London • God save the surprise.
The biggest story of the London Olympics going into Friday was the one that isn't being told or rather, organizers are praying isn't leaked.
Queen Elizabeth may be a part of Friday's Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics, but that's unconfirmed. Peter Pan may descend from Neverland, or maybe it's James Bond from a helicopter. But who's lighting the cauldron?
It's hard to keep all the theories straight as the $41 million spectacle "Isles of Wonder," directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle, has been kept hush-hush.
Various tidbits have been released, including the announcement late Wednesday that two-time defending saber gold medalist Mariel Zagunis would carry the flag as the U.S. delegation walks in the "Parade of Nations." It's fitting, considering it will be the delegation's first appearance in a country that knows a thing or two about sword fighting.
Zagunis, 27, is an Oregon native who won gold in saber fencing as a replacement at the 2004 Athens Games. She was selected to lead the U.S. delegation by a vote of representatives from each of the events. Men's saber competitor Tim Morehouse nominated Zagunis, and later told her she came out on top after four rounds of voting that saw her in a dead heat with another American.
"When I found out last night," Zagunis said, "he kind of burst into my room and was really excited and gave me the news."
Having twice won her event on the world's biggest stage, Zagunis described the assignment as "just the cherry on top of a pile of cherries that were already there."
But as for the production itself, that has been as protected as any government secret.
Videos showing footage from this week's two dress rehearsals have been deleted from YouTube after spectators were implored not to divulge any details. Even the British tabloids, not known for their discretion, have played along with Boyle, embracing the social media hashtag "#savethesurprise," and refusing to divulge the who and how of the show, which Boyle has described as a "live film."
"Nothing can prepare you for the scale," Boyle said Thursday morning on NBC's "The Today Show."
Here's what is known: Former Beatle Paul McCartney has confirmed he will perform, and members of the media stumbled upon the pop star rehearsing "Hey Jude" on Tuesday in the Olympic Stadium.
The ground level of the stadium has been designed with grass and a stream, which will reportedly be populated by 10,000 performers, 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens, three cows, two goats, dogs and geese.
If the goal is to represent Britain, it seems Boyle is taking the task, at least visually, quite literally. Prime Minister David Cameron said the Opening Ceremony fulfills its mission.
"Every time I've seen presentations and had discussions," Cameron said at a Thursday morning news conference, "I've always felt that tingling feeling on my spine and hairs standing on the back of my neck with the treatment that they're giving it."
The ceremony, of course, hasn't been without controversy beyond keeping the details quiet. Boyle reportedly clashed with the BBC and Olympic organizers, particularly after he was directed to cut the show by half an hour so spectators could get home before public transit closed.
Additionally, the ongoing controversy over International Olympic Committee Chairman Jacque Rogge's stance that there will not be a moment of silence to honor the victims of the 1972 Munich shootings remains, for some, a sore spot.
Cameron described the ceremony as an opportunity to demonstrate "all that is great about" Great Britain.
"There's so many things to celebrate about our country," Cameron said. "To pack them all in to these hours must be a pretty tough task. But I'm confident they have done a good job. There are one or two moments that I think people will find really spine-tingling."
And then but only then feel free to tweet about those moments.
Friday's Olympics Opening Ceremony
• More than 1 billion television viewers are expected to watch Friday's Opening Ceremony, the details of which have been kept tightly under wraps.
• The production, directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle, reportedly cost $41 million and requires 10,000 performers.
• The U.S. delegation selected fencer Mariel Zagunis as the American flag bearer during the ceremony's "Parade of Nations."