By RICK DEWSBURY and IAN GARLAND
The Olympic Cauldron burns, lit by seven young athletes, chosen for their promise by British sporting legends
We all wondered who would light the torch - and in the end the organisers sprang a surprise as seven teenage athletes lit copper petals - brought in by each of the 204 countries - which converged in spectacular fashion to form the cauldron in the middle of the Olympic Stadium.
Outside the fireworks were equally impressive and could be seen for miles.
Sir Steve Redgrave, five-time gold medallist was the champion chosen to conclude the torch's 8,000-mile journey round Britain, but there was no doubting the night's biggest star, local boy David Beckham, who transported the flame by speedboat under Tower Bridge to the stadium.
It was the coolest moment of an amazing show and an estimated television audience of one billion tuned in worldwide to witness what had been billed as the Greatest Show on Earth
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The Cauldron was formed by 204 petals, one for each nation competing
The petals converged into one, after they were lit by the seven teenagers, rising high above the stadium
The audience watched open-mouthed as the burning petals raised
The sporting prospects lit the petals, after they were passed the flame by Sir Steve Redgrave
Young athletes carried the Olympic flame around the stadium, a symbol of the Games' legacy
Former British rower and five times Olympic gold medalist, Steve Redgrave, passes the Torch to seven children, nominated to light the flame
The flame is passed to five times gold medal winner Sir Steve Redgrave by David Beckham, who carried the flame into Stratford on a speedboat
David Beckham was a surprise appearance, accompanying the Flame as it made its final journey
THE YOUNG ATHLETES CHOSEN TO LIGHT THE OLYMPIC CAULDRON
Callum Airlie, 17, was nominated by gold medal-winning sailor Shirley Robertson. He has been sailing since the age of four, and is a two-time Optimist UK national champion who aims to be entered into the 2013 ISAF (International Sailing Association & Federation) Open.
Jordan Duckitt, 18, was chairman of the London 2012 Young Ambassador Steering Group for two years, and was nominated by Duncan Goodhew.
Athletics talent Desiree Henry was put forward by Daley Thomson.
The 16-year-old was the youngest member of the Great Britain youth team to gain a world 200m title at the IAAF World Youth Championships in 2011, and competes this year at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona.
Runner Katie Kirk was nominated by Dame Mary Peters, who won gold in the women`s Pentathlon at the 1972 Munich games.
Katie, 18, was selected to run at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, in the 400m and 4x400m relay.
She was also part of the gold medal-winning team in the 4x400m relay at the European Junior championships in Tallinn, Estonia.
Sir Steve nominated young rower Cameron MacRitchie, 19.
The teenager finished fifth with his partner James Edwards in the men`s pair at the 2012 GB rowing team under 23 trials in April.
He was selected in the men`s eight to race at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Lithuania.
Aidan Reynolds, 18, was put forward by Lynn Davies, who captained Team GB at Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984.
Aidan gave up a promising basketball career to focus on the javelin, winning three medals at national level at the English Schools, UK School Games and English Championships.
Adelle Tracey was nominated by Dame Kelly Holmes.
The 19-year-old has collected county, regional and national junior and senior titles in 400m and 800m, and has been in the top five UK rankings for the last six years.
She won 800m silver for Great Britain in the European Youth Olympic Festival in Finland.
Fireworks light up the entire Olympic Park as the ceremony closes and the Games begins
London is illuminated by a stunning firework display as the Opening Ceremony reaches a crescendo
Fireworks lit up the night sky as the Stadium anxiously awaited the arrival of the Olympic Flame
Fireworks created a spectacular display above east London
Beatles legend Sir Paul McCartney raises his arms as he sings at the end of the opening ceremony, as he brings the show to a close with a performance of Hey Jude
Sir Paul McCartney brought the Olympic Opening Ceremony to a rousing an emotional finale tonight with a performance of Beatles legend Hey Jude.
Earlier, Sir Chris Hoy looked delighted as he led the British athletes into the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of the 30th Games this evening.
The triple cycling gold medallist had the honour of carrying the Union Flag in the parade of the 204 nations competing at the London Olympics.
The crowd gave the British team a rapturous reception as the long wait for the Olympics to start came to an end.
Proud moment: Sir Chris Hoy acts as flag bearer for Great Britain as the team enters the Olympic Stadium
British diver Tom Daley, left, parades with fellow team members during the Opening Ceremony
A group of flagbearers including Muhammad Ali bring the Olympic Flag into the stadium
The VIP group included Doreen Lawrence, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general and Ethiopian athletics veteran Haile Gebrselassie
An extraordinary party of flagbearers brought the Olympic Flag into the stadium moments after the Queen declared the London Games open.
Muhammad Ali and Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, were among the nine who took part in the ceremony.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, Ethiopian athletics veteran Haile Gebrselassie and Shami Chakrabati, director of Liberty, were also flagbearers, along with Sally Becker, known as the Angel of Mostar who risked her life to deliver aid and evacuate children in the Balkan War, Marina Silva, who has fought against the destruction of the rainforest, Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, who has worked to try and end Liberia's civil war, and musician Daniel Barenboim.
Flying the flag: Usain Bolt of Jamaica and Maria Sharapova of Russia carry their nations' flags into the Stadium
Argentina's flag bearer Luciana Aymar leads her team into the Olympic Stadium
Earlier the Queen made a seemingly spectacular entrance to the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony this evening by dropping in from a helicopter by parachute accompanied by James Bond.
The surreal sequence followed a short film featuring James Bond actor Daniel Craig soaring across the streets of London before the pair apparently took the plunge.
Stuntmen dressed in a tuxedo and a peach-coloured dress really made the leap using Union Jack parachutes, and the Queen accompanied by Prince Philip then emerged and took their seat in the Royal Box.
Australian competitors pass on messages to loved ones back home during their nation's parade
Norwegian canoe-kayaker Mira Veras Larsen carries her nation's flag into the stadium
The Portuguese team arrive with their flag, led by judo star Telma Monteiro
Some details of the Bond stunt had emerged in advance of tonight's £27 million opening ceremony - the brainchild of Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle.
But the Queen's role - played to perfection - still left the audience awe-struck and delighted both in the stadium and around the world.
'The Queen made herself more accessible then ever before,' Boyle said earlier today.
It is the first time the Queen has 'acted' in a film and she allowed two of her own corgis to star - Monty, 13, who used to belong to the Queen Mother and
Holly, nine. 'she was delighted to be asked to be involved in something so exceptional,' a Buckingham Palace spokesman said.
The segment was filmed in April. 'It's been a hell of a job keeping it secret for so long,' said a source.
Performers in the Olympics opening ceremony tonight hailed the experience as 'magical'.
Spectacular entrance: A stuntman portraying the Queen tumbles out of a helicopter high above the Olympic Stadium before unfurling a Union Jack
In a pre-filmed sketche, Daniel Craig, in character as James Bond, prepares to leap with the Queen
After appearing in the stadium, looking disheveled, a disgruntled-looking Queen adjusts herself and then takes her seat in the VIP area
The Queen is applauded by other dignitaries after making her arrival in the Olympic Stadium
Around 7,500 volunteers from around the world took part in the spectacular show in front of a packed Olympic Stadium in east London and a television audience of billions.
Sarah Lane, 28, danced in the climactic 'frankie and june say... Thanks Tim' section to a medley of British pop hits.
Moments after coming off stage, the scriptwriting student from Kennington in south London, said: 'It felt like the whole world came together for a good old British knees-up.
'It was just incredible - the perfect evening. Even the sky was a perfect colour.'
Asked what the atmosphere was like with her fellow performers, she said: 'Everyone was so happy.
'The audience, the cast - it was a massive party and no-one wanted to get off the stage.'
David Beckham appears to drive the torch up the River Thames in a Speedboat, as fireworks are set off on Tower Bridge
... but he had a little help from a crew, who were cleverly hidden from shot
British rockers The Arctic Monkeys performed in the centre of the stadium
A spectacular firework display marked the band's performance
Performers pay silent tribute to war dead and the victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks
The silent tribute added a sombre touch to the ceremony#
Miss Lane started rehearsals for the modern dance section in mid-April, and has practised for more than 120 hours.
She said: 'The whole experience has been great. Even when we were rehearsing in a car park for five hours in the rain, everyone's spirit was really high.
'Danny Boyle was really approachable, which made such a difference. He made everyone feel part of the team and he thanked us all personally during rehearsals.
'I think Danny really captured the spirit of Britain, and everyone was part of the show.
'It was truly magical."
Scottish singer Emeli Sande of performs a moving rendition of 'Abide With Me'
Rowan Atkinson in his role as Mr Bean takes part in an Opening Ceremony sketch
Atkinson cheated his way to victory in a mock up of the famous Chariots of Fire scene
An army of young patients salute the NHS
A celebration of the Health Service – featuring more than 600 real NHS staff and patients – was one of the ceremony’s centrepieces.
Director Danny Boyle had said he wanted to celebrate the NHS as a proud British establishment as part of the show.
During the set, happy pyjama-clad patients – played by children – leaped up and down on 320 giant hospital beds, which doubled as trampolines, while nurses danced around them.
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Saturday, July 28, 2012
Britain fires up the world: London gets the 2012 Games under way with the Greatest Show On Earth (rounded off by Macca, of course)
By RICK DEWSBURY and IAN GARLAND