Britain rocks Olympic opener

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Britain rocks Olympic opener

By John Leicester
AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) -- The queen and James Bond gave the London Olympics a royal entrance like no other Friday in an opening ceremony that rolled to the rock of the Beatles, the Stones and The Who. And the creative genius of Danny Boyle spliced it all together. Brilliant. Cheeky, too. The highlight of the Oscar-winning director's 42 million show was pure movie magic, using trickery to make it seem that Britain's beloved 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II had parachuted into the stadium with the nation's most famous spy. A short film showed 007 driving up to Buckingham Palace in a black London cab and, pursued by her majesty's royal dogs -- Monty, Willow and Holly, playing themselves -- meeting the queen, who played herself. "Good evening, Mr. Bond," she said. They were shown flying in a helicopter over London landmarks and a waving statue of Winston Churchill -- the queen in a salmon-colored gown, Bond dashing as ever in a black tuxedo -- to the stadium and then leaping out into the inky night. At the same moment, real skydivers appeared in the skies over the stadium throbbing to the James Bond soundtrack. And moments after that, the monarch appeared in person, accompanied by her husband Prince Philip. Organizers said it was thought to be the first time the monarch has acted on film. "The queen made herself more accessible than ever before," Boyle said. In the stadium, Elizabeth stood solemnly while a children's choir serenaded her with "God Save the Queen," and members of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force raised the Union Jack. Much of the opening ceremony was an encyclopedic review of British music history, from a 1918 Broadway standard adopted by the West Ham soccer team to the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" to "Bohemian Rhapsody," by still another Queen. The evening started with fighter jets streaming red, white and blue smoke and roaring over the stadium, packed with a buzzing crowd of 60,000 people, at 8:12 p.m. -- or 20:12 in the 24-hour time observed by Britons. An explosion of fireworks against the London skyline and Paul McCartney leading a singalong were to wrap up the three-hour opening ceremony masterminded by one of Britain's most successful filmmakers. Boyle, the director of "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Trainspotting," had a ball with his favored medium, mixing filmed passages with live action in the stadium to hypnotic effect, with 15,000 volunteers taking part in the show. Actor Rowan Atkinson as "Mr. Bean" provided laughs, shown dreaming that he was appearing in "Chariots of Fire," the inspiring story of a Scotsman and an Englishman at the 1924 Paris Games. There was a high-speed flyover of the Thames, the river that winds like a vein through London and was the gateway for the city's rise over the centuries as a great global hub of trade and industry. Headlong rushes of movie images took spectators on wondrous, heart-racing voyages through everything British: a cricket match, the London Tube and the roaring, abundant seas that buffet and protect this island nation. Boyle turned the stadium into a throbbing juke box, with a nonstop rock and pop homage to cool Britannia that ensured the show never caught its breath. The throbbing soundtrack included the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" and a snippet of its version of "God Save the Queen" -- an anti-establishment punk anthem once banned by the BBC. There were The Who's "My Generation" and other tracks too numerous to mention, but not to dance to. Opening the ceremony, children popped balloons with each number from 10 to 1, leading a countdown that climaxed with Bradley Wiggins, the newly crowned Tour de France champion. Wearing his race-winner's yellow jersey, Wiggins rang a 23-ton Olympic Bell from the same London foundry that made Big Ben and Philadelphia's Liberty Bell. Its thunderous chime was a nod to the British tradition of pealing bells to celebrate the end of war and the crowning of kings and queens, and now for the opening of a 17-day festival of sports. The show then shifted to a portrayal of idyllic rural Britain -- a place of meadows, farms, sport on village greens, picnics and Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne's bear who has delighted generations of British children tucked warmly in bed. But the British ideal -- to quote poet William Blake, of "England's green and pleasant land" -- then took a darker, grittier turn. The set was literally torn asunder, the hedgerows and farm fences carried away, as Boyle shifted to the industrial transformation that revolutionized Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, the foundation for an empire that reshaped world history. Belching chimneys rose where only moments earlier sheep had trod. The Industrial Revolution also produced terrifying weapons, and Boyle built a moment of hush into his show to honor those killed in war. "This is not specific to a country. This is across all countries, and the fallen from all countries are celebrated and remembered," he explained to reporters ahead of the ceremony. "Because, obviously, one of the penalties of this incredible force of change that happened in a hundred years was the industrialization of war, and the fallen," he said. "You know, millions fell." Olympic organizers separately rejected calls for a moment of silence for 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Two of the Israelis' widows appealed to audience members to stand in silence when International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge rose to speak later at Friday's ceremony. The Israeli culture and sport minister planned to do just that. The parade of nations featured most of the roughly 10,500 athletes -- some planned to stay away to save their strength for competition -- marching behind the flags of the 204 nations taking part. Greece had the lead, as the spiritual home of the games, and Team Great Britain was last, as host. Prince William and his wife, Kate, joined in the thunderous applause that greeted the British team, which marched to the David Bowie track "Heroes." A helicopter showered the athletes and stadium with 7 billion tiny pieces of paper -- one for each person on Earth. Both Bahrain and Brunei featured female flagbearers in what has been called the Olympics' Year of the Woman. For the first time at the games, each national delegation includes women, and a record 45 percent of the athletes are women. Three Saudi women marching behind the men in their delegation flashed victory signs with their fingers. "This is a major boost for gender equality," said the International Olympic Committee president, Jacques Rogge. These are his last games as head of the IOC. He steps down in 2013 after completing the maximum two terms. Rogge honored the "great, sports-loving country" of Britain as "the birthplace of modern sport," and he appealed to the thousands of athletes assembled before him for fair play. "Character counts far more than medals. Reject doping. Respect your opponents. Remember that you are all role models. If you do that, you will inspire a generation," Rogge said. The queen declared the games open. Last month, the nation put on a festive Diamond Jubilee -- a small test run for the games -- to mark her 60 years on the throne, a reign that began shortly after London's last Olympics, in 1948. Former world heavyweight champion and 1960 Rome Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali was cheered when he appeared briefly with his wife, Lonnie, before the Olympic flag was unfurled. The Olympic cauldron was to be lit with a flame that was kindled May 10, at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics in Greece, from a reflection of the sun's rays off a mirror. Since then, 8,000 torchbearers, mostly unheralded Britons, have carried the flame on a 70-day, 8,000-mile journey from toe to tip of the British Isles, whipping up enthusiasm for a 14 billion Olympics taking place during a severe recession. The identity of the last torchbearer, the one to light the cauldron, was kept secret -- remarkable given the intense scrutiny at what have been called the first social media Olympics. Speculation focused on Roger Bannister, the first man to run a four-minute mile, in 1954, and on rower Steve Redgrave, among others. The show's lighter moments included puppets drawn from British children's literature -- Captain Hook from "Peter Pan," Cruella de Vil from "101 Dalmations" and Lord Voldemort from J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series, as well as Mary Poppins. Their appearance had a serious message, too -- the importance of literacy. "If you can read and write, you're free, or you can fight for your freedom," Boyle said. Boyle's challenge was daunting: To be as memorable as Beijing's incredible, money-no-object opening ceremony of 2008, the costliest in Olympic history. "Beijing is something that, in a way, was great to follow," Boyle said. "You can't get bigger than Beijing, you know? So that, in a way, kind of liberated us. We thought, 'Great, OK, good, we'll try and do something different.'" For the last time as president of the IOC, Rogge was to watch the Olympic flag being raised. He will step down in 2013 after completing the maximum two terms. Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, planned to attend the ceremony with his wife, Ann. Romney caused a stir in Britain by suggesting earlier this week that the country had "disconcerting" problems preparing for the games. Other political leaders from around the world, U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and her daughters, and a sprinkling of European and celebrity royalty were also attending.

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With Brooks Orpik nearing return, Capitals' defensive pairs coming into focus

With Brooks Orpik nearing return, Capitals' defensive pairs coming into focus

When the Capitals were contemplating whether to trade for Kevin Shattenkirk, General Manager Brian MacLellan sought out Brooks Orpik’s opinion.

Orpik and Shattenkirk played together in the Olympics in 2014.

“I vouched for him hard,” Orpik said. “It’s a tough transition for a lot of people when they get traded at the deadline. That was something Mac and the coaches were a little worried about, but he’s got the kind of personality and demeanor where I think he could go to any of the 30 teams and fit in right away.”

Although Shattenkirk was paired with Nate Schmidt in his Capitals’ debut Tuesday against the Rangers, the team’s long term plan is for the former Blues’ star to skate alongside Orpik, who is working his way back from a nagging lower body injury.

Shattenkirk and Orpik were a tandem in Wednesday’s practice.

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“I watched the game [Tuesday] night and I think we played a little bit together in the last Olympics,” Orpik said. “I also know him pretty well off the ice from [Sochi] and I see him quite a bit in Boston in the summer.”

The off-the-ice familiarity helps. But what Coach Barry Trotz really likes about the Shattenkirk-Orpik pairing is its balance.

“They can complement each other because one is a physical defender and the other is a poised puck moving defender…who has more of an offensive flair,” Trotz said.

With Karl Alzner-John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen forming the other two tandems, each of the three pairs has a lefty and a righty.

“The three pairs we have, they really have good balance,” Trotz said. “They got a little bite to them, a little bit of weight to them, a little bit of offense, some defense. I like our three pairs.”

The pair that’s going to be under the spotlight in the coming days and weeks, though, will be the newest one: Orpik-Shattenkirk.

One practice in, Shattenkirk said he felt some chemistry with Orpik.

“I’ve fortunately been able to see him play firsthand in the Olympics,” Shattenkirk said. “So I know the type of style he brings. He’s a steady, steady guy back there and I know he’s always going to be there to be in a support role for me. Until we get into games and play together it’s going to be a little bit of a process but I’m looking forward to it.”

Orpik echoed Shattenkirk’s sentiments.

“Anytime you get a new partner it’s a little bit of an adjustment,” Orpik said. “You just try to get better every game. You’d wish for it to happen a lot quicker than it does but you just try to stay patient.”

With 20 games remaining in the regular season, the two will have ample time to get on the same page prior to the playoffs, which figures to be a defining moment of the Alex Ovechkin Era.     

“This is probably our best chance to win in here,” Orpik said, asked what message management sent to the dressing room by acquiring Shattenkirk. “Everybody is aware of what our situation is going into free agency this summer. I don’t think it’s an indictment on anyone who got bumped out of the lineup. I think it’s just trying to maximize what we already have here. [Shattenkirk] is obviously a pretty good piece to add to what we already have.”

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Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

The Redskins face the very real prospect of losing receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon via free agency. Head coach Jay Gruden wants both players back, but is prepared to roll with the guys on the team if Jackson and Garçon depart. 

"Obviously DeSean and Pierre had great years. 1,000 yards each. Those are going to be hard to replace," Gruden said to reporters in Indianapolis. 

It's still possible the Redskins keep both Jackson and Garçon, or keep one of the two, just as both players could leave the organization. In his comments, it seemed like Gruden does not expect one or both guys to be back, and that the team will move on without them. That could mean losing Jackson's 1,005 receiving yards or Garçon's 1,041. 

"Coach the guys that we have. Free agency you’re never going to be able to sign everybody you want as a coach," he said. "I’d like to have Alshon Jeffery, Pierre and DeSean. Heck, give them all to me. I know that's not going to happen."

Gruden tends to joke often speaking with the media, and clearly the prospect of signing Jeffery, a star wideout for the Bears that will hit free agency next week, along with Jackson and Garçon isn't going to happen. The receiver market in free agency will be interesting to watch, as a number of top options will be available. Jeffery, Jackson, Garçon along with Cleveland's Terrelle Pryor and younger prospects like Kenny Stills and Kenny Britt. 

Asked if it was "necessary" to bring at least one of Garçon or Jackson back, Gruden bristled. 

"Would never say necessary. I’d love to have them both back, I'd love to have one back. If we are unfortunate enough to lose them both, I'm not gonna blink."

The coach explained the team has a good crop of young pass catchers already on the roster. 

"I do feel very good about Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Josh Doctson. I love the fact that Mo Harris got a lot of work in, he’s gonna develop."

The coach should feel good about the young receivers, their development is part of his job. Crowder looks like a future star in the slot. Still, Jackson and Garçon accounted for more than 40 percent of Kirk Cousins' passing yards in 2016. That's a lot of yardage to lose. 

Of course, Doctson's development will be a major theme this offseason. A first-round pick in 2016, the Redskins got next to nothing from him as a rookie as he dealt with an Achilles injury. A healthy 6-foot-2 Doctson could offset some of the lost productivity that would come with the departure of Jackson or Garçon.

And then there is always free agency. It's entirely possible Washington could sign another, perhaps cheaper, wideout on the marketplace should they lose two the same way. Gruden said the team has 'other free agents' the team could pursue.

"We have Plan B's and Plan C's ready to go," Gruden said. 

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