London 2012: Olympic Stadium is officially opened

Thousands braved the rain and cold at the Olympic Park in London for the opening

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A nine-year-old girl has officially opened the 2012 Olympic Stadium, at a ceremony in east London.

Niamh Clarke-Willis joined Locog head Lord Coe to hit a button which launched balloons into the sky above the venue for this summer's Games.

Around 40,000 members of the public were at the stadium in Stratford to witness the opening, which included a laser light show.

The "2,012 hours to go" event tested the park's management and security.

Lord Coe said: "It's a fantastic feeling. The seven years have just flown by. Tonight is only the start of the story.

AT THE SCENE

Inside the vast and impressive stadium, it's hard to know where to look.

Most eyes around me turned right to watch the latest high jump record attempt, as a long jumper took aim in the distance and a pole vaulter limbered up to our left.

Meanwhile the 4 X 400m relay racers lined up on the track.

Fresh from their Christmas number one, The Military Wives sang the national anthem, though sadly out of tune.

The crowd was meant to join in, using our vuvuzela-esque Visa-sponsored singalong song cards, but no-one prompted us.

When the moment came, once the very British brass band had finished, the stadium lights suddenly switched off and the audience shrieked.

The single spotlight that remained grabbed everyone's attention.

Coldplay's Paradise offered the perfect soundtrack to a very special moment as the stadium was officially opened ahead of the many wonders in store.

"We want thousands of young people to be inspired to take up sport. We hope that for a few of them it will be the start of their journey.

"I'm grateful to everyone who came here tonight to celebrate this moment in history."

Spectators had to queue to enter the venue after airport-style security checks.

Simon Levy, who came to the Olympic Park for the first time on Saturday, said: "It's not a problem, really. It's much quicker than the airport and it's good to be checked because now we know we're safe."

Police helicopters flew over the park and armed police patrolled the area.

Adrian Casy, a security guard at the Olympic Stadium, said Saturday's events were among the main rehearsals for the Games, particularly in moving and managing the crowds of spectators from the park and from one venue to another.

"Honestly, so far, so good, although we're still trying hard to make it run smoother," said Mr Casy, adding that some spectators were wearing "insufficient clothing" to cope with the weather conditions.

TV presenters Vernon Kay and Gabby Logan hosted the event which saw entertainment from impressionist Jon Culshaw, actor Hugh Bonneville, singer and former Spice Girl Melanie C, rapper Chipmunk and comedian Jack Whitehall.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

Some 140,000 people are expected at the Olympic site over six days.

The celebrations are part of the British Universities and Colleges Sport Outdoor Athletics Championships and the Visa London Disability Grand Prix which are test events for the venue.

London 2012 hopefuls Perri Shakes-Drayton and Holly Bleasdale are competing at the BUCS event which runs from 4-7 May.

Later in the week, the Olympic Stadium will also play host to the Sainsbury's 2012 School Games, for 1,600 school-aged elite athletes.

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