Let the games begin!

The opening ceremony of the London Games, featuring Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, the Queen and James Bond, got off to a spectacular start today.

Wiggins, wearing a yellow jersey, rang the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world to start the show.

There were loud cheers as the crowd saw a film featuring an unlikely meeting between the Queen and the 007 agent.

The three-hour spectacle, capturing the best of Britain, was viewed by a TV audience of one billion people. The athletes taking part in the Games — led, as tradition dictates, by the Olympics’ spiritual home Greece — made laps of the stadium bearing their nations’ flags.

At the beginning of the show iconic images of London and Britain were beamed to the world, and all four countries of the UK were represented in song.

The film featuring the encounter between Bond and the monarch at Buckingham Palace prompted much laughter and cheers.

“Good evening Mr Bond,” the Queen said in the clip, before they left together, apparently heading towards the Olympic Stadium in a helicopter.

A helicopter then flew over the stadium to the sound of the Bond theme tune, as two figures parachuted down, one dressed as the monarch.As if by magic, the Queen appeared in the stands at the stadium – part of a crowd of about 80,000 — amid cheers.

A Red Arrows fly-past marked the start of the pre-show at the symbolic time of 20:12 BST (19:12 GMT). As the show, said to be a quirky take on British life, began, its artistic director Danny Boyle pledged a ceremony with a theme of “this is for everyone”. The Oscar-winning film director added that it contained “a celebration of the creativity, exuberance and, above all, the generosity of the British people”. He said there were to be “no spectators — everyone in the stadium will be part of the magic”.

The chairman of London 2012, Lord Coe, earlier said he was “as excited as hell”. Crowds of people, many of them dressed up in their nation’s colours, are at the Olympic Park for the show. The BBC’s Claire Heald, at the Olympic Park, said transport to the stadium appeared to have run smoothly and the crowds moved quickly through security.

Rain started to fall over the stadium earlier, despite forecasters predicting dry weather ahead of the ceremony. The day of celebration began with a mass bell ringing. Big Ben rang for three minutes for the first time since King George VI’s funeral in 1952.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “It’s a great opportunity to show the world the best of Britain, a country that’s got an incredibly rich past but also a very exciting future.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “What’s so amazing is just the wave of excitement seems to pass from person to person like some benign form of contagion. Everybody is getting it.”

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