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Stephen Redgrave, David Beckham and Paul McCartney launch Danny Boyle's Olympic ceremony

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Jul 28, 2012 | 5:15am EDT

Soccer ace David Beckham had been given the task of helping to transport the torch on a speedboat through the River Thames, docking outside the Olympic Arena, where retired rower Redgrave was waiting to receive the baton.

He ran the last leg of the flame's 12,800 mile relay as he held the fire high up in the air and literally passed the torch to the next generation of Team Great Britain, a group of seven young Olympic competitors each nominated by Great British sporting heroes, including athlete Dame Kelly Holmes and Redgrave himself.

The seven youngsters each lit their torches from Redgrave's flame and walked to the centre of the stadium, where a specially-designed copper cauldron was set alight as fireworks exploded in the skies above London.

The ceremony was closed by Sir Paul McCartney, who took to the stage for a special rendition of Hey Jude. At the end of his set, he announced, "Welcome to London!"

The Beatles icon's performance came at the end of a near-four hour visual spectacular, curated by Oscar-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle, which celebrated all things British.

Actor Kenneth Branagh, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and comedian Rowan Atkinson, as his bumbling character Mr. Bean, all made guest appearances, while James Bond star Daniel Craig filmed a short 007-themed clip featuring Queen Elizabeth II as they appeared to parachute into the Olympic Stadium from a helicopter.

David Bowie's Heroes aired as Team Great Britain walked out into the arena, bringing up the rear of the nations' parade, which saw a total of 204 teams from around the world march in pride for over 90 minutes. The monarch later took to the podium to declare the Games officially open as her royal relatives Prince Phillip, Duke of York, Princes William and Harry, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge looked on from the audience. British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama were in attendance for the Games' grand opening too.

Also among the night's performers were rockers Arctic Monkeys, singer Emeli Sande and rapper Dizzee Rascal.

Boxing great Muhammad Ali even made an appearance at the grand event, helping to carry the Olympic flag into the arena with the support of an aide.

The event proved to be a huge success for Boyle, who took to his Twitter.com account after the bash to write, "Thank you, everyone, for your kind words! Means the world to me. I just want to take a moment to thank everyone involved tonight, couldn't have worked without you. Thank you, thank you so much. London2012".

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