Around the park at the opening ceremony: 'I never thought I'd be lucky enough to see something like this'

After the chaos, it all went remarkably smoothly. Many of the people who had tickets to the Opening Ceremony left their homes early in the expectation that the queues would be enormous, given the hoo-hah that surrounded the security preparations in the weeks running up to the Games. Yet few experienced any kind of backlog.

Inside the Olympic Park itself an army of purple-clad volunteers with megaphones kept the lines of spectators orderly. It felt both friendly and organised. Signs showing official sponsors were held up for corporate ticket holders. Every now and then a golf buggy beeped through the crowd carrying a group of performers dressed in traditional English clothing.

Visitors had painted faces, flags draped over their shoulders and wide smiles. London was about to throw a party they would never forget and they all had front-row seats.

Abi and Rachel Loughrey dressed for the occasion in evening gowns and high heels. But they also carried a handsome supply of Union Flags, as if they feared they'd wave so hard they might lose a few on the way. The sisters had travelled from Luton with their parents, who purchased some of the more expensive tickets available to the public.

Abi, 26, said: "I think they were about a grand. But it's worth it."

Among the first to queue up outside the gates were Ashole Malaiya, 60, and his wife, Milima. Dressed in Team GB baseball caps, they had left their home in Warrington early. They were determined to be at the Opening Ceremony, Dr Malaiya said, adding: "I would pay whatever price and try as many times as possible to be here."

Some lucked out collecting free tickets via the ballot. Amanuel Zerizghi could barely contain his excitement. "I never thought I'd be lucky enough to see something like this," said the 25-year-old, who came to Britain from Eritrea in 2005 and settled here.

Ken Morris, 75, travelled with his wife, Ann, 71, from Market Drayton in Shropshire. He said: "I was a child at the time of the 1948 Games and, although I didn't realise it at the time, I regretted not being part of it. This time around I wanted to get involved and experience the whole atmosphere."

So did Jake Smith, from Orange County, California, but he couldn't enter. He stood outside the station with a home-made cardboard sign imploring, Need One Ticket. "I only have £100," he said. "Someone was selling one for £2,000 earlier."

The only slip-up seemed to be on Heineken's behalf. Its vendors were selling bottles of beer for £3.70 but there were no bottle openers on hand. At the food stands the emphasis was on British fare – traditional roasts in a bun, fish and chips, jacket potatoes and curry for about £7.

Andrew Sayer, 45, said: "We're very self-critical in Britain but I think we've done an amazing job. For once I actually agree with Boris Johnson. It'll be four weeks of disruption but it'll be worth it."

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