London Olympics Opening Watched By Billions

The Olympics opening ceremony on Friday night was watched by an estimated four billion people around the world.

It has been hailed as a low-budget masterpiece in contrast to the mass spectacle that opened the Beijing Olympics.

But the £27m piece was a quirky four-hour tribute to director Danny Boyle's vision of Britishness, with 7,500 volunteers coming together after months of rehearsals.

It included a transformation of the 'green and pleasant land' set out in the stadium into an Industrial Revolution presided over by railway pioneer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, played by Sir Kenneth Branagh.

The ceremony the NHS, nightmarish storybook characters, and a party sequence complete with social networking updates to encapsulate the digital age.

Mr Boyle had a high-pedigree cast in his Britishness performance – JK Rowling, Rowan Atkinson, David Beckham, Dizzee Rascal and world wide web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee all took to the stage.

But undoubtedly the participant who will be recognised most around the world was Queen Elizabeth II, who played herself in a James Bond sketch set in Buckingham Palace.

Before athletes from the participating nations entered, Emeli Sande sang Abide With Me a capella as dancers explored life and death in a tribute to the victims of the 7/7 bombings in London.

After the athletes' parade, the burning question of who would light the Olympic cauldron was answered. Seven promising young athletes performed a lap of the stadium, then lit a cauldron composed of petal-shaped torches which ascended to meet above everyone's heads.

Late-night musical entertainment was provided by the Arctic Monkeys and Sir Paul McCartney.


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