'It's on. Let's Go.' The Games have begun

LONDON -- Inside the stadium, everyone sang along to "Hey, Jude" with Sir Paul McCartney. Over the city, fireworks boomed out over the Tower Bridge. Around the world, two of every three people watched on television Friday night as the XXX Olympiad got underway, its history to be written over the next 16 days. The rain mostly held off -- was that an omen portending good for these Games? -- in what has been one of the rainiest summers in British history, London playing host to the Olympics for the third time. It staged the Games in 1908 and again in 1948.

Seven young British torchbearers lit the cauldron -- a tiny flame within a copper petal on the ground that triggered the ignition of more than 200 petals and then converged to form a single "flame of unity." The cauldron is due to be moved to a different place into the stadium during the Games, then disassembled at the close of the Olympics -- meant to evoke a flower that blooms only for a while.

The party-vibe contrast with China, and 2008 -- which opened with the awe-inspiring sound of 2,008 drums, unmistakably signaling the portent of history -- could not have been more dramatic.

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