London mayor Boris Johnson stole the show from the Royal Ballet and opera stars such as Placido Domingo as the International Olympic Committee were welcomed to London last night.
Johnson recited a specially composed ode in ancient Greek and then its English translation and was greeted by cheers, applause and appreciative whistles from the audience.
Princess Anne invoked the memory of an "Olympics" that first took take place in a Cotswolds village 400 years ago as she welcomed the IOC to London.
The Princess Royal, who is an IOC member, told the opening ceremony of the organisation's session at the Royal Opera House that there was a long Olympic heritage in Britain.
She said: "It will be exactly 400 years since Robert Dover invented the first 'Olympic Games' in Chipping Campden which honoured the ancient Games in Greece.
"Unlikely but true."
IOC president Jacques Rogge paid tribute to London having staged the Olympics in 1908 and 1948 under testing circumstances - in 1908 Rome pulled out after the eruption of Vesuvius, while in 1948 the 'austerity Games' were held in a city still recovering from the ravages of the Second World War.
"London will be the first city to host the Games three times," said Rogge.
"No one can predict how the 2012 Games will be viewed by history, but I am confident the Games will enter into the spirit of this great cosmopolitan city and will leave a lasting legacy."