Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins rang a 23-ton bell to start the $42 million extravaganza and the queen played herself in a short film that showed 007 driving up to Buckingham Palace in a black London cab pursued by her majesty's royal corgis — Monty, Willow and Holly.
"Good evening, Mr. Bond," the monarch said before getting into a helicopter and flying low over London and a waving statue of Winston Churchill to the stadium where she and Bond appeared to leap out into the inky night.
At the same time, real skydivers appeared over the stadium throbbing to the James Bond soundtrack. And moments after that, the monarch appeared in person, accompanied by her husband Prince Philip.
Director Danny Boyle saved his biggest surprise for last, when he handed seven teenage athletes the supreme honour of igniting the Olympic cauldron, and not a legendary star like four-minute miler Roger Bannister. Together, they touched flaming torches to trumpet-like tubes that spread into a ring of fire.
The flames rose skyward and joined elegantly together to form the cauldron. Fireworks erupted over the stadium to music from Pink Floyd before Beatle Paul McCartney closed the show with a singalong of "Hey Jude."
The ringing of the giant bell ushered in a quirky three-hour journey through British culture and history. Thousands of athletes paraded before 60,000 spectators, including the queen and an A-list of global celebrities.
Earlier Friday, Big Ben chimed 40 times, the British Air Force's Red Arrows aerobatic team flashed low over London trailing red, white and blue smoke trails at 8:12 p.m. — 2012 on the 24-hour clock.
Pre-opening ceremony sport was also spectacular, with South Korean archers setting two world records at Lord's cricket ground.
Im Dong-hyun, who is legally blind, broke his own individual record for 72 arrows and joined Kim Bub-min and Oh Jin-hyek to set a team record for 216 arrows.
"This is just the first round, so I will not get too excited by it," Im said.
Big Ben, one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, chimed for three minutes in honour of the opening ceremony.
The weather office had predicted a dry evening, but a summer shower soaked thousands of spectators just before the ceremony began. The rain had dried up
In other Olympic news, talks were under way to allow a female judo athlete to compete for Saudi Arabia after the sport's governing federation said she would not be allowed to wear a headscarf in competition.
Saudi Arabia, which sent its first two female Olympians to the London Games, had only agreed to let women participate if they adhered to the kingdom's conservative Islamic traditions, including wearing a headscarf.
But on Thursday, the International Judo Federation said Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani would not be allowed to wear a headscarf because it was against principles of judo and raised safety concerns. Negotiations are continuing.
A South Korean sailing coach was heading home in disgrace before the ceremony even began. The South Korea Sailing Federation said coach Lee Jae-cheol was sent back after being stopped by police for drunk driving after attending a banquet hosted by the mayor of Weymouth outside London. The federation apologized on Lee's behalf.
On Saturday, archery was to present its first medals in men's team competition, part of a blockbuster 19-sport schedule on the first full day of competition.
One of the biggest events Saturday will be the men's cycling road race featuring Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and world champion Mark Cavendish, who could help give Britain its first gold medal of the games.
"It's a dream team," Cavendish said. "We've got the first and second of the Tour de France, four guys who won stages at the Tour de France, the British champion, four guys incredibly motivated, four guys incredibly patriotic, incredibly loyal to each other."
Other sports included women's basketball — featuring the gold medal-favourite United States against Croatia and perennial silver medallists Australia against Britain, and preliminary women's beach volleyball at the Horse Guards Parade.
At the Aquatics Centre, Australian Stephanie Rice hoped to repeat her 400-meter individual medley gold medal from Beijing. Other sports included men's bantamweight and middleweight boxing, the dressage portion of three-day eventing in equestrian, fencing, gymnastics, judo, rowing at Windsor outside London, shooting, table tennis, handball and tennis at Wimbledon.Suggest a correction