Olympics Opening Ceremony Preview: What to Expect!

From VIP guest appearances (Sir Paul McCartney! David Beckham!) to Mary Poppins, find out what's in store for Friday's much-anticipated kickoff to the Summer Olympic Games!

On Friday night, all eyes will be on London -- an expected billion pairs of them, anyway -- for the 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle has spent two years and a reported $42 million creating the extravaganza, titled Isles of Wonder. Assorted VIPs from around the world will bear witness to the event—from Queen Elizabeth herself to American royalty like Brangelina. So what can we expect to see at this highly anticipated ceremony, which airs on NBC at 7:30 p.m. ET? See a sneak peek here:

 

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Naturally, Boyle and the Olympic Committee are trying their hardest to keep most of the details under wraps. But in an AP report featuring interviews with those in attendance at the technical rehearsal, Boyle appealed to the crowd inside Olympic Stadium to "save the surprise." And rehearsal footage that did make it onto YouTube has been removed.

But during an interview with Today's Meredith Vieira, Boyle did offer some hints about the secretive show. It's a spectacle which is meant to inspire wonder, and will naturally highlight the cultural contributions that Great Britain has made to the world. "The show opens with a bell being rung and a very key character from our history speaking words from The Tempest," Boyle told Vieira. "'Be not afeared. The isle full of noises.'" Yep, Shakespeare would definitely be one of this country's signature cultural contributions!

So are The Beatles (Paul McCartney is scheduled to perform) and current pop stars (rumor has it Adele might be taking the stage). "Our history of music for such a small place is extraordinary," said Boyle. England has also offered up some famous soccer stars (so yes, expect David Beckham) and TV shows like Downton Abbey (cue Maggie Smith!) And over the generations, it's also served up some of the greatest icons of literary fiction. (Don't be surprised to see Peter Pan! Alice in Wonderland! Cruella de Vil!)

There's even an ode to Britain's bad weather: Rain clouds that pour on command! And there will be an ode to the beauty that results from all that rain. The set will feature a "green and pleasant land" with real grass, 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens, and so on.

How on earth will he incorporate all these disparate elements? That's what Vieira wanted to know. "I heard this somewhere, and I wonder if it's really true," she said. "This is basically a Danny Boyle film that's being created here -- live."

"We're trying to do a live film, yeah," he replied. "The way you experience it on television will feel, I hope, much more immediate and visceral than you normally get. And there'll be more closeups, for instance, which is a way of conveying emotion.

Another exciting element that's been leaked: There will be a short film starring actor Daniel Craig as James Bond and Queen Elizabeth as his latest Bond girl. (Well, okay, she's not the Bond girl, but she's in it!) And of course, there will be athletes, too. This is the Olympics kickoff, after all.

"How will you know if this has been a success?" Vieira asked Boyle. "I believe it's a success already, because of the way that it's mobilized people together in a tough time in Britain and the world itself," Boyle replied.

Still, here's hoping the end result is fun to watch, too! It sure sounds like it will be!

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