Olympics bow pulls record aud in U.K.

Boyle's celebration peaked at 26.9 million viewers on BBC1

LONDON — London Olympics fever has Blighty in its grip despite the host nation’s slow start in the medal stakes.

Great Britain won its first medal on day two of the sports extravaganza — a silver in the women’s road cycling race for Lizzie Armitstead.

But the national mood remained bouyed up by Danny Boyle’s remarkable opening ceremony on Friday night, universally praised in the U.K. for its invention and distinctly British creative brio, turning the director into a national treasure overnight.

The show featured a celebration of British achievements such as the National Health Service, alongside a breath-taking ride though U.K.’s history and pop culture.

The BBC’s telecast of the ceremony, which started at 9 p.m. and lasted more than three hours, averaged 22.4 million viewers, an 82.5% share of the audience.

Viewing levels on BBC1 peaked at 9.50 p.m. when a massive 26.9 million viewers tuned in.

For the record books, this was the biggest aud on the pubcaster’s flagship web since a Christmas edition of sitcom “Only Fools and Horses” in 1996, watched by 24.35 million.

The average audience was the highest for any British TV program since the soccer game that saw England’s defeat by Argentina in the 1998 World Cup on ITV, watched by 23.8 million.

BBC1 controller Danny Cohen said, “I am very proud of the two BBC Drama films that formed part of the ceremony. The audience response to the film featuring the Queen and James Bond was one of my highlights.”

In the film, Daniel Craig, playing Bond, arrives at Buckingham Palace to escort Queen Elizabeth II (played by the real monarch) to the Olympic Park in London’s East End.

They are whisked away by helicopter, when the real Queen is substituted for a lookalike, who parachutes into an area behind the stadium.

Cohen added, “BBC1 is all about bringing the nation together for its biggest moments and I’m thrilled by the huge audiences who tuned in to watch this historic event. Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony was an absolute triumph.”

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