London 2012: 40,000 see Stratford’s stadium officially opened

Stratford’s Olympic stadium is officially opened

More than 40,000 people were at the Olympic stadium in Stratford yesterday for the official opening carried out with exactly 2012 hours to go.

And Niamh Clarke-Willis was plucked from the audience to join LOCOG head Lord Coe to hit a button which launched balloons into the sky above the venue for this summer’s Games.

The opening included a laser light show.

The event tested the park’s management and security and spectators who braved the wind and rain did not seem to mind as they had to queue to enter the venue after airport-style security checks.

Police helicopters flew over the park and armed police patrolled the area.

TV presenters Vernon Kay and Gabby Logan hosted the event which saw entertainment from impressionist Jon Culshaw, actor Hugh Bonneville, singer and former Spice Girl Mel C, Newham rapper Chipmunk and comedian Jack Whitehall.

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Some 140,000 people will be at the Olympic site over six days.

The celebrations were part of the British Universities and Colleges Sport Outdoor Athletics Championships and the Visa London Disability Grand Prix which are test events for the venue.

London 2012 hopefuls Perri Shakes-Drayton and Holly Bleasdale are competing at the BUCS event from Saturday till Tuesday. Later in the week, the Olympic Stadium will also play host to the Sainsbury’s 2012 School Games, for 1,600 school-aged elite athletes.

The final challenge of the evening saw archer and Paralympic gold medallist Danielle Brown shoot arrows at a series of spinning targets to select the young person from the audience to take part in a once in a lifetime opportunity to open the Olympic Stadium.

 Lord Coe said: “This event is very important to us for a number of reasons. Seeing athletes on the track for the first time will be a special moment for me personally and then welcoming 40,000 people into the Stadium on Saturday night was a major milestone.

“This crowd were not only be starting their Olympic journey just weeks ahead of the Games, they played a vital role in helping us test the venue and earn our licence to operate the Stadium. I am very proud of this venue and excited that it is set to stage the biggest sporting event in the world.”