Red Arrows mark take-off
for greatest show on Earth

The Red Arrows swept across London as the countdown entered its final minutes and celebrations across the country swung into action.

Trailing red, white and blue vapour trails, the world-famous RAF aerobatics team flew across the capital at exactly 8.12pm – 2012 on the 24-hour clock.

Among those enjoying the sight were the thousands of people flocking to the Olympic Park for the spectacular opening ceremony as well as the tens of thousands who were starting their celebrations at a huge concert in Hyde Park.

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The extravaganza featuring acts representing the nations of the UK kicked off with Scottish singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini, with chart-toppers Snow Patrol set to round off the event.

Also on the bill were Duran Duran – flying the flag for England – as well as Welsh rockers Stereophonics. Fans paid £55 a head to watch the show which included a live relay to the Olympic Stadium, ensuring those attending would not miss out on the excitement of the opening ceremony.

Organisers had also been given a special extension to allow Snow Patrol, from Northern Ireland, to perform late, after the plug was pulled on Bruce Springsteen at a show in the park earlier this month when he overran a 10.30pm curfew.

The Opening Ceremony Celebration Concert was part of a series of BT London Live shows being staged for the duration of the Games, which will be rounded off with a headline appearance by Blur when the Games come to a close on August 12.

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Show-opener Nutini took the stage nearly 90 minutes before the opening ceremony was due to begin. Opening with hit single 10/10, he was greeted by screams and flag-waving from fans clutching flags from the home nations.

Second act Duran Duran had proved to be an eyebrow-raising choice when they were announced as one of the headliners. But they proved to be a crowd-pleaser, especially with the Red Arrows’ flypast during a performance of The Reflex.

Frontman Simon Le Bon, 53, had declared the event one of his highlights of the decade, and showed his enthusiasm, cheering: “Olympic London, Hyde Park.”

Crowds screamed and cheered as the Red Arrows flew overhead.

Le Bon, wearing a Union Flag-themed jacket, told the audience ahead of Ordinary World: “Let’s dedicate the next song to the whole world. May we have a peaceful Games.”