UK & World News
Olympics Opening Ceremony Lives Up To Hype
The Queen has opened the Olympic Games for the second time in her 60-year reign after a spectacular ceremony that more than lived up to its billing.
Director Danny Boyle's £27m production kicked-off London 2012 with imagination, style and a very British sense of humour.
It attracted a UK TV audience of 26.9 million, according to the BBC - more than four times the number that watched the opening ceremony in Beijing four years ago.
At its heart was a show-stealing performance by the Queen who made her movie acting debut alongside James Bond star Daniel Craig.
But appearances from Bradley Wiggins, Rowan Atkinson and David Beckham added to the occasion, showcasing British talent and a sense of fun.
Entitled Isles of Wonder, the opening ceremony was devised by Oscar-winning Boyle with the aim of celebrating all things British and charting the nation's history.
It started with the ringing of a giant bell by cycling hero Wiggins, who last weekend became the first Briton to win the Tour de France.
The stadium was then turned into a 'green and pleasant land' with hills, a cottage and people enjoying an idyllic version of British life.
Animals including 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, 70 sheep and three sheep dogs also appeared in these opening scenes.
The peace was shattered as the age of industry sprouted from the ground with loud banging.
A cast of hundreds swarmed on to the centre of the arena as the darker, grimier, urban landscape emerged, with giant smoking chimneys rising up from the ground.
Suddenly, everything stopped as silence descended and a poppy field was revealed in a tribute to those killed in war.
A tribute to the NHS featured musician Mike Oldfield playing Tubular Bells and Harry Potter author JK Rowling reading from JM Barrie's Peter Pan.
In another comedy film sketch Rowan Atkinson in his Mr Bean character created havoc as Sir Simon Rattle conducted the theme from Chariots of Fire.
Sir Paul McCartney performed Hey Jude as the audience waved flags and sang along with him.
In keeping with tradition, Greece led the parade of the 205 national teams competing in the Games. As the host nation Team GB brought up the rear, led by Sir Chris Hoy, the winner of three track cycling golds in Beijing.
A short while before the show began the Red Arrows flashed across London in a thrilling flypast, leaving behind red, white and blue trails of vapour.
The world-famous RAF aerobatics team flew above the capital at exactly 8.12pm - 2012 on the 24-hour clock.
The opening ceremony was held in front of an audience of 62,000 including Prime Minister David Cameron and US First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as the Queen.
At the end of the three-and-a-half-hour spectacular Her Majesty declared the Games open and the Olympic cauldron was lit.
Mystery had surrounded who would perform the ceremonial event, with Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Roger Bannister and Daley Thompson all tipped as contenders - but the honour was handed to seven talented young athletes.
Another tightly-kept secret was how the torch would make its final journey from City Hall to the Olympic Stadium.
The surprise was that it was former England captain David Beckham, who was shown steering a speedboat with young Arsenal women's footballer Jade Bailey past Tower Bridge. The stadium erupted in cheers for Beckham, who missed out on a place in the Team GB football squad.
The show has been praised by those who travelled from all around the world to see it.
American Bill Howells, 48, from Oklahoma, said: "It's definitely been one of the best opening ceremonies for an Olympics."
Javier Gonzalaz, 26, from Guadalajara, Mexico, said: "It represented Britain in the best possible light and showed the rest of the world what a proud country this is."
After the ceremony, Boyle tweeted: "I just want to take a moment to thank everyone involved tonight, couldn't have worked without you. Thank you, thank you so much."
Before leaving for east London, the Queen and Prince Philip held a reception for foreign heads of state and VIPs at Buckingham Palace.
She told them: "To me, the spirit of togetherness is a most important part of the Olympic ideal, and the British people can be proud of the part they have played in keeping the spirit alive.
"Many sports played in these Games have their historic roots in this country, and as a nation we have an abiding passion for sport, as well as a tradition of fair play and a good-natured sense of fun."
The transport network was said to be running extremely well as crowds flocked to the opening ceremony.
Earlier, thousands of people lined the River Thames to cheer the Olympic torch as it made its way across London from Hampton Court to the Tower of London.
Bells rang out around the UK to mark the final countdown, among them London's Big Ben which chimed non-stop for three minutes from 8.12am.
David Cameron said Britain was ready to welcome "the greatest show on Earth", adding: "This is a great moment for our country, so we must seize it."
IOC boss Jacques Rogge added: "London is ready."