THE eyes of the world are on London today as the final countdown to the start of the 2012 Olympics begins.
Big stage rehearsals for the £27million opening ceremony are now complete and more than 10,000 athletes from 204 nations are preparing to compete for a coveted Olympic title.
Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, the mastermind behind the opening ceremony, believes the curtain-raiser at the Olympic Stadium is fitting both for London and everyone who will compete in the Games.
The ceremony has been shrouded in secrecy, although some images and features have been released on Twitter, prompting many to use the hashtag #savethesurprise.
“Part of the theme of our show is that this is for everyone,” Boyle said.
“It is very easy to get it out of perspective when you are doing a warm-up act like this and we have not forgotten that perspective.
“We all know that we are a warm-up act for the 10,000 athletes who are getting ready to compete in the Olympic Games.
“They are the most important thing about the show, except one thing.
“This is a show that has been built out of our volunteers. They are the people who have turned up in rain and terrible conditions and have built this show.
“They really are the most extraordinary group of people.
“This show is theirs. This country is theirs.”
Special effects, big names and bags of enthusiasm will be used to help celebrate the best of British in front of an audience of more than 70,000, who will be watching live in the stadium in Stratford, east London.
Millions more globally are expected to tune in on television but many competitors will be missing from the long and late-starting athletes parade.
Team GB previously estimated about half of the 541-strong team will not attend, meaning major stars such as Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton and Mo Farah may not parade at the climax of the big budget extravaganza.
The identity of the person who lights the flame will remain secret up until the final moment, but some of Britain’s greatest Olympians will take part in the closing stages of the ceremony.
These will include five-time Olympic rowing champion Sir Steve Redgrave and double Olympic decathlon gold medallist Daley Thompson.
Meanwhile, Olympic football fans were left fuming after they had to queue for hours to get into yesterday’s matches at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park.
Hundreds of people missed the first match, between Mexico and South Korea, which ended in a goalless draw.
Organiser Locog said that the stadium’s box office opened five hours before kick-off and those collecting tickets to the day’s match were prioritised.
The second game of the day at St James’ saw Gabon draw 1-1 with Switzerland.