After 70 days and 8,000 miles, the Olympic flame has wound its way down the River Thames towards the London 2012 opening ceremony, as the Prime Minister David Cameron declared London would give the world "the greatest show on earth".

The torch sailed down the river onboard £1m royal barge Gloriana, last seen at the Diamond Jubilee, as the Red Arrows flew over Glasgow and bells rang out across the country chiming to accompany Big Ben's special three minute ring on Friday morning.

People across the nation rang doorbells, handbells and church bells in a cacophony of sounds ordered by Turner Prize winner Martin Creed, entitled "All The Bells" and commissioned by the London 2012 Festival.

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The royal barge Gloriana carries the Olympic flame along the river Thames

And Culture minister Jeremy Hunt caused raucous laughter after enthusiastically ringing a bell and dropping the clanger, which flew off and almost hit a nearby woman.

Red arrows, trailing red, blue and white smoke, began their flypast in Edinburgh, and will later head to Belfast, Cardiff and the London opening ceremony.

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The Red Arrows perform a flypast over Edinburgh Castle

Even Mitt Romney, the US presidential hopeful, derided by Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson for calling the Games preparation "disconcerting", declared he believed: "London is ready."

The wife of his rival, First Lady Michelle Obama, stuck to positive sentiments during her first day in London.

Mrs Obama dropped in to Team USA's headquarters to wish the athletes good luck.

It was followed by a kick about with David Beckham at the US ambassador's residence as part of her Let's Move! campaign, attended by 1,000 British and American schoolchildren.

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Michelle Obama and David Beckham at a Let's Move! event

After telling the crowd she was "so excited" to be there, she turned to the US athletes standing behind her and said: "You're not born an Olympian, right? In fact, many of them started out just like you, just playing.

"What they did do is they stuck with it. When they got tired and frustrated or fell short, they didn't give up."

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Michelle Obama scores a goal as she plays football at Winfield House in Regent's Park

Mrs Obama is leading the US presidential delegation which includes a ringside seat at tonight's ceremony and attending a reception at Buckingham Palace.

As the clock ticks closer to the opening ceremony, the final leg of the Olympic flame's journey is almost complete, having disembarked the royal barge after a trip through the maze at Hampton Court Palace and rowed by 16 former British Olympic rowing crew members, along Richmond Riverside, Putney Embankment, Battersea Bridge, the South Bank and past Tower Bridge to City Hall.

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Olympic flame burning in the cauldron on the royal barge Gloriana

Record rainstorms meant the torch was not always kept burning, but 8,000 torchbearers ran on in the rain regardless. And burly security guards batted aside attempts to steal the torch on its way around the UK, including a 17-year-old man arrested for attempting to grab the torch in Gravesend, Kent.

The Olympic icon will take centre stage at the evening's £27million opening ceremony when a mystery final torch carrier will light the cauldron in front of more than 10,000 athletes from 204 nations.

Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, paid tribute to the work of those who had made his ceremony happen: "This is a show that has been built out of our volunteers. They are the people who have turned up in rain and terrible conditions and have built this show."

Not everyone's day has been entirely plain-sailing. As well as the culture minister's wayward bell end, tourists and commuters face another day of transport problems, including tube delays at North Greewich, where the Games' gymnastics and basketball is being held, after a signal failure on the Jubilee line.

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Great Britain's Alison Williamson checks her arrows during the Women's Individual Archery Ranking Round at Lords Cricket Ground, London

Archery fans have been duped into buying fake tickets for the tournament at Lord's cricket ground. Others saw the event was "unticketed" and turned up to watch - but the event is traditionally held behind closed doors.

A London 2012 spokeswoman said: "Tickets have not been advertised or sold by LOCOG for the archery ranking event. We have always made it clear that the preliminary rounds are not open for spectators."

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  • The Olympic Torch Makes Its Final Journey Across London Towards The Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: A flotilla of boats accompanies the Queen's rowbarge 'Gloriana' carries the Olympic flame along the river Thames from Hampton Court to City Hall on the final day of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay on July 27, 2012 in London, England. The Olympic flame is making its way through the capital on the final day of its journey around the UK before arriving in the Olympic Stadium tonight for the Olympic games' Opening Ceremony. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • The Olympic Torch Makes Its Final Journey Across London Towards The Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Crowds enter the water to watch the Queen's rowbarge 'Gloriana' carry the Olympic flame along the river Thames from Hampton Court to City Hall on the final day of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay on July 27, 2012 in London, England. The Olympic flame is making its way through the capital on the final day of its journey around the UK before arriving in the Olympic Stadium tonight for the Olympic games' Opening Ceremony. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • The Olympic Torch Makes Its Final Journey Across London Towards The Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: The Queen's rowbarge 'Gloriana' carries the Olympic flame along the river Thames from Hampton Court to City Hall on the final day of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay on July 27, 2012 in London, England. The Olympic flame is making its way through the capital on the final day of its journey around the UK before arriving in the Olympic Stadium tonight for the Olympic games' Opening Ceremony. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • The Olympic Torch Makes Its Final Journey Across London Towards The Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: The Queen's rowbarge 'Gloriana' carries the Olympic flame along the river Thames from Hampton Court to City Hall on the final day of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay on July 27, 2012 in London, England. The Olympic flame is making its way through the capital on the final day of its journey around the UK before arriving in the Olympic Stadium tonight for the Olympic games' Opening Ceremony. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • The Olympic Torch Makes Its Final Journey Across London Towards The Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Crowds enter the water to watch the Queen's rowbarge 'Gloriana' carry the Olympic flame along the river Thames from Hampton Court to City Hall on the final day of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay on July 27, 2012 in London, England. The Olympic flame is making its way through the capital on the final day of its journey around the UK before arriving in the Olympic Stadium tonight for the Olympic games' Opening Ceremony. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • Day 69 - Olympic Torch Relay

    Handout combo photo issued by LOCOG of Torchbearer 131 Sir Bruce Forsyth showing his moves as he carryies the Olympic Flame on the Torch Relay leg through Kensington and Chelsea (Royal London Borough).

  • Day 69 - Olympic Torch Relay

    Prince William, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at Buckingham Palace to watch the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.**POOL PHOTO**

  • Day 69 - Olympic Torch Relay

    Prince William, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at Buckingham Palace to watch the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.**POOL PHOTO**

  • Coca Cola London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay concert

    Future Flame Tyler Rix carries the Olympic Olympic Flame and lights the Olympic Cauldron on stage at the Coca Cola London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay concert in Hyde Park, London.

  • Day 69 - Olympic Torch Relay

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are joined by 40 children from the Team GB Ambition Programme as they wait for Wai-Ming to hand over the London 2012 Olympic Torch to John Hulse during a visit to Buckingham Palace, London, on Day 69 of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

  • Day 69 - Olympic Torch Relay

    The Olympic Torch is driven along Oxford Street, London, on Day 69 of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

  • Day 69 - Olympic Torch Relay

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry leave after watching Wai-Ming hand over the London 2012 Olympic Torch to John Hulse during a visit to Buckingham Palace, London, on Day 69 of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

  • Day 69 - Olympic Torch Relay

    The Olympic Torch is carried through Oxford Circus, London, on Day 69 of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

  • Day 69 - Olympic Torch Relay

    Spectators cheer on the Torch Relay along Regent Street in London.

  • Day 69 - Olympic Torch Relay

    Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha welcome Olympic Torch Bearer Kate Nesbit to Downing Street, London, on Day 69 of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

  • Day 69 - Olympic Torch Relay

    Ex-England rugby union captain Lawrence Dallaglio carries the Olympic Flame on behalf of Samsung - a presenting partner of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay, at Chelsea Football Club, Stamford Bridge in London.

  • Coca Cola London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay concert

    Eliza Doolittle performing at the Coca Cola London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay concert, in Hyde Park, central London.

  • The Prince Of Wales And Duchess Of Cornwall Attend Torch Handover - London

    The Duchess of Cornwall meeting Torchbearer Scott Moorhouse at the Olympic Torch handover at MENCAP community centre in Tottenham.

  • Day 69 - The Olympic Torch Continues Its Journey Around The UK

    LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 26: In this handout image provided by LOCOG, Torchbearer 098 Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders carry the Olympic Flame on the Torch Relay leg between Lambeth (London Borough) and Kensington and Chelsea (Royal London Borough), during Day 69 of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay on July 26, 2012 in London, England. The Olympic Flame is now on Day 69 of a 70-day relay involving 8,000 torchbearers covering 8,000 miles. (Photo by LOCOG via Getty Images)

  • After 68 Days Travelling Around The UK The Olympic Torch Reaches Central London Ahead Of The Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: TV personalities Joanna Lumley (R) and Jennifer Saunders carry the Olympic Torch down King's Road on July 26, 2012 in London, England. The Olympic Flame is now on day 68 of a 70-day relay, the penultimate leg of the flames journey before being taken to the Olympic Park on Friday for the opening ceremony. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • After 68 Days Travelling Around The UK The Olympic Torch Reaches Central London Ahead Of The Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: TV personalities Joanna Lumley (R) and Jennifer Saunders carry the Olympic Torch down King's Road on July 26, 2012 in London, England. The Olympic Flame is now on day 68 of a 70-day relay, the penultimate leg of the flames journey before being taken to the Olympic Park on Friday for the opening ceremony. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)