Of the millions of words uttered by our longest-reigning monarch, four of her most resonating words were spoken on the warm evening of July 27, 2012.
“Good evening, Mr Bond,” came her greeting.
Moments earlier, when the Corgis waited at the parlor door and 007 cleared his throat to attract the attention of the person sitting at her desk, no one at the London Olympics opening ceremony believed this was actually Elizabeth II.
It was as we learned, jaws touched the floor. Her Majesty, accompanied by Daniel Craig’s Bond, then took a helicopter over London. Churchill, her first prime minister in chronology and reputation, waved his cane from its pedestal in Parliament Square in appreciation before ‘the Queen’ parachuted down.
Hers was an iconic twist — the importance and humor of which she saw the moment director Danny Boyle, a boo-hiss Republican, sketched the idea to her — that no host city has or could ever match. Thus began a fourteen-day period of national unity during which people spoke to each other even on the London Underground.
The Queen accompanies James Bond actor Daniel Craig to the 2012 London Olympics
It’s hard to believe, but it’s true that a few days later, two American ladies were watching beach volleyball on Horse Guards Parade when one turned to the other, a new acquaintance, and said, ‘Have you seen the Queen? She jumped out of a helicopter.’
‘I know!’ exclaimed her neighbor. “You would never see Obama do that. And she’s 86!’
But it was not just this coup de theater that contributed to the Olympics. As Lord Coe, the face of the Games, recalled last night: ‘She supported her from the moment London threw in its hat for 2012. She hosted a meeting of the evaluation committee at Buckingham Palace on Friday evening. That’s unheard of. The royals are never in London on weekends, except for Remembrance Sunday. She even waved to the committee members from the balcony.
‘An Australian on the committee said, ‘You b*******.’ I wondered what we had done wrong. He said he had been writing republican speeches at home all his life, but suddenly he understood “it” – the queen’s magic.
England captain Bobby Moore receives the Queen’s Jules Rimet Trophy in 1966
“Across all walks of life I have never known anyone whose commitment to service and public duty was so complete, and she did so much for sport in silence in a way that people have never seen.”
Indeed, the Queen’s presence was a golden thread that ran through the sport during the period in its history when it captivated millions more than ever. If the Victorian era was when organized games were codified – beginning on the playing fields of England’s public schools and represented in the establishment of the modern Olympic Games in 1896 – the Second Elizabethan Era was when sport carried itself, not least through the long reach of television, to a popular religion.
The signs were there from the start. For, on the eve of her coronation in 1953, news reached London of the historic success of a British-led expedition high in the Himalayas. The front page of the Daily Mail stated ‘The Crowning Glory – Everest Conquered’.
New Zealander Edmund Hillary and British leader John Hunt were knighted for their daring – two of the approximately 120 sportsmen and women so honored during her reign. Only a handful of sporting knights were created before she took the throne in 1952. As we mentioned, she was the sporting age.
Virginia Wade’s memorable triumph at Wimbledon in 1977 came on the Queen’s Silver Jubilee
No occasion represented this truth more vividly than the 1966 World Cup final. From 1-0 down, Geoff Hurst’s legendary hat-trick gave England the win. Bobby Moore, whose free kick was Hurst’s first goal, wiped his muddy hands on the velvet railing of the Royal Box before receiving the Jules Rimet trophy from the white-gloved queen, who, in a lemon dress, tops the captain. -hero waited and matching hat.
It changed football and footballers befitting the fashionable sixties. As my Sportsmail colleague Jeff Powell, a friend of Moore’s and guardian of his estate, wrote, “The game was no longer just opiate of the masses, it was the creator of gods.”
Another celebration fell on her silver jubilee with Virginia Wade’s win at Wimbledon in 1977.
When Elizabeth came to the throne, no one had walked a mile in less than four minutes. That milestone in human evolution occurred on Oxford University’s Iffley Road, an hour before dusk on the wet afternoon of May 6, 1958, when a shy medical student named Roger Bannister blazed across the cinder track in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. .
The Queen with Clive Woodward (L), Martin Johnson and Prince William at Buckingham Palace
No athlete had completed the 100 meters in less than 10 seconds until African American Jim Hines reset the clock of the possible in the air at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.
Sport, not least cricket, was bound by class distinctions. Initials for surname indicated an amateur or gentleman, then initials a professional. The division was abolished in 1962.
The Queen, incidentally, was not particularly fond of cricket and would not stay longer than necessary during her annual visit to the Lord’s Test. The Duke of Edinburgh enjoyed it more, but on the other hand, he was less fond of the horses and reportedly watched cricket on TV while attending Royal Ascot. Racing, of course, was the enduring sporting passion of the Queen’s life.
A country woman who loved equestrian sports of all kinds, she rode well into old age and reveled in the eventing successes of her daughter Princess Anne, a long-standing and incorruptible IOC member, and her granddaughter Zara Tindall, née Phillips, both of whom paid their respects at Her Majesty’s court last night.