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Let The Games Begin: London 2012 Summer Olympic Games Officially Begin

Aired July 27, 2012 - 16:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Games begin! This is a special edition of Connect the World.

A bright good evening. You're joining me from London's Hyde Park where thousands are watching the Olympic ceremony on big screens and enjoying a special concert. The atmosphere here let me tell you is electric.

Let's just pan around, Scotty (ph), and show our viewers what we've got here. 60,000 people in Hyde Park Central London getting ready to watch what is the opening ceremony to the London 2012 games here on the big screen as they are around the country.

This gives everybody, everybody an opportunity to see what London has to offer in this spectacular extravaganza organized by Danny Boyle, of course.

And with me tonight, my colleague Dan Rivers who is covering all things security for us, World Sport's Alex Thomas is at the Olympic park as well.

Well, the atmosphere...

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Becky, you're catching an early glimpse of what's been happening at the opening ceremony. A video animation to begin Danny Boyle's $40 million extravaganza. I can see a helicopter in the video animation. I can hear one overhead. Maybe we're going to have someone drop in on the ceremony to get things underway.

We'll have to wait and see how it unfolds. There's been a huge veil of secrecy over the entire opening ceremony of course. They've even employed social networking to, as the hashtag goes, save the surprise. And on the whole, most of the world's media that are camped out here have been observing that.

As for Danny Boyle, the director himself, so much hinges on his creative vision that now he's going to have to sit back and watch it like the rest of us.


DANNY BOYLE, DIRECTOR: What you think about, really, is you think about the volunteers really. Because the thing about directors is that they just sit at the back in the end, you know. It -- this is a live performance. And it's the actors, and in our case they're volunteers, who have to get up there and do it.

So any kind of nervousness I feel for them is for them, really, because my nerves are not important. And the excitement I feel about it is obviously the excitement I think they feel. So, yeah, looking forward to it, really. And whatever comes our comes our way, because it's -- it's -- it's live and it's a one time only. So I'll never do one again.


THOMAS: Whatever is coming our way right now is a load of rock music blasting out of the Olympic stadium behind me. Danny Boyle's opening ceremony is called the Isles of Wonder, inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest. There's 10,000 volunteers taking part, 12,956 props, 100 times more than your average West End show. It has to be better than that. It has to be mind-boggling. We remember Beijing four years ago. Let's sit back and enjoy it. And we'll keep you up to date across the hour, Becky.

ANDERSON: Right. And we're looking at the screams. Here the audience goes wild at the beginning of that opening ceremony. Seven years in the making, these Olympics. The crowds here, you can hear them behind me, definitely ready for London's sporting spectacle. Have a listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To have the Olympics in London and to see it live on the screen is just amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just feeling the Olympic spirit, hope people have fun, people of all countries. And I think this is the man thing about the Olympic games that you can feel the whole world are together for one thing that the sports can do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, we are looking forward to it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The crowds are good.


ANDERSON: Well, just some of the people I met earlier here in Hyde Park they've just been watching Bradley Wiggins ringing the bell to start that opening ceremony here. Of course, the British cyclist who just won the Tour de France just a week or so ago. And we're going to see him at the Olympics, see if his legs will still carry him.

Earlier, here I spoke to two of the performers of tonight's concert in Hyde Park. Simon Le Bon and Roger Taylor, better known, as you all know, as members of Duran Duran the 80s band gearing up to take to the stage. Earlier, they were lapping up the buzz here. Have a listen.


SIMON LE BON, DURAN DURAN SINGER: It is quite amazing. There's a real buzz in this place. I don't know if you can tell on the TV, but there really is. This is a real, live show.

ANDERSON: Yeah, this is. And it's -- you know, there will be 60,000 people here tonight.

Do you still get that buzz from a live audience?

LE BON: Absolutely. Yeah, it's the focus of our whole day. You know, when you walk on the stage there's nothing more important than that group of people who have paid money to come and see your play. And you've got to -- you just have -- it's not a juicy, it's a -- it's just a drive. You've got to do your job.

ANDERSON: What can we expect from the set tonight, guys?

ROGER TAYLOR, DURAN DURAN DRUMMER: It's going to be power set. We've condensed it into an hour. We used to play for about two hours. So we've got some of the new album in there. But, you know, we've got the classics in there. So we know...

LE BON: I thought we were just going to play the whole set really fast.

TAYLOR: Like double speed?

LE BON: Yeah.

TAYLOR: To get more songs in?

LE BON: Yeah.

TAYLOR: All right.


ANDERSON: Two members of the 80s band. I met them earlier. They've just finished off their session here. They'll be followed by Stereophonic and Snow Patrol a little later on. And the crowd has been listening to and watching this opening ceremony.

Today's celebrations in London kicks off with a mass bell ringing.

Well, the iconic landmark Big Ben rang for three minutes for the first time in decades.

Around the country, thousands of bells rang out.

Well, the Olympics flames journey reaches its pinnacle very soon with the lighting of the cauldron during the opening ceremony at the Olympic stadium. Who will take on that honor still remains a mystery.

Well, earlier today the torch arrived at city hall in London on the queen's boat Glorianna. You'll remember that from the Diamond Jubilee. Its journey to London has taken it through more than 1,000 cities, towns, and villages across the UK.

But it began back in Greece at the birthplace of the Olympic games.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's the rallying call to the athletes of the world to come to London.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just so great that everyone in Northern Ireland is getting together to witness really something that is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our country and for the UK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So once the torch starts going around the country, then it's as if the starting pistol has been fired in a very general sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the flame burns, it burns -- it shows the passion, the energy and the fusion of all of the young people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was already a special day, but now it's super special.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a special day for London. It's wonderful to be part of it.


ANDERSON: Who will light that cauldron at the opening ceremony. We are yet to find out. One of the center pieces of the ceremony tonight. Well, you get to get a piece of the sporting action. The First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama. She's in town. She's been meeting with the queen and other heads of state and dignitaries at a special reception at Buckingham Palace, that's after she got Team USA all fired up for the games over breakfast this morning.

The first lady along with many other leaders, diplomats and celebrities are now enjoying VIP treatment at the park.

We're going to take a very short break for you here on CNN. When we come back, keeping everyone safe, of course, is absolutely paramount at an event like this. We'll take a look at the key security concerns and what is being done about them.

Do stay with us. This is a special edition of Connect the World live from Hyde Park in London.



BORIS JOHNSON, MAYOR OF LONDON: There's a huge amount of work that nobody sees involving the intelligence services. That's really the critical thing in an event like this. You listen out for what may or may not be happening on the internet. You pry as far as you possibly can to monitor the potential suspect.


ANDERSON: You're watching a special Olympic edition of Connect the World live from London's Hyde Park. Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson.

The games have begun as it were, or at least the opening ceremony has. We are about 15 minutes or so into that. This is really the launch of London 2012. Security, of course, a top priority throughout the Olympic games. The Mayor of London said behind scenes, people working around the clock to ensure all athletes and visitors have nothing to worry about.

To Dan Rivers here with me. And you've been looking at some of the potential threats, I know, to the games, Dan. What have you found?

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, as soon as the games were announced, within 24 hours we had the 7/7 attack. So clearly security was always going to be a massive concern here in London. It's been the scene of numerous terrorist attempts down the years, not just Islamic terrorism. We've had Irish Republicanism. We've had the riots last summer. All of those concerns were high up in the minds of the police and the security services as they sought to try and police crowds like this here, but also at the arena as well and across the country.

I've been running through some of their worst-case scenarios that they gave me in a briefing a few weeks ago.


RIVERS: Another 7/7 attack is an obvious concern, although not perhaps highly likely. In 2005, London was shocked as 52 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks across the capital. But since then, the security and intelligence services have disrupted numerous plots. Now, with security so tight around London, a direct hit on an Olympic venue would be difficult.

Dissident Irish Republicans showed they could strike at the heart of the British establishment in 2000 when they fired a shoulder launched missile at the headquarters of MI6, the secret intelligence service. They could strike again during the Olympic games, although security officials are playing down that risk saying it would be a PR disaster for them and could do their cause more harm than good.

A lone wolf attack is much more difficult to prevent. This was the scene of just one such atrocity in 1999. David Copeland planted a series of bombs targeting ethnic minorities and the gay community which left three dead and 129 injured. A terrorist working alone with no previous convictions is very difficult to stop until they strike. It is a nightmare scenario for those trying to secure the games.

The riots last year showed how fragile law and order can be once a mob takes over the streets. Then, the police admit they were totally overwhelmed. But this summer it's different. They've got 9,500 extra officers on top of the 31,000 who normally patrol the streets of London. In addition to that, they have 18,000 soldiers who have also been mobilized.

But there is one security concern that looms over every Olympic games, a repeat of the 1972 Munich hostage crisis when Israeli athletes were executed by Palestinian terrorists. The possibility of country's bringing their disputes to the streets of London, to venues like this, is not something security officials here are taking lightly.


RIVERS: I don't want to scare everyone. Obviously, those are the worst-case scenarios. But actually so far, the security operation is going really, really well. The police and army have stepped in to fill the gaps that were left by that private security firm that came up short, that caused a bit of a furor here for a few days.

Actually, now, I think having been all around London today, things are going brilliantly. The traffic is moving. There are police everywhere, but I don't think they're kind of damping the atmosphere, they're going a very delicate act of trying to ensure it's safe without spoiling the party for all the people here. They've laid in lots of extra CCTV cameras. There's thousands of extra police in London right now, 9,500 thousand plus the 18,000 soldiers. Fingers crossed none of them will be needed.

ANDERSON: You can only hope for the best. Thank you very much indeed. Dan Rivers with me here at the park.

We've been talking about securing London, one of the biggest and busiest cities on the planet, of course, and that's at the best of times. But London now has a brand new edition and that is the Olympic Park. For those of you who haven't seen it yet, let's give you an idea of just its scale. Earlier this week, Alex Thomas took a tour of the home of the London 2012 Olympic games.


THOMAS: Stratford International Railway Station is just over the bridge behind me. It's a huge, wide thoroughfare, because so many fans will use this as their first and main entrance into the Olympic Park. And they'll first set eyes on that venue there, the aquatic center. Over 10 million liters of water in the various pools there. Lots more happening here on the Olympic Park, though, that's the Orbit, one of several sculptures would you believe? No events taking place there, but lovely views from the top if you go up on the lift or elevator. There's even a restaurant up there as well.

But everyone wants to get their pictures taken in front of here, the main Olympic stadium. They'll host Friday's opening ceremony a $40 million production overseen by the movie director Danny Boyle.

But let's take you a bit further into the park. It's a huge area, two-and-a-half square kilometers, that's around 356 football pictures if you want to put it in that currency. Let's walk pretty fast.

You feel like you need to run rather than just walk to get around this huge Olympic Park, but there are plenty of seats. You know, more than 3,300 in fact. They say you're never more than 50 meters away from putting your feet up.

This area of the Olympic Park really sums up how this part of East London has been transformed. You can see many of the 4,000 trees and 74,000 plants that have been growing here, something for people to enjoy long after London 2012 is over. And to cap it all, on the horizon, the velodrome where Olympic cycling will take place.

You know, this venue has been compared to a Pringle crisp or potato chip, which is a bit harsh, I think. I quite like it. You know, 56 kilometers of timber was used to create the track inside. 26 specialist carpenters using more than 300,000 nails. It certainly looks very different to the basketball arena where America's Dream Team among others will be performing.

Well, there you have it, a brief glimpse -- there's so much more to Olympic Park. We hope you enjoyed just a taste of London 2012. Organizers hoping all the special touches will go towards all the visitors thinking this has been a very, very special games indeed.

Alex Thomas, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: With a great set of pegs. Still to come tonight.




ANDERSON: You are joking.

LEWIS: No. Fencing and BMX. The last time it was badminton and ping pong. But I don't just go to see it, I go there and I find like the American delegation or something and I say, can I sit with you guys? And where's your federation president? He's over there. OK. Give me the back story.


ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World. A special Olympic edition. I'm Becky Anderson coming to you live tonight from London's Hyde Park as the Olympic games get underway. The 60,000 in the crowd here cheering the flaming rings. They're watching the opening ceremony on a huge screen here in the center of London as people are -- thousands, hundreds of thousands if not millions around the country and something like a billion around the world.

Well, you've just been listening to Carl Lewis telling me about what he does when he goes to watch the Olympics. And earlier today Olympic veteran President Jacques Rogge talked about what events he wants to take in at his last Olympics before he retires.


JACQUES ROGGE, IOC PRESIDENT: Definitely iconic competitions that I want to see. I will be there for the 100 meter flat. I will be there to see Ben Ainslie, the sailor go for an elusive fourth consecutive gold. And he has the talent to do that.


ANDERSON: Well, the games already been pretty memorable for one South Korean archer. Alex joining me from the -- from the Olympic Park. What a result today. Tell us about it.

THOMAS: Yeah, absolutely, Becky. You come back to us here at the Olympic Park just sort of crucial part of the opening ceremony. Viewers will be able to see smoke billowing above the stadium as five massive Olympic rings all forged together in a cacophony of fire and smoke representing the end Britain's industrial revolution. More on that I'm sure.

But you were talking, Becky, about the performance of one South Korean archer called Im Dong-hyun. We've seen the women's and men's football tournament start early in the week. It was the archer's turn. They're competing at Lord's Cricket Ground, that's the scene of the archery. And Im Dong-hyun, although he's legally blind in his left eye, set a world record today of 699 points from his 72 arrows fired, beating the previous best mark, which was his own, by three points. And also contributing to a new world team record score for South Korea, traditionally so strong in the archery.

We caught up with Im Dong-hyun earlier in the week where he told us how he gets over the problems associated with his disability.


IM DONG-HYUN, SOUTH KOREAN ARCHER (through translator): I've trained for over 10 years, so I'm used to it. And it doesn't bother me. I prefer not to wear glasses, because it might change my senses. So I try to make everything the same as usual.


THOMAS: And Becky as you come back to me, that was the South Korean archer who set the first world record of these London 2012 games. We're watching an animated video of Daniel Craig, James Bond himself. I think the opening ceremony is about to be sealed by her majesty's secret service in just a moment or two -- Becky.

ANDERSON: And that's one of the few things I think that has actually leaked out about the ceremony. They've been trying to keep the event under wraps. But you can hear the crowd behind me as they do see Daniel Craig on the very big screen. Our apologies to our viewers who can't actually see this. But he's actually talking to Queen Elizabeth II.

Alex, we're going to come back to you. Still to come on Connect the World this evening. We've got a lot more as the games begin. We're going to show you the ones to watch out for this weekend. That's coming up.

And a tale of Olympic proportions, how one man rode his rickshaw halfway across the globe and made it in time for the opening ceremony. Let's hope he's got a ticket. His incredible story up next.


ANDERSON: A very warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world. I'm Becky Anderson, this is a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD, live from London's Hyde Park.

There is a mouth-watering weekend of Olympic sports, of course, coming your way as the London Games kick off. We're going to tell you which athletes to keep your eye on as the Games get underway.

First, though, let's get you a check of the world news headlines here on CNN.

The expected all-out assault on Syria's biggest city has yet to come, but we're already hearing reports of a massacre. Opposition activists say regime forces indiscriminately shelled homes in one district of Aleppo today, using mortars, tanks, and helicopter gunships. Activists say at least 100 people have been killed across Syria today. Syrian rebels say that they captured 100 regime forces in Aleppo.

Apologies for the crowds here as we do voice the headlines for you. We are in Hyde Park listening to the Opening Ceremony here on CNN.

World leaders are warning of a devastating loss of civilian life if the regime goes to head with a full-scale offensive Aleppo. UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon is urging both sides to stop the violence.

The former head of the UN monitoring mission in Syria is also speaking out. General Robert Mood says he doesn't know how long the conflict will last, but he does know how it will end.


GENERAL ROBERT MOOD, FORMER HEAD OF UN MONITORING MISSION (through translator): It's impossible to imagine a future Syria where those in power today are still in power. It is just a matter of time before this regime is going to fall, and that is the way it should be as well.


ANDERSON: Greece is waiting to hear from its lenders on whether its belt-tightening goes far enough. Prime minister Antonis Samaras is trying to convince eurozone financial institutions that its government is complying with terms of its bailout loan. Without the next installment, Greece faces default.

More bad news for Spain's economy. New figures show unemployment there rose to nearly 25 percent last quarter. If you count only the young people out of work, it's a staggering 53 percent. Things could get even worse. The International Monetary Fund warns Spain is heading for a deeper recession.

A weak economic report in the United States didn't stop the Dow from soaring today. The blue chips jumped 188 points, closing above 13,000 for the first time since May. That report showed economic growth slowed last quarter to an annual rate of just 1.5 percent. Not good news, obviously, but it was better than expected, so investors relieved.

Well, Facebook didn't share in the market's success. Its stock plunged nearly 12 percent today to $23.70. That's a far cry from its initial public offering price of $38. Investors are concerned by the social media giant's earnings report. It met expectations, but many analysts are worried about the potential for growth.

Well, the Olympic Games are officially underway. We're here in London's Hyde Park as thousands of spectators enjoy the Opening Ceremony there in the Olympic Park. And a special concert going on here for those who are watching on the big screen. These are just a few of the images coming into us, I want to show you, just a little bit earlier.


ANDERSON: Well, the actors and volunteers performing right now are pulling off a stunning show for an expected global audience of 1 billion people.


ANDERSON: We're watching that ceremony right now. A host of visiting dignitaries, before they took their seats, leaders from around the world were treated to a reception at Buckingham Palace, where they mingled with the queen and young royals. Max Foster was there.


FOSTER: Presidents and prime ministers from around the world arrived here at Buckingham Palace for this final leg of the buildup to the London 2012 Olympics. The president of Brazil joined by Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations and Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee.

Representing the United States was Michelle Obama, who arrived and then went in and mingled with all sorts of heads of state and prime ministers and royalty from around the world, royalty including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, of course, and Prince Harry, who in many ways have represented the Olympics here in London.

The queen gave her last speech before officially opening the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

HRM QUEEN ELIZABETH II, THE UNITED KINGDOM: My great-grandfather opened the 1908 Games at White City. My father opened the 1948 Games at Wembley Stadium. And later this evening, I will take pleasure in declaring open the 2012 London Olympic Games at Stratford in the east of London.

FOSTER: Rarely have so many of the world's most powerful people been in one place at one time, and there's complete lockdown here around Buckingham Palace, but the security's working, and actually, there's quite a jovial mood here at the palace because now, for heads of state, it's about throwing their support behind their teams and going for gold.


ANDERSON: And they all arrived at the Olympic Stadium -- you can see them on the big screens. While the atmosphere may be sizzling, the weather, however, is not, it's got to be said. It's definitely cooler than in the last few days here in London.

I know one lady who wishes she was here. I'm sorry, Jen. You're there at the International Weather Center. And tonight, how are you feeling?

JENNY HARRISON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I -- Beck, you know what? I've just been watching it right from the start. When you watch this later, properly, every emotion you have ever felt will go through your body. It is phenomenal so far.

So, for all of you who are now watching us, when you do watch it, it is just incredible. I can't believe the weather is actually going to dampen things down at all. There has been some rain, we saw, just before the Opening Ceremony, people there with their umbrellas up and their macs on.

But right now, that rain has gone through, it is clear conditions. And in fact, a little bit warmer than you might think. It's actually 22 degrees Celsius. The rain, though, it should stay away for at least another day, but there's a lot of it coming through, certainly by Sunday.

But certainly when it comes to Saturday, it is going to be a glorious day, temperatures in the low 20s Celsius for London. Sunday, a very widespread wet day, maybe some heavy spells of rain. Monday should be a better day, more of a sunshine and showers sort of day.

And what we've done -- look at this, we've not done this before. We've never shown you the weather so far in advance. So, what we've done is we put together the months -- the next couple of weeks, as you can see.

So, here we are now, the 27th. When you see a white day, that is a very good day. That is a dry, sunny day. When we get to light green, like today, it means that we could be seeing some showers. That is Sunday, where we can see some heavier rain.

We've gone a long way out here, Becky. We don't normally do this. But we decided it was a risk worth taking, but certainly, next week, probably more of a usual summertime across Great Britain. We're going to see quite a few showers and some heavier spells of rain. But for now, it is just an incredible sight to behold, Becky.

ANDERSON: You are offering four good days in amongst, what is it, 15?


ANDERSON: Not good enough!

HARRISON: -- it'll be fabulous, Becky.

ANDERSON: Come back with a better forecast next time, Jen. I tell you what, it was pouring with rain here earlier on this evening, but it has -- it's a lot better, and the ceremony underway, and of course we've got a couple of fantastic weeks of sport here to come.

You're watching -- thanks, Jen -- a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD live from London. Coming up, we'll be looking at what events the first weekend has in store for us. Stay with us.



IAN THORPE, FIVE TIME OLYMPIC CHAMPION: I think the men's 100 meters freestyle will be incredible with an Australian, James Magnussen. He may pull off what will be one of the most incredible sprint freestyle performances of all time at these Games. And I'm looking forward to that and to watching that mostly.


ANDERSON: Ian Thorpe, there, who failed to qualify to swim in these Olympics, but he's taking a keen interest in the event this weekend, and one of the many other famous faces visiting London is Michelle Obama.

She met the members of Team USA this morning. America's first lady told the athletes that their country was behind them and they should enjoy the Olympics, and not to forget, she said, why they're here.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: You all take advantage of everything. Stop, look around you. I know in my position, sometimes I don't get a chance to breathe or take it in. This only happens every few years, so try to have fun. Try to breathe a little bit. But also win, right? In the end, winning is good.



ANDERSON: One of the Team USA's leading athletes is facing tough competition from a fellow countrymen. Michael Phelps, who has 16 medals to his name, will splash off against Ryan Lochte tomorrow in the 400 meter individual medley. It's one of those great sporting events of the Olympic Games. Take a look at why tomorrow's duel is definitely one to watch.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Sixteen Olympic finals. Sixteen medals. All but two of them, gold. American superstar Michael Phelps has dominated the pool since the Athens Games. In Beijing, he was simply unbeatable, bagging a record-breaking eight gold medals.

And now, at the London Games, which he says will be his last, the 27- year-old has a chance to win seven more. This times, Phelps may not have it all his own way. The most anticipated battle is against a US teammate in the individual medley races.

RYAN LOCHTE, US SWIMMER: He's human. He's not a fish or anything like that. He's just like all of us, and he trained really hard to get there.

MICHAEL PHELPS, US SWIMMER: He has been lighting up the last couple years in the swimming world, and I think -- I guess you can say people are trying to catch him.

ANDERSON: Gold medal performance or not, London could still be a history-making Games for Phelps, who needs just three medals of any kind to become the most decorated Olympian of all time.



ANDERSON: All right, Alex, I want to bring you back in from the Olympic Park. I don't want you sitting on the fence for this. Who do you fancy in that match-up?


ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You're not going to get me off the fence, but I'm happy to put my neck on the line when I think there's a clear indication of one or another athlete getting ahead. But in this instance, it's too close to call.

But even if Ryan Lochte does beat Michael Phelps in some of the races and denies him seven gold medals, which is the most that Phelps could win at these Games, it's Phelps who will go down as the greatest swimmer of all time.

As you said in that short report, already he's got 14 gold medals out of his total Olympic haul of 16, but on top of that, he's got 26 world titles, 37 world records. Both of those are unprecedented achievements in the sport.

And you mentioned, he only needs three more medals of any color to become the most successful ever Olympian in terms of total medals. So actually, yes, although Ryan Lochte should -- we should tip our cap to him, as well.

It's not all about Phelps in the swimming. He beat Phelps twice in the world championships last year, he certainly beat him again in one of the races at the US trials. I think Phelps has just been given a bit of a kick up the backside at just the right time, and we're going to see the best from what really is a superstar American swimmer, Becky.

ANDERSON: All right. What else are you looking forward to this weekend?

THOMAS: Well, as far as the Games are concerned, you can look ahead to the men's 100 meters final; the American Dream Team in the basketball; Oscar Pistorius, the first Paralympic track and field athlete to take part in the Games.

But as far as Saturday's events are concerned, some other sort of superstars in the Games are the tennis players, Roger Federer, back at Wimbledon just weeks after winning his 17th Grand Slam title. He's now trying to win his individual gold medal. Of course, all the Brits will be cheering on Andy Murray in that one.

And also look out for someone that many of our viewers may not have heard of, Italy's Valentina Vezzali. She's a fencer, 38 years old, and she is going for a bit of history. She's recorded three individual golds in fencing in Olympic Games, and in total, her medal count is just one short of a record eight by Giovanni Trillini.

And bizarrely, although she's a police officer as her day job, she wants to carry on in fencing until she's old and gray and become her country's most successful ever Olympic fencer, Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, Alex, back to you later on. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, we're at Hyde Park, Alex is down at the Olympic Stadium, and behind him, the ceremony is underway for what are the London 2012 Games, there, kicking off in style.

Coming up, it took three wheels and two years to reach one destination. One man's epic Olympic journey. That story, up next.


ANDERSON: I want you to take a look at some of the images from tonight's Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Games. There ceremony now underway, and this is what we've seen -- or just some of what we've seen today.

The transformation of the English countryside to the industrial revolution. This is real British stuff we've seen this evening at the Opening Ceremony. And the burning rings. One of the highlights of the ceremony.

The other, well, quite frankly, was Daniel Craig as James Bond at Buckingham Palace and then helicoptering in to the event in East London.

Well, it may be this city's third time of hosting the Games, but London 2012 will be the first truly social Olympic Games. Everybody from athletes to organizers to fans will be sharing theirs stories on websites like Facebook and Twitter. Phil Han's got the status update, now, on how social media is changing the Olympic spirit. Have a look at this.


PHIL HAN, CNN DIGITAL PRODUCER (voice-over): It's already being hailed as an iconic image from the London 2012 Olympics. Or should I say, the very first social media Olympics. That image was tweeted by Australian diver Matt Mitcham and quickly went viral.

He, along with thousands of other athletes, are turning to social media to give fans an inside look at life behind the scenes, from picking up team uniforms, dealing with luggage, and eating in the cafeteria, to having a bit of fun around the Athletes' Village.

British athlete Tom Daley is another popular Twitter user. He not only has more than 300,000 followers, but is also one of Team GB's top medal hopefuls. The US swimming team also just posted this parody video of the song "Call Me Maybe."


HAN: Organizers have also encouraged spectators and fans to use social media, particularly when it came to this. When tens of thousands of volunteers turned up to watch a dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremonies, they were asked to use the hash tag #savethesurprise.

But the popularity of social networking sites has also created its own set of problems. Social media has already claimed its first victim in London. Greek athlete Paraskevi Papachristou was expelled after tweeting an offensive comment about African immigrants. Despite quickly apologizing, it was too late. Her Olympic dreams were gone.

Another more controversial area is the line between athletes and sponsors. While the IOC encourages athletes to connect with fans, they want them to declare who their sponsors are for transparency.

American swimmer Michael Phelps also updates his Facebook page with postings about Visa and Head and Shoulders. While this might make for tricky territory for the IOC and even fans, social media can become a goldmine for sponsors.

Phil Han, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Now, let's get you some real time social media reaction, shall we? This map shows the buzz around the hash tag #openingceremony. You can see, it's lighting -- let's bring up for our viewers so you can see, there. It's lighting up conversation around the world, especially here in Europe and over in the US.

Keep in mind, the US won't air the ceremony that's going on here in London on prime time TV for a few more hours. But some real buzz going on across the social media world. A tad quiet in Asia, but it's the middle of the night there, so that's possibly understandable.

And here, you can see how the hash tag has gotten hotter over the last few hours, a massive spike in the last hour. No surprise that the UK is the epicenter of it all, that's the hottest spot there.

US Olympic diver David Boudia tweeted this picture of the RAF Red Arrows soaring over London at exactly 20 hours and 12 minutes. I've got to tell you, that was while Duran Duran were playing here in the park at the concert ahead of this Opening Ceremony. It was absolutely remarkable. They loved it and we loved it.

Retired Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes took this incredible photo of the ceremony. Her caption simply reads: #pandemonium.

And from inside the Olympic Village, South Africa swimmer Roland Schoeman posted this snap of him and his teammates enjoying the show. A few million -- just a few million around the world. The TV audience is expected to be, in fact, a billion. And a view that many, many people have around the world.

Well, what are your most -- what are you most excited for during the Games? Whether you're in here in London, one of the 60,000 people perhaps, or friend or family of someone who are here behind me today, wherever you're watching, I want to hear from you.

Tweet me @BeckyCNN. Make sure to use the hash tag #cnnolympics. That is @BeckyCNN for all you Twitter users. And for all the latest on Olympic action, do go to

Well, before we go, a Chinese farmer who says he rode his rickshaw halfway across the globe to see the London Games. We'll see that dream turn to reality tonight. Apparently, he's in the stadium.

Chen Guanming started his 60,000 kilometer journey more than two years ago. In April 2010, he set off from his village in China's Jiangsu province with just his rickshaw and his passport.

Well, the 57-year-old made his way through more than 16 countries, including Vietnam, Pakistan, Turkey, and Italy before reaching Britain's shores at the beginning of July just three weeks ago. As CNN's Neil Curry found out, a good Samaritan stepped in at the last moment to help him complete his remarkable trek.


NEIL CURRY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If his account of his incredible journey is true, then no one deserves an Olympic medal more than this man, being greeted as a hero in London's Chinatown district.

Chen Guanming says he left his farm in China two years ago, determined to pedal his rickshaw to London in time to spread the Olympic spirit. He says his journey took him zigzagging across southeast Asia into Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, before crossing western Europe and arriving in England on the ferry from France.

He tells of challenges from fatigue, hunger, and extreme cold, and the difficulty of crossing continents though a multitude of passports contrails, a collection of visas displayed as apparent proof of his story.

He finally arrived in London, where a local insurance broker says he approached him to practice his Mandarin.

JOHN BEESTON, FRIEND OF CHEN: A rather dejected, lost-looking man bent over his handlebars on his tricycle was there. Well, the limited bit of Mandarin that I have and lot more sign language, we came over, brought him over to Chinatown, and the people here in Chinatown have been just wonderful.

CURRY: Having come such a long way, it had seemed that Chen's hopes of actually getting to the Olympics would end here in Chinatown. He had no ticket, until a man stepped out from the crowd and this happened in front of our eyes.

XUEXIAN BEI, UK CHINA CULTURE ASSOCIATION: Until yesterday, I heard about a story he still hadn't received any Opening Ceremony tickets. So, that's why, I think as a Chinese, I would like to donate this Opening Ceremony ticket to make his dream become true.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said he is ever excited for the opening day today. So, that's right, he's very happy.

CURRY: Mr. Chen had just a few moments to express his delight and enjoy his good fortune before it was time to set off for the Games -- by rickshaw, of course. But an urgent call to London's police failed to secure an escort along the Olympic route.

And so, the final leg of Mr. Chen's apparently epic journey had to be completed in a method more suited to the life of a London commuter than a continent-hopping Chinese rickshaw driver: the Tube.

Neil Curry, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Well, I hope he's enjoying the fun, the ceremony well underway as the London 2012 Olympics kick off. That's the end of the CONNECT THE WORLD special tonight. We've got some Parting Shots for you, though, from that three-minute bell ringing earlier today, or should that be the bell throwing? Let's just give you a couple of those shots.