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.

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opening ceremony

Flamin' brilliant: The world's press gave the opening ceremony the thumbs up

The Times of India called the ceremony "dazzling", adding that London had "presented a vibrant picture of Great Britain's rich heritage and culture".

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?"

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  • 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 American 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".

    But some segments of the showpiece seemed to be lost on particular viewers.

    Los Angeles Times sports writer Diane Pucin said: "For the life of me, though, am still baffled by NHS tribute at opening ceremonies. Like tribute to United Health Care or something in US."

    The fact the Olympic torch was lit by a number of young athletes seemed unpopular with some.

    Mr Plaschke tweeted: "Very symbolic ending, but sort of anticlimatic... I like my cauldron lit by one person... and a person people have heard of."

    John Cherwa from the LA Times wrote: "Hated the flame lighting. Just make a decision and pick someone."

    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."

    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."

    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.

    Designer Wayne Hemingway said it was an "amazing" ceremony.

    The Morecambe-born founder of Red or Dead said: "It just makes me so proud.

    "Watching it made me proud to be a Lancastrian. Danny Boyle is from just down the road to me and so much of my life was in this, everything I believe in, the history from the industrial revolution right through to the NHS."

    Hemingway said: "The musical bit was perfection from the wit and the guts to put Tiger Feet among the Beatles and the Who and then to give pretty much the whole of Pretty Vacant.

    "Normally it would be brushed over, but the punk spirit which is in Britain was written through the ceremony.
    "Anyone cynical about this has no lust for life, it's just bloody brilliant.

    "I don't think anyone could find a fault. He deserves a knighthood."

    Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg agreed, tweeting: "Impressive though #openingceremony in Beijing was, they didn't have any great pop music to play, did they?"

    Not everyone was so enthusiastic. Art critic Brian Sewell said he would not watch the show.

    Speaking before the ceremony, he said: "I was not planning to watch it but then the 10 O'Clock News ran a snippet of it which merely reinforced my plan not to watch it."

    Novelist and journalist Tony Parsons was more positive, saying: "Sneering at the Olympics is like sneering at Christmas. Do you want to be with Danny Boyle or Mitt Romney? Time to stop synchronised moaning."

    Wallander star Kenneth Branagh featured as the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, reading from Shakespeare's The Tempest in the historical section.

    Historian Tom Holland tweeted: "Shakespeare. Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Nimrod. Lots of Victorians in top hats. The Industrial Revolution. If only sport was always like this."

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    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      Team GB, led by flagbearer Sir Chris Hoy, enter the stadium during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Chris Hoy of the Great Britain Olympic cycling team carries his country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      Great Britain's Chris Hoy carries the flag during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

      Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    • Actors playing nurses perform during the

      Actors playing nurses perform during the Great Ormond Street Hospital scene during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic Stadium in London. AFP PHOTO / JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages)

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      Performers during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      A scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      The Olympic Rings during the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      A scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • Aerial view shows the people parachuting

      Aerial view shows the people parachuting (upper L) above the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/GettyImages)

    • PICTURE TAKEN WITH A ROBOTIC CAMERA Acto

      PICTURE TAKEN WITH A ROBOTIC CAMERA Actors wait for the beginning of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/GettyImages)

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a traditional view of the English countryside during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a traditional view of the English countryside during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Frank Turner performs during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

    • Actors wait for the beginning of the ope

      Actors wait for the beginning of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / SAEED KHAN (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/GettyImages)

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a traditional view of the English countryside during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a traditional view of the English countryside during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

    • PICTURE TAKEN WITH A ROBOTIC CAMERA Acto

      PICTURE TAKEN WITH A ROBOTIC CAMERA Actors wait for the beginning of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ANTONIN THUILLIER (Photo credit should read ANTONIN THUILLIER/AFP/GettyImages)

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      Sheep graze during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      The scene during the pre-show before the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      A game of cricket is played by performers during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • An actor tends sheep during the pre-show prior to the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Guitarist Frank Turner performs during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Cricketers play cricket on the pitch during the preshow prior to the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

    • Actors stand under the rain during the B

      Actors stand under the rain during the British meadow scene prior the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      Danny Boyle speaks during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • An actor walks during the British meadow

      An actor walks during the British meadow scene prior the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)

    • Actors play cricket during the British m

      Actors play cricket during the British meadow scene prior the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      The scene during the pre-show before the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      The scene during the pre-show before the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      Fans shelter from the rain during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • Britain's Prince Charles, left, and his wife Camila, Duchess of Cornwall arrive for the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      Industrial workers in a scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      Industrial workers in a scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • An actor dressed to resemble Britain's Q

      An actor dressed to resemble Britain's Queen Elizabeth II parachutes from a helicopter over the stadium during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN (Photo credit should read OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/GettyImages)

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Giant puppets depict villainous characters from British literature during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

    • Actors playing nurses attend to children

      Actors playing nurses attend to children in hospital beds during the Great Ormond Street Hospital scene in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GettyImages)

    • Actors and dancers play Great Ormond Str

      Actors and dancers play Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital staff and patients during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GettyImages)

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: A general view of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a view of the Industrial Revolution during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    • London Olympic Games - Day 0

      Sir Kenneth Brannagh recites Shakespeare during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: David Beckham passes under Tower Bridge driving a speedboat named 'Max Power' which carries the Olympic Torch with its torchbearer on July 27, 2012 in London, England. Athletes, heads of state and dignitaries from around the world have gathered in the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of the 30th Olympiad. London plays host to the 2012 Olympic Games which will see 26 sports contested by 10,500 athletes over 17 days of competition. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

    • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

      LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Children representing the Great Ormond Street Hospital, the NHS and children literature take part in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

      Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

      Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

      Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

      Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

      Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

      Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

      Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    • London Olympic Games

      The history of Great Britain played during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.