Olympic Games launch with rousing Opening Ceremony

The Olympic Cauldron Photo: Stephen Pond/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The London 2012 Olympic Games are open after a spectacular, warm and witty Opening Ceremony watched by an estimated one million people around the world.

In an unusual finish to the ceremony, seven young athletes representing the next sporting generation carried the Olympic Torch towards a giant flower structure.

204 petals representing all of the nations competing in the Games were lit and rose upwards to form one blazing Olympic cauldron, which will remain lit throughout the Games.

Seven young British Olympic hopefuls are the final torch bearers of the Olympic flame Credit: REUTERS/Max Rossi

The Ceremony started with a fly-past by the RAF Red Arrows at precisely 20.12pm, which painted the sky above the stadium red, white and blue.

The packed arena in Stratford, east London, was filled with more than 70,000 people, some of whom had paid as much as £2,012 for a ticket.

Seating at the venue has been cut from its usual 80,000 capacity to make way for the stage, props and camera positions.

The Red Arrows leave coloured smoke trails as they fly over the Olympic Stadium
The Red Arrows leave coloured smoke trails as they fly over the Olympic Stadium Credit: Reuters

The opening scene, dreamt up by artistic director and Oscar winner Danny Boyle, was called A Green and Pleasant Land. Spectators were greeted with the sight of real sheep, cows and geese as they took their seats.

One of the first scenes features live animals
One of the first scenes features live animals Credit: Reuters

The set features a meadow, fields of grass, a river, families taking picnics, people playing cricket on a village green and farmers tilling the soil.

One of the first scenes from the Opening Ceremony
One of the first scenes from the Opening Ceremony
Giant numbers appeared in the audience counting down to the start of the ceremony
Giant numbers appeared in the audience counting down to the start of the ceremony Credit: ITV News/Kate Hamilton

The rural idyll was quickly transformed into the "dark Satanic Mills" of the Industrial Revolution, represented by giant chimneys, beam engines and looms. The workers of the revolution forged the Olympic rings out of molten metal.

The Olympic Rings rise above the Olympic Stadium Credit: Reuters
Performers run next to a horse-drawn wagon during the Opening Ceremony
Performers run next to a horse-drawn wagon during the Opening Ceremony Credit: Reuters

The familiar theme tune to the Chariots of Fire film heralded in the next section.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra played the tune, but there was an importer in the keyboard section in the form of Mr Bean.

Mr Bean played by actor Rowan Atkinson Credit: Reuters

In one of the most memorable sequences of the night, The Queen appeared to join James Bond in jumping out of a helicopter into the Olympic stadium.

The audience watched a pre-filmed sequence in which Bond actor Daniel Craig arrives at Buckingham Palace in a dinner jacket and strides past corgis to meet the Queen.

"Good evening Mr Bond," she says, before they leave together, apparently flying away in a helicopter towards the Olympic Stadium.

'The Queen' takes the plunge Credit: LOCOG

Seconds later, the same helicopter appeared over the stadium with figures that appeared to be The Queen and James Bond jumping out and para-gliding down into the stadium.

.An actor dressed at The Queen para-glides from the helicopter Credit: Reuters

Wearing identical clothing to the actor in the parachute, her majesty The Queen appeared in the royal box soon after to rapturous applause.

The Queen takes her seat Credit: Reuters
Royal Family stands for the National Anthem Credit: Press Association

Next was a section honouring the NHS in which dozens of volunteers - many of them NHS employees - performed a dance routine.

A celebration of the NHS Credit: Press Association

Harry Potter author JK Rowling also made an appearance, reading an excerpt from JM Barrie's Peter Pan at the start of a section devoted to British children's literature.

Mary Poppin's characters descend from the roof as a large puppet of Lord Voldemort is raised in the centre of the arena Credit: Press Association
Dozens of Mary Poppins came to the rescue Credit: Reuters

A long sequence paid tribute to five decades of British pop music, ending with local rapper Dizzee Rascal taking the stage.

Dizzee Rascal performing during a celebration of British music Credit: Press Association

Tribute was also paid to the British scientist and the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

The words 'This is for everyone' were emblazoned around the edge of the stadium, referring to the Internet and how it has revolutionised modern communication.

This Is for Everyone' shown during an appearance by World Wide Web investor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee Credit: Reuters

Finally, the Olympic delegations of the 204 nations competing in the Games marched into the stadium one-by-one led out by Greece - the founder of the Olympic Games.

Athletes on parade as seen from the Royal Box Credit: Press Association

When Team GB finally appeared - the host nation always appears last according to tradition - the stadium exploded with cheers and confetti.

The stadium filled with ticker tape as Team GB enters Credit: ITV News/Kate Hamilton

Sir Paul McCartney closed the evening with a rousing rendition of 'Hey Jude' as fireworks lit up the London skyline.

Paul McCartney closing the Olympic Opening Ceremony with 'Hey Jude' Credit: Mike Egerton/PA Wire/Press Association Images
Fireworks light up the Olympic Stadium Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire/Press Association Images