A proud walk and a race home for Nick Willis

01:02, Jul 28 2012
Opening Ceremony
The Olympic Stadium prepares for the Opening Ceremony.
Opening Ceremony
Spectators begin to arrive for at the Olympic Stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Frank Turner performs as people arrive for the Opening Ceremony.
Opening Ceremony
The Red Arrows aerobatic display team fly over the Olympic Stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Floating clouds are escorted through the stadium prior to the start of the ceremony.
Opening Ceremony
Performers depict a view of the English countryside.
Opening Ceremony
Performers entertain the crowd before the ceremony starts.
Opening Ceremony
Performers act out a scene from ancient times.
Opening Ceremony
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attend the Opening Ceremony.
Opening Ceremony
Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins rings a giant bell to start the Opening Ceremony.
Opening Ceremony
Performers depict a view of the English countryside.
Opening Ceremony
An aerial view of the Olympic Stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Performers act out a scene from old England.
Opening Ceremony
Performers depict a view from the change of the English countryside to the Industrial Revolution.
Opening Ceremony
Blazing Olympic rings are raised over the stadium.
Opening Ceremony
The Olympic rings are lit up in a shower of sparks.
Opening Ceremony
A performer abseils down a chimney during a scene from the Industrial Revolution.
Opening Ceremony
A performer playing the Queen parachutes into the stadium from a helicopter.
Opening Ceremony
The Union flag is carried into the stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Children perform as part of a storybook scene in the Opening Ceremony.
Opening Ceremony
A giant Voldemort puppet during the storybook scene.
Opening Ceremony
Performers depicting Mary Poppins float into the stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Rowan Atkinson performs during the Opening Ceremony.
Opening Ceremony
Fireworks go off over Tower Bridge.
Opening Ceremony
The royal family take in the Opening Ceremony.
Opening Ceremony
A boat carrying the Olympic flame and David Beckham makes its way under Tower Bridge.
Opening Ceremony
Basketballer Lauren Jackson leads Australia into the Olympic Stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Chinese athletes cheer as they enter the Olympic Stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Canada's flagbearer Simon Whitfield leads the contingent in the athletes parade.
Opening Ceremony
Argentina make their way into the stadium.
Opening Ceremony
A wide angle shot shows the spectacular scenes at the Olympic Stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Usain Bolt leads Jamaica into the Olympic Stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Germany enter the stadium in their colourful uniforms.
Opening Ceremony
Nick Willis leads New Zealand into the Olympic Stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Nick Willis proudly waves the New Zealand flag as the team enters the stadium.
Opening Ceremony
The New Zealand Olympic team enters the stadium during the Opening Ceremony.
Opening Ceremony
Members of Spain's Olympic team salute the camera as they enter the stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Sir Chris Hoy lead Great Britain into the stadium to conclude the procession.
Opening Ceremony
The United States enter the stadium.
Opening Ceremony
LeBron James and Chris Paul of the United States basketball team take in the atmosphere.
Opening Ceremony
Fireworks explode over the Olympic Stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Confetti rains down as Britain's flag bearer Chris Hoy holds the national flag
Opening Ceremony
Fireworks go off around the Olympic Stadium as the Queen announces the 2012 London Games officially open.
Opening Ceremony
The flags of all the Olympic nations decorate the hill in the Olympic Stadium.
Opening Ceremony
Five time gold medal winner Steve Redgrave of Britain carries the Olympic flame into the stadium.
Opening Ceremony
The Olympic cauldron is lit.
Opening Ceremony
Fireworks go off around London as the Opening Ceremony comes to an end.

New Zealand Olympic team flagbearer Nick Willis never lets a training opportunity go by.

As soon as today's London Olympic Games opening ceremony was over, the Beijing 1500m silver medallist doffed his dress shoes, slipped on his trainers and jogged back to the athlete's village, 1.5km from the Olympic stadium in Stratford.

The festivities didn't finish till almost 1am and, like all good athletes, Willis values his rest so he wasn't hanging around.

"I'm holding Nick's walking shoes,'' New Zealand chef de mission Dave Currie said as he strolled back to the village at a more genteel clip than his team captain. "He wanted to stretch his legs on the way home.''

Currie said Willis did "a fantastic job'', carrying the Kiwi flag into the stadium where a capacity crowd of 80,000 welcomed every team.

The New Zealand team did not leave the village until 9.50pm with the crowd kept spellbound by an all-encompassing entertainment show masterminded by top British film director Danny Boyle.

Currie said the Kiwi contingent stopped halfway to the stadium to make a special presentation to Willis. A korowai, a traditional Maori cloak, was draped around the 29-year-old three-time Olympian's shoulders.

Decathlete Brent Newdick said the Kiwi ceremony before the big official ceremony was a special moment for the team "and for Nick''.

"He put the cloak on and we did the haka for him,'' Newdick said. "He got the cloak on and he returned the haka back to us.''

Newdick, who is at his first Olympics, said the opening ceremony was "a great experience''.  Only 39 of the 184-strong New Zealand team took part in the march-past because most are competing in the first few days of the Games.

But Newdick wouldn't have missed it for quids.  He and other members of the track and field team travelled from their training base in Cardiff and will return there soon to finalise their preparation.

A visibly proud Willis was in celebrity company with several of the world's leading sportspeople carrying their countries' flags.

Beijing sprint sensation Usain Bolt did the honours for Jamaica,  the triple gold medallist getting a rousing reception from the crowd.  Bolt was clearly enjoying himself, dancing and jiving with an elan usually reserved for his world record breaking feats on the track.

The Russian contingent was led by grand slam tennis champion Maria Sharapova, NBA basketballer Pau Gasol spearheaded Spain and triple track cycling gold medallist Sir Christopher Hoy was at Great Britain's helm.

The hosts were the last of the 204 teams to enter the stadium amid a mass shower of confetti, to the tune of David Bowie's Heroes. The men and women who carry the hopes of a nation got a standing ovation from the stand and a smile from Queen Elizabeth II.

Lord Sebastian Coe, a three-time Olympic middle-distance champion on the track and chairman of the London Olympic organising committee said he "had never been so proud to be British and to be part of the Olympic movement as I am on this day, in this moment.''

But International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge drew the most sustained cheer when thanked "the thousands of volunteers for being so generous with their time, their energy and welcoming smiles''.

He ensured he would get the keys of London when he declared Britain was "the birthplace of modern sport''.

Boxing great Muhammad Ali, who lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta in 1996, made a cameo appearance in the official party.

A fusillade of fireworks erupted as the Queen declared the Games open and all that remained was for British rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave to lead the flame into the stadium and pass the baton to a bevy of young bearers so the cauldron could be lit.

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Nick Willis
CURSE OF THE FLAG? Only eight New Zealand opening ceremony flagbearers have gone on to win a medal at the same Olympic Games. Nick Willis (pictured) is the most recent.

Fairfax Media