London 2012 Olympic Games: Billions tune in to watch spectacular opening ceremony
Viewers heap praise on Danny Boyle's epic showpiece
It had been shrouded in intense secrecy in the run-up to the Games, but the wait for the London 2012 opening ceremony seemed to be worthwhile as viewers around the globe heaped praise on Danny Boyle's epic showpiece.
Billions of people from across the world tuned in to watch the £27 million spectacular, while thousands of others travelled to the UK to witness the official start of the sporting celebration in person.
The three-and-a-half-hour show seemed to be an instant hit with many, with its British sense of humour and vibrant soundtrack celebrated by viewers from other countries.
The Queen's cameo appearance was a particular highlight for the non-British audience as she took part in a comical segment filmed in Buckingham Palace with Daniel Craig, before seemingly parachuting into the Olympic Stadium with the James Bond star.
Los Angeles Times sports reporter Bill Plaschke tweeted: "James Bond and Queen Elizabeth II 'parachute' into the stadium, then kids in pyjamas sing the national anthem... works for me."
Another LA Times reporter, who tweeted shortly after Harry Potter author JK Rowling read from Peter Pan, said: "The Queen acting, JK Rowling reading in public, can you top this?"
The appearance of Mr Bean also got viewers from the other side of the Atlantic chuckling, with Rowan Atkinson's comical character seeming to go down well with the US press.
Mr Plaschke tweeted: "Mr Bean hams it up during playing of Chariots of Fire... hilarious.. this is becoming can't-miss ceremony."
A fellow LA Times reporter wrote: "Rowan Atkinson segment, very clever."
Another wrote: "Mr Bean one of the night's scripted surprises."
The ceremony's showcasing of Britain's rich musical history was another highlight with the use of songs from UK's finest singers and performers seeming to be a massive hit.
KC Johnson from the Chicago Tribune tweeted: "The Jam has been played. I can go home now. Oh, wait, Arctic Monkeys and Sir Paul still to come. Musical heaven."
Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times journalist Philip Hersh tweeted: "Did MTV produce this?"
He also heaped praise on the upbeat nature of the athletes' parade.
"This parade of athletes has much more of a party atmosphere than in past... feels like closing ceremony mood," he said.
The cinematic element of the ceremony was singled out, with the New York Times describing the show as "visually stunning".
Australian journalist Karen Tighe said that Boyle had "hit the nail on the head" with the opening ceremony.
The Perth-based ABC Sports presenter told BBC Radio 5Live: "It was a fantastic start to the Games. I'm so glad there was no temptation to be better and bigger than Beijing - it was wonderful in its own way and it all came across so well."
She added: "Visually it looked spectacular, there was humour and the overall picture - I think he (Boyle) hit the nail on the head."
Mrs Tighe said the length of the show was a negative point and also expressed disappointment over the lighting of the cauldron.
"I really loved the inspiration of a new generation, but it kind of felt a bit of an anti-climax at that point."
Meanwhile, The New York Times described the "hilariously quirky" celebration as a "noisy, busy, witty, dizzying production".
It added: "Britain presented itself to the world Friday night as something it has often struggled to express even to itself: a nation secure in its own post-empire identity, whatever that actually is."
The LA Times also heaped further praise on the occasion.
It said in a review of the ceremony: "An atmosphere of whimsy and party won out over pomp and circumstance during an Olympic opening ceremony that allowed an economically beleaguered Britain to pat itself on the back.
"The ceremony could not have been more of a contrast from Beijing's four years ago, replacing Chinese militaristic precision with British fancifulness."
The Times of India called the ceremony "dazzling", adding that London had "presented a vibrant picture of Great Britain's rich heritage and culture".
Meanwhile the China Daily said the pageant was "kaleidoscopic".
"Britain's Queen Elizabeth declared the London Olympics open after playing a cameo role in a dizzying ceremony designed to highlight the grandeur and eccentricities of the nation that invented modern sport," it said.
The decision to ask former Beatle Paul McCartney to sing out the ceremony was well received.
David Haugh from the Chicago Tribune said: "McCartney can still bring it... Na, na, na, na, na,na, na, na... show ending appropriately on a high after confusing cauldron lighting."
A number of users of China's social network Sina Weibo posted messages in support of the opening ceremony.
One person, writing under the name Timo in a dream, wrote: "Compared to the Beijing Olympic Games, I like the opening ceremony of the London Games which interprets the culture in a simple way and it's easy to understand."
Another, called Onlooker, said: "I was most impressed by the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games which cost only 42 million US dollars (£26.7 million) - less than half of what was spent at the Beijing Olympic Games."
Keith Duggan of the Irish Times wrote: "The three and a half hour show illustrated the fact that the British do pomp and pageantry better than the rest of the world."
He also praised the turn by Wallander star Kenneth Branagh, who read from Shakespeare's The Tempest in the historical section.
"Does anyone quote the Bard better than the Belfast boy?," he asked.
Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper described the event as a "long, eccentric opening ceremony".
The Toronto-based publication reported: "The message wasn't just that Brits are an odd folk; it was that Britain's past is more important than its future.
"But what a past! Your country should be so lucky."