The Olympic stadium erupted with cheers and applause as The Queen arrived in spectacular fashion, apparently skydiving from a helicopter with James Bond in film footage shown to the audience.
It showed 007 (Daniel Craig) walking into Buckingham Palace in a dinner jacket, striding past corgis to pick up The Queen, who was sitting at her writing desk and simply said “good evening, Mr Bond”, before the pair walked off through the palace.
The two then boarded a helicopter which flew across London to the stadium, hovering above as they parachuted down to the ground.
But at the last moment the head of state – in the same peach cocktail dress seen in the film – along with Prince Philip, appeared in the arena to take her seat.
The Queen’s role – played to perfection – left the audience awe-struck and delighted both in the stadium and around the world.
“The Queen made herself more accessible than ever before,” Artistic Director Danny Boyle had said earlier.
The start of the opening ceremony was heralded by a giant bell rung by Tour de France hero Bradley Wiggins, complete with his winning yellow jersey, who was greeted with cheers at the Olympic Park.
In another surprise, Rowan Atkinson in his Mr Bean character created comic havoc as Sir Simon Rattle conducted the theme from Chariots of Fire, dreaming of coming first among the runners on the beach in the opening scene of the 1981 film.
Actor Sir Kenneth Branagh, dressed as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, entered the scene reciting Caliban’s speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest as some 62,000 spectators saw Boyle’s spectacular Isles of Wonder unveil.
Among the musicians appearing was Mike Oldfield, playing his hugely successful 1973 hit Tubular Bells
And the cast of celebrities included a rare public appearance by Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who introduced a section of the ceremony showcasing Britain’s best-loved children’s books by reading from JM Barrie’s Peter Pan.
Baddies from Britain’s best-loved children’s books, including Captain Hook, Cruella de Vil and Lord Voldemort, threatened the stage but were quickly banished by a troupe of Mary Poppins-type characters who descended from the skies.
Some of Britain’s best-loved songs, from Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to Underworld’s Born Slippy and Tinie Tempah’s Pass Out, encapsulate each era.