Wales kicked-off the Olympics in style today as fans from across the globe hailed the Games’ first event as a “perfect” curtain-raiser.
London 2012’s opening salvo saw Great Britain’s women’s football team edge out New Zealand in the blazing sunshine of the Millennium Stadium with a spectacular free-kick before Cameroon took on Brazil in the day’s later game.
A league of nations could be seen and heard on the streets of Cardiff, which was awash with colour, as thousands of fans soaked up the sun and the opening moments of an event that the country has waited for since 2005.
London 2012 chairman Sebastien Coe arrived in Welsh capital by helicopter ahead of the fixture and said Cardiff had transformed itself into a “truly Olympic city” to give the Games the best possible start ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony in Stratford.
He said: “This is a city I know well; I come to Cardiff regularly, but it had an Olympic feel to it today and that’s fantastic.
“It seems barely credible that it was seven years ago where we snuck across the line in Singapore and started off this extraordinary journey.
“And it’s great that [the] start is in Cardiff too because one of the commitments we made form the start – and I have strong feelings on this as someone who was not brought up in London – is it had to be about the UK.
“Although the Games are in London, it is not uniquely a London story.
“The football tournament is a big tournament, a long tournament, and we didn’t want to base it solely in London when you have stadiums like the Millennium – these are world renowned theatres of football.”
Lord Coe’s enthusiasm for the opening event was shared by more than 40,000 partisan fans who attended the match.
Although seats behind each goal in the stadium lay empty, numbers were swelled by healthy numbers at ticket cabins on the day.
And there were long queues heading into the stadium amid a strict security operation meaning all bags and rucksacks bigger than A4-size were searched. and fans were frisked.
Supporters were encouraged to get there two hours before kick-off to avoid a backlog while other staff handed out airport-style plastic bags as fans were herded through gates.
Once inside, they could embrace Olympic fever again with highlight reels of games gone-by played on the big screens to get fans in the mood for the next fortnight.
Meanwhile a sea of Union flags greeted both sets of players as they walked out onto the pitch in the blazing sunshine.
Eager supporters enjoyed pre-match “shout-offs” before competing chants of “Kiwi” versus “GB” punctuated the 90 minutes.
And TV crews beamed images around the world with a convoy of broadcasting trucks lining the Taff embankment in the shadow of the Millennium Stadium.
Next page: Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Olympic security
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