LONDON  - Queen Elizabeth, celebrating her Diamond Jubilee this year, Friday declared the 2012 Olympic Games open after an impressive inaugural ceremony that lasted for more than three hours.

A giant bell rang out to start an unusual opening ceremony for the London 2012 Games as sheep, geese and cows frolicked on the Olympic Stadium floor. In front of 80,000 spectators and VIPs, women in smocks and bonnets shepherded the animals on landscaped grass with a cottage and windmill, in the “Isles of Wonder” vision dreamed up by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle. The tightly packed, three-and-a-half-hour show features football icon David Beckham, plus James Bond and ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney — and even Britain’s National Health Service.

Among the crowd were celebrities including US First Lady Michelle Obama as well as presidents, prime ministers and European royalty.

At the end of the event, which also includes speeches, the athletes’ parade and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron,

Over the following 17 days, the drama of sporting contest takes hold as more than 16,000 athletes from 204 countries will aim to achieve their ultimate dream - Olympic gold.