Games open in spectacular style

After seven years of tears, fears, frustration and a last-minute drugs row the Olympics finally began tonight.

After seven years of tears, fears, frustration and a last-minute drugs row the Olympics finally began tonight.

Athens breathed a sigh of relief as the countdown to the Games ended and a spectacular opening ceremony began.

Greece welcomed the games home to its birthplace where it all began almost 3,000 years ago with an extravaganza of light, sound, music and flames in an action packed three and a half-hour show.

The magnificent Olympic Stadium, its incredible swirling Santiago Calatrava designed roof finally complete, was crammed with 72,000 flag waving, cheering fans as the ceremony began.

And they will be joined by four billion TV viewers worldwide.

Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie are both attending the event, along with a host of statesmen, world leaders and stars.

And Team GB will be lead out by Kate Howey, a judo silver medallist at Sydney, as the other 202 competing nations unite in a parade through the stadium.

Athens has also attracted high-rollers from across the globe with Jack Nicholson, Nicole Kidman and George Clooney spotted in town ahead of tonight’s event.

A shadow hangs over the sporting integrity of the Games.

But for the opening night the Greeks were determined to forget the turmoil over their own Olympic golden boy.

Greek ’God’ Kostas Kenteris, the Olympic gold medallist at 200m, should have been lighting the Olympic flame in a high point to tonight’s show – but is now under investigation for alleged doping violations.

The Greeks are determined he is not to be the ghost at the feast though.

They have promised an unforgettable show with the focus being an expanse of water filling the centre of the arena around which almost 2,500 costumed volunteers will perform.

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