Seven years after London won the right to host the 2012 Olympics, the games are about to begin with a spectacular opening ceremony at Stratford's Olympic stadium - and more than a billion people are expected to tune in around the world.

The three-hour spectacle, created by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, will be attended by 80,000 spectators, including the Queen and scores of other dignitaries.

A preliminary show will begin at the symbolic time of 8:12pm (or 20:12 on a 24-hour clock), and the full ceremony will formally commence at 9pm. Europe's largest bell, situated at one end of the stadium, will ring out to open the games.

Although little has been revealed about the content of the ceremony, which is titled Isles of Wonder, it is thought that viewers will be taken on a whistlestop history of Britain, from early man to the present day.

Although the ceremony has already been presented in two live rehearsals, attended by thousands of people, organisers have strived to keep the content a secret. Rehearsal audiences were urged not to divulge what they saw, and a Twitter campaign has been running under the hashtag 'save the surprise'.

Lighting the flame

The Olympic torch will light a cauldron inside the stadium, creating the eternal flame which is an essential symbol of the modern Olympic games. The torch has travelled across Europe to Britain on a 70-day journey from Greece, culminating in a final voyage from London's City Hall to the Stratford stadium.

The identity of the final torchbearer has yet to be revealed.

Lord Coe, chairman of Olympic organising committee Locog, thanked those who have conveyed and cheered the torch on its passage through Britain. He said: "Support for the torchbearers has been immense, with over 13 million people lining the streets across the UK to cheer them on.

"Thanks to each and every person for giving the Olympic Flame such a magnificent welcome, and celebrating the best of the UK with us. Together we have given the London 2012 Games the best possible start".

Prime Minister David Cameron, who visited the Olympic Park on 26 July ahead of the ceremony, stressed that the games have provided a fantastic opportunity.

"Let's put our best foot forward, we're an amazing country with fantastic things to offer. This is a great moment for us, let's seize it," said Cameron.