Many sequences turned the entire stadium into a vast video screen made up of tens of thousands of "pixels" attached to spectators' seats. One giant message, in tribute to Tim Berners-Lee, British inventor of the world wide web, read "This is for Everyone".
The performance included surreal and often humorous references to British achievements, especially in social reform and the arts, and was due to conclude with a performance by former Beatle Paul McCartney.
Until the past few days, media coverage has been dominated by security firm G4S's admission that it could not provide enough guards for Olympic venues. Thousands of extra soldiers had to be deployed at the last minute, despite the company's multi-million-dollar contract from the government.
Image: Actors perform during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London.