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Seven young athletes lit thecauldron at the London Olympics on Friday at the finale of a humour-filledopening ceremony watched by more than one billion TV viewers.
Departing from the tradition ofchoosing a gold medal winner to light the flame, the London organisers handedthe honour to seven youngsters nominated by British Olympic heroes of the past.
Five-time gold medallist rowerSteve Redgrave had brought the torch into the Olympic Stadium in east Londonbefore passing it on to a series of young runners.
They embraced their mentors,including decathlete Daley Thompson and middle-distance runner Kelly Holmes,before the teenagers lit a series of torches which hydraulically lifted tocreate a high-tech cauldron.
Queen Elizabeth II, who had madea royal entrance like no other in a spoof film with James Bond actor DanielCraig, declared the Games open as London took on the role of host nation for anunprecedented third time. InternationalOlympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge told the crowd of 80,000: "In asense the Olympics are coming home," recognising Britain's role indeveloping modern sport.
The chief organiser of the Games,Sebastian Coe, thanked his fellow Britons for "making all thispossible".
"In the next two weeks wewill show all that has made London one of the greatest cities in theworld," he said.
The show before the cauldron waslit was quintessentially British, as its creator, British film director Danny Boyle,had promised.
The queen was shown parachutingfrom a helicopter with Craig into the stadium before the real 86-year-oldmonarch took her seat to loud applause.
The show traced Britain'sdevelopment from a bucolic past through the Industrial Revolution beforefast-forwarding to the present day.
The show included a tribute toBritain's state-run National Health Service while actor Kenneth Branagh,"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling and "Mr Bean" RowanAtkinson all had roles.
When the athletes paraded in, theworld's fastest man Usain Bolt sauntered into the stadium carrying the Jamaicanflag.
The Israeli team wore blackhandkerchiefs in their pockets to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1972 MunichOlympic massacre when 11 of their compatriots were killed after Palestinianextremists stormed the Athletes' Village.
Rogge had refused pleas to stagea minute's silence in their memory at the ceremony.
The British team was greeted witha huge roar from the crowd as they marched into the stadium last-an honourreserved for the hosts-behind four-time Olympic champion cyclist Chris Hoy.
Then came the dramaticcauldron-lighting sequence. Football star David Beckham escorted the flame in aspeedboat up the River Lea before it was passed on to Redgrave to bring it intothe stadium.
Britain's Saturday newspaperslavished praise on the spectacular four-hour long ceremony.
The Times ran the headline"A Flying Start" on a souvenir wraparound photograph of the RedArrows display team flying over the stadium while Rupert Murdoch'smarket-leading tabloid The Sun went simply with "Golden Wonder".
The stage is now set for superstarsBolt, Michael Phelps and Roger Federer to dazzle in competition, while an armyof unsung competitors are also aiming for gold.
A budget of 9.3 billion ($14.5billion, 12 billion euros) has been spent on bringing the Games back to London.
In the pool, Phelps, whose eightgolds in Beijing took his overall medal tally to 16, needs three more tosurpass the all- time record of 18. Hehas seven events in which to make more Games history and anchor a US teamdetermined to continue its dominance against Australia and a Chinese squadspearheaded by 1500m free world record-holder Sun Yang.
One of his biggest challengers isteammate Ryan Lochte, who has emerged as a serious threat in the 200m medleyand 400m medley.
Newly crowned Tour de Francewinner Bradley Wiggins-who also appeared in the opening ceremony-will fire upthe home crowd in the cycling.
Federer, having won arecord-equalling seventh Wimbledon title, returns to the All England Clublooking to add singles gold to the doubles he won with Swiss compatriotStanislas Wawrinka four years ago.
And the United States are hotfavourites in the men's basketball with a Dream Team boasting NBA superstarsLeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
The New Nation Staff Reporteradds: The viewers of Bangladesh were disappointed, as BBC did not air fully theinaugural ceremony of the Olympic Games.