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Thousands brave rain to celebrate Olympics at Victoria Park

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LONDON – Witnessing the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics on giant screens in Victoria Park was no less thrilling for Angela Franklin of Chicago.

“This is incredible, the way the whole world can watch this show,” said Franklin, who came to the park with her son, Brian. “And this park is perfect because we’re so close to Olympic Park, but we didn’t have to pay.”

Drizzle didn’t dampen the spirits of more than 20,000 people in the viewing area as the hour approached. The University of Florida’s band played songs like “Hey Jude” and “Sweet Caroline,” and the venue offered carnival games and rides such as a 165-foot Ferris wheel.

Crowd control turned away spectators as the venue, located less than three miles from Olympic Park, reached capacity.

Cheers erupted as “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle’s act, highlighting different nationalities within the United Kingdom, appeared on the three screens.

According to a representative from the Olympic Crowd Control Unit at the site, people began lining up to get into the venue by 4 p.m. Security personnel, who trained at military schools, performed pat-downs and bag checks of everyone entering the park.

Beth Clark, who went to the Beijing 2008 Olympics, said the viewing screens were convenient.

“This is a lot like Beijing, where they had these too,” said Clark, who studies at the University of Ohio. “They’ve got a lot here.”

Victoria Park was one of two places in London showing the Opening Ceremony. Hyde Park, the other venue, was considered the larger of the two.

The event at Victoria Park concluded with a concert with DJs including Alexandra Burke, Norman Jay and Courtney Pine.