Tour de France hero Bradley Wiggins rang the giant bell which marked the start of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games tonight.
Wearing a yellow jersey Wiggins, fresh from his victory as the first British man to win the tour, was greeted with cheers at the Olympic Park.
It was the dramatic start of a breathtaking spectacular capturing the best of Britain to launch the long-awaited games as the eyes of the world turned on London.
The £27m opening ceremony – the brainchild of Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle – started simply with the Olympic Stadium turned into a meadow, a green and pleasant land.
On the real grass covering the bowl of the stadium there were hills, a cottage and people enjoying an idyllic version of British life.
The world’s largest harmonically-tuned bell, weighing 23 tonnes and measuring two metres tall and three metres wide, rang inside the stadium to start a Shakespeare-inspired spectacle featuring 900 children from the six east London host boroughs.
The bell, produced by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, is inscribed with a quote from The Tempest’s Caliban: “Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises”.
The ceremony came at the end of a day that saw the Olympic torch complete its 70-day odyssey around the British Isles.
Bells also rang out across the UK to celebrate the imminent start of the Games.
The Prime Minister said the country would show the world “the best of Britain” while Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) added: “London is ready.”