The London 2012 Olympic Games has officially opened with a spectacular ceremony directed by Danny Boyle, marked by the ringing of a giant bell by Tour de France hero Bradley Wiggins in front of a crowd of close to 70,000.
Opening onto a scene of pastureland, maypoles, horses and cricket, a passage from Shakespeare's The Tempest read by Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel began the transformation of the land into a vast industrial sprawl, characterised by huge smoking chimneys, machinery and dark, closely packed streets, to the sound of heavy drumming.
A brief lull in the music came as the stadium glowed with industrial furnaces, as the hundreds of volunteers on stage, some in military uniform, stopped in a moment of silence for the fallen of the world wars, surging back into full swing as yet more chimneys rose and poppy fields began to sprout on stage.
Dozens of colourfully clad cast members, some wielding strange instruments, piled onto the stage and mingled amid the chimneys to mark the Beatles album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the swinging 60s as a ship, the Empire Windrush, which carried West Indian migrants to Britain, sailed the perimeter. Molten metal poured into a vast ring formed in the centre of the stage, as Chelsea Pensioners and Pearly Kings and Queens paraded through.
From the sky, five vast glowing rings began to sail towards the centre of the stage, the music and drumming growing ever louder, as the rings, spitting sparks of hot metal, converged to form the Olympic rings high above the stadium, showering fireworks as they joined. As they did so, the music relaxed and eventually died, to rapturous applause.
A video montage of James Bond, Daniel Craig, meeting The Queen ensued, with the pair climbing into a helicopter and flying over London to the tune of The Dambusters whilst crowds cheered beneath. As the film ended, a helicopter appeared over the stadium, and two people (one dressed as Her Majesty), parachuted out. Disappearing out of view, The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh appeared, alongside International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge.
Representatives of the military branches carried a union flag onto the stage, marching slowly up the central hill to a flagpole, from which the jack was raised, to the tune of the national anthem.
The second part of the ceremony began to Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, celebrating Britain's social and literary history, as hundreds of staff and patients from Great Ormond Street Hospital entered the stage, forming the hospital and NHS logos with glowing white beds. The staff and children then began dancing to swing music before climbing back into bed whilst a passage from Peter Pan was read by JK Rowling.
Literary characters good and bad began rising and appearing from all corners of the arena, as beds containing children lifted off the floor, to a prog-rock sound-track, whilst the audience waved complimentary light sticks, hard-wired with over four miles of cabling. The music sank as the children fell asleep, guided by Mary Poppins.
The London Symphony Orchestra then took to the stage, playing Chariots of Fire with the help of Rowan Atkinson on piano, who stopped to take photos on his phone, sneeze, and appear in a video montage of the classic scene from the film.
Pop art and a celebration of British design and the digital age followed, with a MINI entering the stage to the sound of The Archers. A woman and boy left and entered a house as rain began to fall, to Michael Fish's famous "hurricane" forecast. Dancers in fashions of the last 40 years performed with glowing ropes circled a huge projection of classic British television, as dozens of seminal modern and vintage pop songs played.
As the montage came to a head, men in jetpacks flew out from among the dancers, showering glitter, whilst giant cartoon punks on sprung stilts danced to Pretty Vacant by the Sex Pistols. As the age of modern dance music arrived, the audience became a huge graphic equaliser, as glowing dancers formed giant faces and logos on stage. Rapper Dizzee Rascal appeared, performing his hit Bonkers.
The pageantry ended with a celebration of the World Wide Web and it's credited creator Tim Berners-Lee, with the stadium crackling with lightning from a desktop computer at which he was sat working.
Next came a memorial to family members of the spectators, as Emeli Sande pierced the air with Abide With Me.
Finally, representatives of the athletes of each nation took to the arena, traditionally led by Greece, with the host nation bringing up the rear.
Following a final performance by the Arctic Monkeys, who sang as cyclists dressed as glowing white doves of peace circled the arena, one of whom flew above the crowd and out of the stadium.
The ceremony was bought to a close at almost 00:30am with the official opening of the Games by The Queen.
The opening was marked by the carrying in and raising of the Olympic flag under the watch of Mohammad Ali, and the arrival of the torch carried by Sir Steve Redgrave, ending weeks of speculation as to who would perform the duty.
Young British athletes then lit the cauldron, made up of hundreds of copper stems representing each nation, bringing the evening to a close with an astonishing fireworks display and music from Sir Paul McCartney.