Queen hosts world leaders at Palace
The Queen praised the Olympic ideal of "togetherness" as she welcomed world leaders to the UK ahead of the London 2012 opening ceremony.
With the start of the Games tantalisingly close, the Queen described how the journey of the Olympic flame around the country had brought communities and families together.
She also praised the "young men and women dedicated to excellence and achievement" who will begin competing in earnest from Saturday.
In the sumptuous setting of Buckingham Palace the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were joined by their family to make the visiting presidents, prime ministers and princes feel at home.
The Queen told her guests: "Over recent months many in these islands have watched with growing excitement the journey of the Olympic torch around the United Kingdom. As the torch has passed through villages and towns it has drawn people together in families and communities.
"To me the spirit of togetherness is a most important part of the Olympic ideal, and the British people can be proud of the part they have played in keeping the spirit alive."
She added: "In all our national Olympic teams there is so much of which we can be proud; groups of young men and women dedicated to excellence and achievement across numerous sporting disciplines."
London 2012 has been aptly described as the greatest sporting show on earth but the event also affords Britain the chance to strengthen its diplomatic, political and economic ties with the rest of the world.
Among the palace guests were US First Lady Michelle Obama, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who wants to end the tradition of her country having a British monarch as head of state.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also attended along with German President Joachim Gauck.