27 Jul 2012

All set for nations of the world to come together

9:49 pm on 27 July 2012

The biggest event on the global sporting calendar, the Olympic Games, is about to begin in London.

It's the 30th Games of the modern era since 1896, and the third to be held in London, which previously played host in 1908 and 1948.

A crowd of 80,000 including the Queen and a host of dignitaries and celebrities will attend the three-hour opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium specially built in the east of the city.

Beginning at 8am Saturday NZ time, the ceremony is expected to be viewed by a global television audience of a billion people.

The BBC reports that organisers have released a video clip giving a sneak preview of the spectacle produced by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle.

It includes groups in colourful stage outfits dancing to Tiger Feet by 1970s rock group Mud and cyclists with wings pedalling along to "Come Together" by the Beatles.

As late as Thursday night, however, Games organisers said that the ceremony had not sold out and tickets in the two highest price categories (costing $3940 and $3130) were still available.

Bells usher in Cultural Olympiad

On Friday morning UK time, the Cultural Olympiad running in tandem with the Olympics was ushered in by bells ringing out all over London for three minutes - led by Big Ben, which chimed 40 times.

It was the first time since the funeral of King George VI in 1952 that the famous bell had rung non-stop for three minutes.

There will be 302 medal events over the next 16 days involving more than 10,000 competitors from at least 200 nations.

The first New Zealand athletes to start their programmes after the opening ceremony will be the rowers, road cyclists and equestrians.