The London 2012 Olympic Games began with a grand opening ceremony. The sky above the Olympic Stadium in east London was lit up by fireworks as the London 2012 Olympic Games were declared open by the Queen. The lavish ceremony was watched by over 80,000 people in the stadium and by millions more across the world on television. It ended with a parade featuring athletes from the 204 participating nations before the Olympic torch was lit by seven promising young British athletes.

The three-hour extravaganza - the Isles of Wonder - was created and directed by the Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle, and inspired by a speech in Shakespeare's The Tempest, which was recited at the beginning of the ceremony by the actor Kenneth Branagh. Boyle ensured a string of British celebrities arrived with appropriate fanfare. Even the Queen took part in the celebration, making a dramatic entrance with her most famous secret agent, James Bond 007, played by Daniel Craig. In a specially filmed light-hearted segment, the Queen was seen to "parachute" into the stadium from a helicopter. Former Manchester United and Real Madrid footballer David Beckham made an equally impressive entrance - in a speedboat down the River Thames, carrying the Olympic Torch.

"The Olympic flame made its way along the Thames in a boat piloted by David Beckham. He played an important role in bringing the Games to London and has been a big supporter ever since. Carrying the torch on the boat was Jade Bailey, a young footballer tipped to become one of the sporting stars of the future," said the Games' organisers in an official statement.

The suspense over the lighting of the Olympic cauldron was finally lifted as seven young athletes stepped forward to do the honours, marking the beginning of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The opening ceremony itself began with the ringing of the Olympic bell at the Olympic Stadium.

After that, loud drumming indicated the beginning of the Pandemonium - a depiction of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. A giant ring was forged at the centre of the stage, which was then raised to join four others and form a spectacular re-creation of the Olympics' iconic symbol - the five interlocking Olympic Rings - above the Olympic Stadium.

The opening ceremony also included segments on popular music, a celebration of the UK's National Health Service and performances by several leading British artists, including former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, who sang Hey Jude. The author of the Harry Potter series of books, JK Rowling, read from JM Barrie's Peter Pan, comedian Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean character joined the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle to play the Chariots of Fire theme, and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the worldwide web, took centre stage in a section devoted to modern technology.

Catch a glimpse of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games in the photographs below...