Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
05/11/2012 at 02:50 PM EDT
Let the (glamour) games begin!
The Duchess of Cambridge
and Prince William
kicked off the London 2012 Olympic celebrations Friday during a gala at The Royal Albert Hall, hosted by the British Olympic Association.
Kate, 30, donned a teal Jenny Packham floor-length gown and wore her hair up at the event – called Our Greatest Team Rises – which raises money to back Great Britain's team at this year's Games.
Kate and William (and his brother Prince Harry
) are ambassadors to the British Olympic delegation and the British Paralympics squad.
"It's wonderful they're ambassadors for Team GB. They bring a lot of attention. It's a real inspiration for the athletes to know that they have them and the country behind them," said guest Melanie Chisholm (a.k.a. Sporty Spice), who also expressed her excitement about meeting her country's newest royal.
"I'm a big fan of William and Kate," Chisholm told PEOPLE. "I met William with the other Spice Girls when he was quite a young guy, but I've yet to meet his lovely wife."
Five-time gold medal-winning rower Sir Steve Redgrave escorted Kate into dinner, which included free-range chicken, lightly smoked ham-hock terrine, slowly braised British beef on spring cabbage and pancetta, and bitter chocolate mousse on shortbread, accompanied by passion fruit yogurt and freeze-dried mango and coconut.
"Having their support behind us is incredibly important," Redgrave said on his way into the event.
British tennis player Annabel Croft agreed: "They bring excitement and glamor to the evening," she told PEOPLE. "It's really special."
In March, Kate showed her off hockey skills
at a surprise visit to the Olympic complex in east London.