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On Friday, July 27, 2012, Queen Elizabeth II declared the London Olympics open after playing a cameo role in a ceremony celebrating the nation that invented modern sport. The Summer Olympic Games were held between July 27 and August 12, 2012. USA topped the medal tally with 46 golds, 29 silvers, and 29 bronze medals. China followed with 38 golds, 27 silvers and 23 bronze medals.

The opening ceremony of the games was a much appreciated gala event. Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle began his tale of British history with children's choirs from the four corners of the United Kingdom before an audience of 60,000 in the Olympic Stadium and an estimated billion television viewers around the globe. Many were in disbelief at the sight of the 86-year-old queen appearing in a short film where she was seen stepping onto a helicopter with James Bond actor Daniel Craig and flown to the venue from Buckingham Palace. The clip showed doubles of her and Bond skydiving towards the stadium, followed by her entrance in person.

The opening show, costing an estimated $42 million, was inspired by William Shakespeare's play The Tempest and his reflections on age and mortality. During the course of the ceremony, the stadium transformed from a meadow to scenes of the industrial revolution as five giant, glowing Olympic rings formed from British steel mills rose from the ground.

At the end of a three-hour spectacle, David Beckham, the English soccer icon who had helped bring the Games to London, stepped off a speedboat carrying the Olympic flame at the end of a 70-day torch relay. Past Olympic heroes including Muhammad Ali and British rower Steve Redgrave, the only person to win gold medal at five successive games, welcomed the flame into the stadium.

At the climax of the celebration that had placed children at center-stage, seven teenage athletes were given the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron that will burn for the course of the Games, in keeping with the theme of "Inspire a Generation". The cauldron was a dazzling arrangement of over 200 copper 'petals' representing the participating countries that rose up in the center of the stadium to form a single flame.

More than 10,000 athletes from 204 countries took part in 26 sports over 17 days of competition in the only city to have staged the modern Games three times. The London Games also mark the first time every nation has a female athlete, including Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
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