Almost 900 million people watched part of the London Games' opening ceremony on television, the International Olympic Committee predicted today.
The near-four-hour show included athletes from 204 teams marching into the Olympic Stadium, a film clip of Queen Elizabeth II hopping on a helicopter with James Bond — starring Daniel Craig — and parachuting into the stadium, the comedy character Mr. Bean playing piano with the London Symphony Orchestra and Paul McCartney leading the 80,000 crowd in singing 'Hey Jude.'
The IOC's television and marketing director, Timo Lumme, said he had a target figure for "global viewership" of the July 27 event.
"That's all eyeballs across the world, perhaps scraping in at just under 900 million people," Lumme told reporters.
The final, official rating will be lower. Known as "average audience," it counts viewers at home who watched for longer periods, and will be announced within months.
Around 80 of 200 national television markets have audited figures, and others are estimated, Lumme said.
Lumme suggested that Usain Bolt's win in the 100-meter final on Sunday will likely be the sports event with the highest TV viewership at the London Games.
"It will comfortably clear 100 million and should be approaching 200 million," Lumme told The Associated Press.
Ratings for the London opening ceremony appear to compare well with the spectacular 2008 Beijing Olympics event, which benefited from unprecedented interest in host country China.
Four years ago, the opening ceremony was estimated to have been seen by more than 1 billion people worldwide, and the official average rating was 593 million.
The BBC reported a peak audience of 27 million for the London ceremony — more than last year's wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The American network NBC said its 40.7 million figure topped that of the opening ceremony for the last Summer Games at home, in Atlanta in 1996.
The Summer Games opening ceremony competes with football's World Cup final as the biggest global television event.
In 2010, 909.6 million viewers watched at least one minute of Spain beating the Netherlands in Johannesburg, South Africa, according to Fifa research.
Fifa reported that the final drew an "average in-home global audience" of 530.9 million.