LOCOG chair Sebastian Coe (right) alongside Princess Anne. (Getty Images)
(ATR) In an emotional speech to the crowd and the world, London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe spoke the words he's been waiting to say for seven years.
"To everyone in this stadium attending our opening ceremony, to every athlete waiting, ready, prepared to take part in these Games, to everyone in every city and village in the world watching as we begin, welcome to London.
"Welcome to the 2012 Olympic Games. Welcome from every one of us."
Coe went on: "I have never been so proud to be British and to be part of the Olympic Movement as I am on this day at this moment."
The double Olympic champion said London 2012 would inspire a generation, a common theme through London's Olympic bid and subsequent years of preparations.
"To the athletes, gathered here on the eve of this great endeavor, I say that to you is given something precious and irreplaceeable. To run faster, to jump higher, to be stronger."
To great applause from the capacity crowd, Coe said: "To my fellow countrymen, I say thank you, thank you for making all this possible.
"In the next two weeks we will show all that has made London one of the greatest cities in the world, the only city to have welcomed the Games three times."
The opening ceremony finale. (Getty Images)
London has delivered the Games against the backdrop of a global recession, and Coe acknowledged the fact: "Each time we have done it [staged the Games] when the world faced turbulence and trouble. And each time the Games have been a triumph.
"For every Briton, just as the competitors, this is our time. And one day we will tell our children and our grandchildren that when our time came we did it right."
These are the last Games under Jacques Rogge's stewardship of the IOC. He, too, gave a heartfelt speech that was warm in its praise for Coe and London 2012 stakeholders.
"Thank you, London, for welcoming the world to this diverse, vibrant, cosmopolitan city yet again. It has taken a lot of hard work by many people to get us to this point," he said.
"I want to thank the entire team at the London organizing committee - ably led by Lord Coe - for their excellent and hard work."
He added: "I also want to thank all the public authorities who have helped ensure that these Games will leave a lasting positive legacy long after the closing ceremony."
Rogge earned massive cheers when he thanked the thousands of volunteers "who are being so generous with their time, their energy and their welcoming smiles".
The Belgian highlighted in his speech that for the first time in Olympic history all the participating teams have sent female athletes in what he labeled "a major boost for gender equality". Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are fielding women athletes at a Games for the first time.
This also drew applause from the crowd.
Rogge said that in one way the Olympics were coming home tonight.
"This great, sports-loving country is widely recognised as the birthplace of modern sport. It was here that the concepts of sportsmanship and fair play were first codified into clear rules and regulations.
"The British approach to sport had a profound influence on Pierre de Coubertin, our founder, as he developed the framework for the modern Olympic Movement at the close of the 19th century."
IOC president Jacques Rogge, IOC vp Thomas Bach and the Queen. (Getty Images)
The IOC president congratulated all of the athletes who had earned a place at these Games.
Addressing them directly, as he does in every such opening ceremony speech, he said: "I offer this thought: Your talent, dedication and commitment brought you here. Now you have a chance to become true Olympians.
"That honor is determined not by whether you win, but by how you compete. Character counts far more than medals."
He called on athletes to reject doping, to respect their opponents and remember that they are all role models.
Queen Elizabeth II then declared the Games open to huge cheers.
Reported by Mark Bisson
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