Young athletes light Olympic cauldron during Opening Ceremony to kick off 2012 Summer Olympics in London

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Rock stars, smokestacks, nurses, Union flags, spectators, fireworks, a meadow and… sheep. (Oh, and a Queen, a parachuting Queen, a Beatle, a large Lord Voldemort, a nod to British Literature and David Beckham on a speedboat).

The 2012 London Summer Olympic Games have officially begun in a verdant display of British glory. The man behind the ceremony is no other than Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, known for films including “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Trainspotting.” The budget for the ceremony is less than half of the estimated spending on the Beijing equivalent in 2008, reported Reuters, coming in at about 27 million pounds or $42 million.

Over the course of the next 17 days, some 10,500 athletes from more than 200 countries will compete for an Olympic gold.

London opens with pageant for next generation
John Mehaffey/Reuters
8:54 p.m. EDT, July 27, 2012

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth declared the London Olympics open after playing a cameo role in a dizzying ceremony designed to highlight the grandeur and eccentricities of the nation that invented modern sport.

Children’s voices intertwining from the four corners of her United Kingdom ushered in an exuberant historical pageant of meadows, smokestacks and digital wizardry before an audience of 60,000 in the Olympic Stadium and a probable billion television viewers around the globe.

Many of them gasped at the sight of the 86-year-old queen, marking her Diamond Jubilee this year, putting aside royal reserve in a video where she stepped onto a helicopter with James Bond actor Daniel Craig to be carried aloft from Buckingham Palace.

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