Olympic cauldron lit by seven British youngsters

The Olympic flame ended its 12,800-mile journey in surprising fashion early Saturday morning in London when seven youngsters lit the Olympic cauldron in front of 80,000 spectators at the Opening Ceremony in Olympic Stadium.

After being passed the torch by Olympic legend Steve Redgrave, the seven young athletes received flames from seven legends of the Games and simultaneously lit 200 miniature torches that rose together to form a breathtaking cauldron in the center of the stadium.

[Photos: Highlights from the Opening Ceremony ]

That capped a delightful, madcap Opening Ceremony directed by visionary filmmaker Danny Boyle that took place in front of an excited crowd, the delegations of 205 countries, British royalty and a distinguished group of Olympic flagbearers that included Muhammad Ali.

The cauldron's lighting ends years of speculation that began almost immediately after London was awarded the Olympics in 2005. Instead of going with a big name -- Queen Elizabeth, David Beckham, Roger Bannister, Chris Hoy and five-time gold medalist Steve Redgrave had all been discussed as potential candidates -- Boyle went the egalitarian route, choosing seven teenagers of varying backgrounds to accept the flame from seven legends. It was a symbolic, if unsubtle, passing of the torch.

[ Photos: VIP appearances at the Opening Ceremony ]

Despite being passed over for the honor of lighting the flame, all of the rumored final torchbearers played a major role in the Opening Ceremony. Hoy led Great Britain's Olympic team into the Opening Ceremony while proudly holding the Union Jack. Redgrave ran the flame into Olympic Stadium after it was passed to him on the River Thames by David Beckham. He handed it off to seven young athletes who ran it around the track.

The queen also appeared in a short film, helicoptering with James Bond. She later officially opened the Games with a short speech.

Paul McCartney and his band took the stage following the lighting of the ceremony and played a rousing rendition of "Hey Jude," accompanied by fans singing along in unison.

Competition in the London Olympics began Wednesday with women's soccer. The first gold medal will be awarded early Saturday morning in the women's 10-meter air rifle.

More London Olympics content on Yahoo! Sports:
Live Opening Ceremony tweets from London
What to watch for: Olympics first weekend
Mystery solved: Why London's Olympic Stadium has a roof