The 2012 London Olympic Games have opened with Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins ringing the Olympic bell as film director Danny Boyle's £27 million glittering ceremony unfurled, launching 17 days of sporting endeavour.
Fresh from his victory in the Tour de France, British cyclist Bradley Wiggins rang a 23-ton bell - the biggest in Europe - at the Olympic Stadium to mark the beginning of the 2012 London Games.
Up to one billion people worldwide tuned in to watch the show, which was directed by Oscar-winning British film director Danny Boyle and cost some 34 million euros to produce.
The “Slumdog Millionaire” director said that the three-hour ceremony – the details of which were a closely guarded secret until the last minute - was to be “a picture of us as a nation”.
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The extravagant opening ceremony included performances from James Bond, the Isenbard Kingdom Brunel and a Beatle.
The ringing of the giant bell ushered in what promised to be a quirky three-hour journey through British culture and history.
Some 80,000 spectators and VIPs, including 80 world leaders and US first lady Michelle Obama, were at the stadium in the formerly run-down area in east London for Friday’s ceremony.
In central London’s Hyde Park, 50,000 music fans attended a concert featuring bands from the four countries of the United Kingdom – Duran Duran representing England, Welsh rockers Stereophonics, Scottish singer Paolo Nutini and Northern Ireland’s Snow Patrol.
The opening ceremony is also being broadcast on huge screens in Hyde Park.
Millions of Britons not lucky enough to have tickets packed in to pubs, gathered with friends and attended outdoor events to watch the show.
The optimism of the opening ceremony belies a series of dramas in the build-up to the games.
These include a highly publicised failure by private security firm G4S to recruit enough guards for the event – 4,700 soldiers have been mobilised to provide support – and news that the UK is sliding towards a double-dip recession.
Britons will be hoping to get all the cheer they can from the next 17 days of sporting endeavour.
The runup to the games has also claimed one celebrity scalp in the form of US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Branded “Mitt the Twit” by top-selling British tabloid The Sun, Romney caused a stir by questioning London’s readiness to hold the Games.
British Prime Minister David Cameron responded by saying he was sure the country would get behind the games in spite of the gloomy economic outlook and took an apparent dig at Romney, who had organised the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in his native Utah.
"We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world," Cameron said. “Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."
An A-list of celebrities, world leaders and royalty attended the opening ceremony, including German chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Britain’s Prince William, his wife Catherine and various other European royals including Monaco’s Prince Albert also attended.
As the world watches London, organisers have been acutely aware of the potential for a terror attack and some 4,700 soldiers have been mobilised to make up for the highly publicised failure of private security contractor G4S to supply enough guards.
It is Britain’s biggest-ever security operation, with surface-to-air missiles placed on the top of tower blocks and a warship anchored in the Thames in central London.
"I think we've made as many preparations as we can. I think we have very good contingency plans in place," Cameron told a press conference at the Olympic stadium on Friday.
Date created : 2012-07-27