WITH the eyes of the world watching, the London 2012 Games were launched with a breathtaking spectacular aimed at capturing the best of Britain.
The Queen declared the 30th Olympiad officially open last night after a long-awaited £27m opening ceremony created by Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle which was watched by a billion viewers.
The Olympic flame arrived in the stadium, marking the end of its 70-day journey across the country and the nation’s seven year wait for the games to begin.
The ceremony started simply with the Olympic Stadium transformed into a green and pleasant land before the history of the nation was played out in dramatic fashion.
A digital 10-second countdown flashed on to the crowd, with balloons popping on each number, and the ceremony was under way.
The five Olympic rings, attached to four balloons, were released and floated up into the sky, set to reach the stratosphere by the end of the ceremony.
In the stadium, all was still in the idyllic countryside setting.
Children played on the meadow and sports took place on the village green, before a single child’s voice sang out the words to Danny Boy.
Sir Kenneth Branagh, dressed as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, entered the scene reciting Caliban’s speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest as some 62,000 spectators saw Boyle’s spectacular Isles of Wonder unveil.
In sharp contrast, the pounding of the drums began, ushering in Britain’s industrial revolution as the stadium darkened and the atmosphere changed.
Pandemonium broke out, with the peaceful countryside torn to pieces as the age of industry sprouted from the ground, with banging so loud the audience felt their seats vibrate.
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 for a moment to remember the fallen. A poppy field was revealed at one side of the stadium as a sense of calm prevailed while the audience stood to remember the dead.
But the scene was soon swallowed up in a hive of activity. Chelsea Pensioners, suffragettes, Jarrow marchers and a band wearing the brightly-coloured Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s uniform joined the parade.
All the while the massive cast of drummers danced and beat out the music in unison.
Four giant rings started to hover and descend from the sky while another rose up from the ground to meet them in mid-air before all five burst into flames.
The darkness inside the stadium was broken by the sound of Handel, which heralded the Queen’s arrival. A fanfare played and music harked back to the Battle of Britain, while stadium spotlights strobed across the night sky.
Then the familiar sound of the James Bond theme blasted out, while bright lights turned the banks of spectators in to panels of red, white and blue ahead of a surprise comic Bond film, featuring Her Majesty.
Prime ministers, presidents, International Olympic Committee executives and spectators stood as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh then arrived, accompanied by IOC president Jacques Rogge into the stadium.
Then spectators cheered as athletes from the 204 competing Olympic nations waved during their moment in the spotlight, followed by TeamGB, headed by Sir Chris Hoy, Britain’s flagbearer,
Representing the doves traditionally released at the Games to signal peace, 75 cyclists, complete with white wings, circled the stadium before one flew away.