LONDON: More than 40,000 spectators watched as a cascade of white balloons was released to officially open London's Olympic stadium on Saturday, exactly 2,012 hours before the Games begin.
Capping off an evening of music, comedy and fun sports events, Paralympic gold medal-winning archer Danielle Brown shot arrows at spinning targets to select the name of a youngster in the audience to open the east London stadium.
A dazed-looking young girl joined Sebastian Coe, chair of Games organisers LOCOG, in pressing a large button to release the balloons into the chilly night sky over the stadium, which hosts the Olympic opening ceremony on July 27.
Coe said it felt "barely believable" to be opening the 80,000-capacity stadium, adding: "I'm just so grateful to everybody who's come here tonight to help us celebrate this moment in history."
The crowds watched earlier as Olympic rowing champion Steve Redgrave and "Downton Abbey" actor Hugh Bonneville joined other celebrities and sport stars in a series of fun contests to test out the running track.
Former Spice Girl Melanie C and comedian Jack Whitehall were also booked to entertain spectators who bought tickets to "2012 Hours to Go: An Evening of Athletics and Entertainment".
The Military Wives, a group of British soldiers' wives whose charity single topped the charts last Christmas, led the crowd in singing the national anthem.
Earlier, students had tested out the stadium as part of the British Universities and Colleges Sport championships.
The event was also a major test of London's transport system ahead of the Games as the Underground train network's Jubilee line, serving the stadium, was further crammed with football fans leaving the FA Cup final in north London. (AFP)