Olympics Opening Ceremony Pays Tribute to British Favorites
07/27/2012 AT 08:10 PM EDT
In a night of surprises, the Queen, 86, arrived at the Olympic Stadium following a filmed sequence that showed her leaving Buckingham Palace with the world's most famous spy played by Daniel Craig. Then stunt actors playing her and Bond helicoptered across London to the venue and, to a tumult of cheers, she appeared on the steps of the VIP seats.
Her moment on film was a high point in the three-hour spectacular that celebrated Britain in its diversity and history, its traditional hymns and its best pop and rock music. Looking on were Prince William, wife Kate – in a Christopher Kane dress – and most of the rest of her family.
William and Kate looked enthralled as they pointed out early scenes set up in the stadium while taking their seats. William's father Prince Charles and wife Camilla giggled. First Lady Michelle Obama led the U.S. delegation and waved enthusiastically as the Team USA athletes marched out.
For the stunning show, the stadium was first laid out as a bucolic green and pleasant land – complete with 40 sheep! – and segued into the Industrial Age, with 2,500 volunteers on stage as five rings glowing in hot iron were lifted to the roof.
Other high points included J.K. Rowling reading from Peter Pan and David Beckham bringing the Olympic flame along the Thames in a speedboat.
The show's artistic director Danny Boyle also drafted in Rowan "Mr Bean" Atkinson for a comic turn at the keyboards playing the theme to Brit movie Chariots of Fire.
The Queen declared the Games officially open and boxer Muhammad Ali took a role in the Olympic flag-bearing ceremony.
Beckham and rower Sir Steve Redgrave, who won gold medals in five consecutive Games, carried the Olympic flame on the final leg of the 12,800-mile relay. A group of young athletes were chosen to light the cauldron.
After the British band Arctic Monkeys covered "Come Together" by the Beatles, it was time for the real Beatle, Paul McCartney, to end the show with "Hey Jude" – and a massive singalong.