Google Doodle celebrates Olympics opening ceremony London 2012

The opening ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympics will be broadcast on NBC Friday, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Google
Google honors the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics with a cartoon doodle.

The ceremony signifying the opening of the 27th Summer Olympic Games in London takes place on Friday in Britain's capital.

With Friday's events, the London 2012 opening ceremony has earned a Google Doodle on the Internet search engine's home page. It features five athletes holding the letters of the Google logo.

Let's take a quick tour of the web and the history of this kick-off event to the Olympics.

The first modern Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 1896 had a ceremony before the athletic competition began. However, the first recognized official opening ceremony took place at the 1908 Summer Games, also held in London. It included the first parade of nations and their athletes, notes Yahoo Sports.

Check out the SI.com gallery which shows images from both the 1896 and 1908 Olympic openings, but also presents photos from the 1948 Games, the first Olympiad following World War II and second hosted by London.

Corbis.com has an interesting visual blog of past opening ceremonies, dating back to the 1948 Games in London. There's a photo from the 1964 opening ceremonies at the Tokyo Olympics showing a young man running up stadium steps with the Olympic flame. He was born the day the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.

While the Olympic flame and torch are "traditional" centerpieces of the opening ceremonies today. But it wasn't always so.

The Olympic flame made its first appearance at the 1928 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium, according to About.com. The Olympic torch relay from Greece to the host city began with the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany.

The Olympic opening ceremony really grew in the later stages of the 20th century, becoming larger spectacles as the number of nations participating increased and host nations tried to outdo one another.

Today, the opening ceremony has become one of the biggest broadcast events, a global community campfire moment, estimated to draw more than one billion viewers worldwide.

In 2008, Beijing used thousands of acrobats, musicians, and other entertainers to put on an elaborate program which also helped put a modern China on the world stage. The Associated Press reports that London's effort, led by 'Slumdog Millionaire' director Danny Boyle, will be equally ambitious.

"London will have 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens and nine geese — recruited by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle along with a cast and crew of 10,000 to present a quirky, humorous and vibrant vision of quintessential Britain, its history and future," reports the AP.

US viewers can see it on NBC at 7:30 p.m. EDT or live streamed on the NBC Olympics site (with a cable subscription).

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