LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: The Olympic rings are assembled above the stadium in a scene depicting the Industrial Revolution during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

LONDON: More than 80 heads of state from around the globe joined about 70 000 excited spectators for the Olympic Games opening ceremony on Friday night as iconic images of Britain were watched by a global audience estimated at a billion.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth arrived at the start of the ceremony in spectacular style. A video of James Bond – actor Daniel Craig – meeting the queen at Buckingham Palace was broadcast to the audience. A helicopter then flew over the stadium to the sound of the Bond theme tune, as two figures parachuted out of the helicopter, one dressed as the monarch.

The queen then walked into the opening ceremony, shortly before a choir sang the national anthem, and was greeted by a roar from the crowd.

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins rang the giant bell which marked the start of the festivities in the Olympic park. Wearing a yellow jersey Wiggins, fresh from his victory as the first British man to win the tour, was greeted with loud cheers. It was the dramatic start of a breathtaking spectacle capturing the best of Britain, including actors dressed as the Beatles and characters during the Industrial Revolution, and closing with a performance by Sir Paul McCartney.

Its artistic director Danny Boyle had earlier pledged the ceremony’s theme was “this is for everyone”.

The Oscar-winning film director added that it was “a celebration of the creativity, exuberance and, above all, the generosity of the British people”.

Hours before the ceremony, the Olympic torch completed its 12 900- kilometre journey around the British Isles with a trip down the River Thames on the royal barge Gloriana. The torch then went into seclusion until its appearance last night to light the Olympic cauldron, the climax of Boyle’s extravaganza, “Isles of Wonder”, featuring 10 000 volunteer performers in a panorama of Britain’s past, present and future.

England’s ‘Green and Pleasant Land’, a giant landscape underpinned the ceremony that saw audience members given 3D glasses and an LED wand so they could participate.

There are 10 500 athletes from 204 nations taking part in the Olympics. South Africa is fielding 125 athletes. – Daily Mail, Reuters and Sapa-AP