens, Greece.
The President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Spyros Capralos, passed the flame to Princess Anne, president of the British Olympic Association in the Panathenaic Stadium.
Lit in Olympia on 10 May, the flame was taken on a week-long tour of Greece.
A British delegation including David Beckham are due to fly with the torch to the UK on Friday.
It will then be carried 8,000 miles (12,875 km) by 8,000 bearers in a 70-day relay ending at the Olympic Park.
The relay begins at Land’s End on Saturday when triple Olympic sailing champion Ben Ainslie will be the first to carry the torch on British soil.
After criss-crossing every region of the UK, the flame will be used to light the cauldron in Stratford’s Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on 27 July.
At Thursday’s handover ceremony, crowds in the stadium stood beneath multi-colored umbrellas as the national anthems of the UK and Greece were sung by a British school choir and a Greek tenor.
President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos passed the flame to Princess Anne, president of the British Olympic Association in the Panathenaic Stadium
Heavy rain abated and a rainbow could be seen as the flame was carried into the Panathenaic Stadium – host of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 – by Christina Giazitzidou, Greece’s world champion in rowing, who held aloft an olive branch of peace in her free hand.
Celebrated athletes carried the flame around the athletics track in a relay before the final torchbearers, Greek weightlifter Pyrros Dimas and Chinese gymnast Li Ning – who lit the Olympic cauldron at Beijing 2008 – lit the cauldron in the centre of the stadium, formally ending the Greek leg of the relay.
The British delegation included London 2012 chief Lord Sebastian Coe, Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson and London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Lord Coe told the thousands-strong crowd that millions of people across the UK were working to get the UK ready to welcome the world, and said the torch would touch every region of the nation on its 70-day relay.
“The story of the flame will be about those that carry it – their stories will inspire,” he said.
Princess Anne said earlier the relay was likely to stoke excitement for the Games in the UK, as it had in Canada ahead of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
“When the flame arrives and the torch relay starts to get under way, that is a physical moment in terms of the process towards the Games.
“Certainly in Canada they were amazed by the effect that that had and I think that may well be true for Britain as well.”
Boris Johnson said the torch relay democratized the Olympic experience.
“It’s lighting the touch paper of a 70-day fuse that will then go off in the great pyrotechnics of the opening ceremony,” he said.
Boris Johnson said the key tests for London 2012 were both whether the Games were well-received, and whether they left a legacy for London and the UK.
Hugh Robertson accepted that putting on the Games was a huge responsibility, but said if London 2012 was a success it would be a great advertisement for both London and the UK.
Also attending the ceremony were London 2012 ambassador David Beckham and five young people chosen by Games organizers LOCOG and the British Council for their commitment to sport and their role in promoting the Olympic values of friendship, excellence and respect within their school or college.
Hailing from different national regions, the youngsters are part of London 2012’s Get Set education network and school linking programmes run by the British Council.
After spending Thursday night at the British embassy in Athens, the flame will be brought to the UK by the British delegation on BA2012 on Friday evening, where there will be a welcoming ceremony at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall.
The flame – symbolizing purity because it comes directly from the sun – was kindled at a 10 May ceremony in Olympia by actress Ino Menegaki, playing a high priestess, who caught the sun’s rays in a parabolic mirror.
That ceremony took place amid the Temple of Hera ruins, by the ancient Olympic Games stadium.
The torch was then carried 1,800 miles through Greece by 500 torchbearers on a week-long route circling the country and travelling out to the islands of Crete and Kastelorizo.
The flame was then “laid to rest” in a ceremony at the Acropolis on Wednesday.
Ahead of Beijing 2008, the Olympic torch traversed the globe in a relay dogged by pro-Tibet, democracy and anti-China protests.
The 2012 relay has taken place with the backdrop of economic turbulence in Greece, which has been left without a government and possibly on the brink of leaving the eurozone by the financial crisis.
Greece has seen huge demonstrations of social unrest in previous months, amid efforts to reach a deal with the European Union on a bail-out for its economy.
A flame was first lit at the modern Olympics at the Amsterdam 1928 summer Games, but it was not until Berlin in 1936 that a torch relay route was set out from Greece to Germany.
2012 Olympics stadium has been officially opened by nine-year-old Niamh Clarke-Willis at a ceremony in east London.
Niamh Clarke-Willis joined LOCOG head Lord Sebastian Coe to hit a button which launched balloons into the sky above the venue for this summer’s Games.
Around 40,000 members of the public were at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford to witness the opening, which included a laser light show.
The “2,012 hours to go” event tested the park’s management and security.
Lord Sebastian Coe said: “It’s a fantastic feeling. The seven years have just flown by. Tonight is only the start of the story.
“We want thousands of young people to be inspired to take up sport. We hope that for a few of them it will be the start of their journey.
“I’m grateful to everyone who came here tonight to celebrate this moment in history.”
Niamh Clarke-Willis joined LOCOG head Lord Sebastian Coe to hit a button which launched balloons into the sky above London Olympic Stadium for this summer's Games
Spectators had to queue to enter the venue after airport-style security checks.
Simon Levy, who came to the Olympic Park for the first time on Saturday, said: “It’s not a problem, really. It’s much quicker than the airport and it’s good to be checked because now we know we’re safe.”
Police helicopters flew over the park and armed police patrolled the area.
Adrian Casy, a security guard at the Olympic Stadium, said Saturday’s events were among the main rehearsals for the games, particularly in moving and managing the crowds of spectators from the park and from one venue to another.
“Honestly, so far, so good, although we’re still trying hard to make it run smoother,” said Adrian Casy, adding that some spectators were wearing “insufficient clothing” to cope with the weather conditions.
TV presenters Vernon Kay and Gabby Logan hosted the event which saw entertainment from impressionist Jon Culshaw, actor Hugh Bonneville, singer and former Spice Girl Melanie C, rapper Chipmunk and comedian Jack Whitehall.
Some 140,000 people are expected at the Olympic site over six days.
The celebrations are part of the British Universities and Colleges Sport Outdoor Athletics Championships and the Visa London Disability Grand Prix which are test events for the venue.
London 2012 hopefuls Perri Shakes-Drayton and Holly Bleasdale are competing at the BUCS event which runs from 4-7 May.
Later in the week, the Olympic Stadium will also play host to the Sainsbury’s 2012 School Games, for 1,600 school-aged elite athletes.