London 2012: Bond, Beckham and Bean star in Olympic Games opening

AFP, Saturday 28 Jul 2012

Millions of Britons packed pubs with friends and relatives for the grand opening of London Games, while others watched on large outdoor screens in London's Hyde Park and other locations

David Beckham
Britain's David Beckham (C) drives a powerboat with the Olympic torch as fireworks are launched over Tower Bridge during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games July 27, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS)

James Bond, David Beckham and even Mr Bean starred Friday as Britain welcomed the world to the London 2012 Olympics in an eccentric opening ceremony showcasing the country's history and sense of fun.

Four years after Beijing's tightly choreographed spectacular wowed the world, Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle's "Isles of Wonder" show eschewed grandeur for a creative and chaotic approach packed with music and comedy.

In front of about 80,000 VIPs and spectators, the Queen was depicted parachuting out of a helicopter with Bond actor Daniel Craig, Mr Bean played "Chariots of Fire," and children bounced on National Health Service beds. Soccer superstar Beckham was also featured motorboating up the Thames holding the Olympic torch.

Thousands of athletes then began trooping in behind their national flags, before the show culminated with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron by someone whose identity remains secret.

Details of Boyle's creation had remained a closely guarded secret until Friday's 9:00pm start, heralded by the ringing of a giant bell by Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins as farm animals frolicked below.

Large fluffy clouds circled the stadium's covered track and birdsong was played over the loudspeakers before children counted down to the bell, sounding at exactly 9:00pm to the popping of giant balloons.

A Red Arrows formation flew past above, trailing red, white and blue smoke at 8:12 pm, or 20:12 GMT, and there was a party atmosphere in the stadium as a comic actor and folk singer warmed up the crowd in light rain.

"It's a real privilege to be able to present this show to you," director Boyle told the crowd as he appeared briefly.

Tickets were in high demand with two spectators telling AFP they paid £1,600 ($2,500) for their seats.

Boyle's "liquorice allsorts" opening ceremony, costing £27 million ($42 million) kicks off a two-week festival of sport, seven years and billions of pounds in the making, on a former industrial wasteland in east London.

Excitement in Britain, which has built up to the Olympics with a nationwide torch relay, was at fever-pitch ahead of the ceremony with union jack flags visible in gardens, windows and streaming from cars.

Millions of Britons packed pubs with friends and relatives for the grand opening, while other fans gathered at large screens in London's Hyde Park and other outdoor locations.

"I think this is the biggest day of my life. I think this is just extraordinary," Games chief Sebastian Coe said earlier.

Michelle Obama, Angelina Jolie and members of the British royalty were among the VIPs and dignitaries in attendance, along with around 80 heads of state.

The show wrapped up with a performance by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, at around midnight local time.

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