Published July 27, 2012
LONDON – You don't need a title to come to the London Olympics, but lots of people are bringing one anyway.
In addition to Britain's extensive royal family, members of other European royal lines — kings, queens, princesses and barons — are converging on London by yachts and private jets for Friday's opening ceremony.
Dozens of more monarchs and their regal offspring, from the Middle East to Oceania, will keep arriving right up to the closing festivities Aug. 12.
Their bejeweled presence offers a novel distraction for the London paparazzi normally focused on Britain's homegrown bluebloods, particularly Prince Harry, who's poised to command plenty of attention as he spends much of his Olympics with a front-row seat at the women's beach volleyball.
Many of the visiting royals have been here before in one sense — as past Olympic athletes themselves or as key movers in the world of sport.
Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik got in on the action a day early, carrying the Olympic torch Thursday through the west London neighborhood of Notting Hill. The 44-year-old heir to the Danish throne, who is also Denmark's member on the International Olympic Committee and an avid marathon runner, last carried the torch en route to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
The Danes have made, literally, the biggest splash, with much of the royal family arriving Thursday night on the River Thames aboard the royal yacht Dannebrog, a 257-foot-long (78-meter-long) luxury cruiser that serves as Queen Margrethe's official residence on tours abroad.
Also aboard were the queen's husband, Prince Consort Henrik; Frederik's Australian wife Crown Princess Mary, whom he met while attending the 2000 Games in Sydney; and their four young children, Prince Christian, Princess Isabella and the twins, Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine.
Prince Albert of Monaco and his wife, Princess Charlene, both participated in Olympics past — he five times as a bobsledder, she in Sydney as a swimmer for her native South Africa — and plan to catch their favorite sports.
Albert has a seat at the pentathlon, his personal passion, and also plans to see the triathlon because a Monaco athlete, Herve Banti, is competing. The couple also hosted the South African swim team at their residence for two weeks this month and plan to be poolside for part of the games.
King Harald V of Norway isn't confirmed yet as a London guest, surprising given his background as a sailing competitor in three Olympics from 1964 to 1972. But Crown Prince Haakon and wife Crown Princess Mette-Marit, both avid sailors themselves, are coming.
Sweden is sending its sportiest royals, Crown Princess Victoria and her husband Prince Daniel, who met when he was the princess' personal trainer. Her parents, King Carl Gustaf XVI and Queen Silvia, are coming next week.
One European monarch, at least, seems certain to skip the Olympic party. King Juan Carlos of Spain is still nursing a bruised reputation and myriad injuries over the past year. While recovering from lung and leg surgeries, the 74-year-old bashed his face walking into a palace door. Then, in April, he broke a hip while on a luxury elephant-hunting expedition in Botswana, a holiday that incurred public wrath in his debt-struck homeland.
But his wife, Queen Sofia, is in town for the opening ceremony, and their children — Prince Felipe, Princess Cristina and Princess Elena — all may fly over to see finals involving Spanish athletes.