The Queen turned Bond girl and some of Britain’s greatest Olympians teamed up with young athletes to light the Olympic Stadium flame as the London 2012 Games opened in spectacular fashion.
In a blockbusting opening ceremony there were moments of humour and emotion and some stunning surprises, not least the unique design of the stadium cauldron, made up of more than 200 flames.
Tour de France hero Bradley Wiggins, who within hours will be cycling for Team GB in the men’s road race, rang the giant bell which marked the start of the show at the Olympic Stadium. Wearing a yellow jersey Wiggins, who less than a week ago became the first British man to win the Tour, was greeted with huge cheers.
It was the dramatic start of a breathtaking ceremony capturing the best of Britain and masterminded by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle.
The Queen stole the show with her movie acting debut as she joined James Bond. In a scene filmed in advance and screened for the first time, Bond actor Daniel Craig arrives at Buckingham Palace in a dinner jacket, striding past the corgis towards the royal study. “Good evening Mr Bond,” says the Queen, before they leave together, apparently heading towards the Olympic Stadium in a helicopter.
Back in real time, to laughter and delight from the crowd, “the Queen” followed by “Bond”, parachuted from a helicopter towards the arena. Seconds later the real Queen and Prince Philip received a standing ovation as they arrived.
Even as the show was going on, there were calls for Boyle to have his own date with the Queen – to receive a knighthood.
In another surprise Rowan Atkinson in his Mr Bean character created comic havoc and loads of laughs as he joined Sir Simon Rattle conducting the theme from Chariots of Fire. Another tightly kept secret was how the Olympic torch would make its final journey from central London down the River Thames to the stadium in east London. The surprise was that it was former England captain David Beckham, who was shown steering a speedboat with young footballer Jade Bailey past Tower Bridge.
As the athletes arrived – first those from Greece, birthplace of the Games – Usain Bolt led out the Jamaican team, drawing a massive cheer from the crowd. But that was dwarfed by the ticker tape reception for Sir Chris Hoy, Britain’s flagbearer, as Team GB became the last of the nations to enter the stadium. Four-time Olympic cycling champion Sir Chris said: “I don’t think any of us were expecting it to be this good.”
Then came the final surprise as Britain’s greatest Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave ran into the stadium holding the torch to be greeted by seven young athletes each nominated by himself and British Olympic heroes Lynn Davies, Duncan Goodhew, Dame Kelly Holmes, Dame Mary Peters, Shirley Robertson and Daley Thompson. It was the young athletes who each lit one of the copper petals which had been brought into the stadium with the teams. Within moments over 200 of the petals were ablaze and rose up to form a spectacular cauldron.