London 2012 Olympics Are Off To A Stunning Start

The London 2012 Olympic Games - seven years in the making - was finally opened by Queen Elizabeth last night in a lavish Opening Ceremony paying homage to Britain's culture, history, industrial and technological revolutions ... and not least the hostsí eccentric sense of humour.

It was a triumph for Danny Boyle, film director and the creative genius behind the ceremony, as the floor of the Olympic Stadium was transformed into the "Isles of Wonder" for the night, initially a green and pleasant land of farmland, animals and lush pastures before magically recreating itself into a post-industrial revolution landscape of mill chimneys and forges.

At the climax the Olympic torch was carried into the stadium by Sir Steve Redgrave - handed to him by David Beckham - but the final act of igniting the cauldron was entrusted to seven young torch bearers.

What went before was an artistic pot pourri, a stunning laser and light show and art for all tastes. There was the Red Arrows draping red, white and blue smoke across the London Docklands sky; Kenneth Brannagh reciting Shakespeare; Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean helping out Sir Simon Rattle with "Chariots of Fire" and Mike Oldfield performing "Tubular Bells" ... and the finale after the fireworks entrusted to Sir Paul McCartney's live "Hey Jude".

After it was announced that David Beckham was en route from Tower Bridge by boat with the Olympic flame at 10.14pm, the athletes of the world began filing into the packed stadium.

Last of all, as hosts, came Team GB, resplendent in white and gold suits and led by a clearly overjoyed Sir Chris Hoy the flag bearer (pictured above).

Once the athletes had gathered in the main arena, attentions turned to the final destination of the Olympic flame.

Sir Steve Redgrave then carried the flame into the stadium, where Muhammad Ali was there to represent the virtues of athletes across the world ñ respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, generosity and spiritual strength.

The Olympic Oath Takers were taekwondo athlete Sarah Stevenson, official Miki Basi who was born in the host Borough of Newham, and canoeing coach Eric Farrell, who steered Tim Brabants to Team GBís first ever Olympic sprint canoe medal at the Sydney 2000 Games.

From there, seven young torch bearers were joined by seven British Olympic heroes in Lynn Davies (long jump), Duncan Goodhew (swimming), Dame Kelly Holmes (athletics), Dame Mary Peters (athletics), Shirley Robertson (sailing), Daley Thompson (athletics) and Sir Steve Redgrave (rowing).

The Olympians passed each young athlete an Olympic torch, and they then gathered in the centre of the field of play.

Upon arriving in London, each nation was given a copper petal inscribed with the name of their country and the words XXX Olympiad London 2012, and a child carried that petal alongside the flag bearer of each nation.

Those petals were then used to form the Olympic Cauldron which the seven young torch bearers lit to mark the end of the flameís journey around Britain.