By Emily Thompson  |  BSU at the Games

Hours before anyone in America would see, Londoners and visitors had the chance to experience the Opening Ceremony Friday night. Thousands of people from around the world gathered in Victoria Park for the largest free viewing in the city.

In a truly British manner, spectators queued in front of the park for at least two hours. As they inched toward the entrance, they passed an array of entertainment: vegan protesters (including a guy in a pig costume), religious zealots, face painters, flag vendors, French fanfare and more.

Two girls came prepared for the wait. While their friends held their place in line, they had a sushi picnic. Every so often when the line moved forward, they picked up their blanket and situated themselves a few feet further to keep up with their friends.

Soon before the ceremony began, several Red Arrows flew over London, leaving red, white and blue smoke in their trail.

Inside the park, several spectators sported flags, patriotic-colored clothes and face paint.

Evan Smith from Dallas took a break from studying at the London School of Economics to view the ceremony on one of the three large screens around the park.

He wore an American flag draped around his shoulders.

“[London’s] definitely getting more crowded, even in the week I’ve been here,” Smith said. “But it’s fun; the atmosphere is so fun.”

On the other side of the park, Londoner Lindsee McCutchon waved a small Union Jack flag.

She cried during the British national anthem.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing the other cultures that have come to our country,” she said. “I think that’s really cool. You see all the different cultures, and everyone’s harmonious. I like that.”

Then as the Olympic athletes marched across the screen, spectators waited patiently to cheer for their countries’ teams. The loudest roar was the last, when Great Britain finally made its appearance.

Paul McCartney finished the Opening Ceremony with a dynamic performance. As the fireworks exploded above the Olympic Stadium, spectators in Victoria Park could see them both on the screen and in the air.

When the ceremony was over, thousands of people leaving the park sang “Hey Jude” together. It could not have been more perfectly British.

Emily Thompson is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at @ekthompson2410@bsuatthegames and