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Olympic organizers separately rejected calls for a moment of silence for 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The parade of nations featured most of the roughly 10,500 athletes — some planned to stay away to save their strength for competition — marching behind the flags of the 204 nations taking part.

Greece had the lead, as the spiritual home of the games, and Team Great Britain was last, as host. Prince William and his wife, Kate, joined in thunderous applause that greeted the British team, which marched to the David Bowie track “Heroes.” A helicopter showered the athletes and stadium with 7 billion tiny pieces of paper — one for each person on Earth.

Both Bahrain and Brunei featured female flagbearers in what has been called the Olympics’ Year of the Woman. For the first time at the games, each national delegation includes women, and a record 45 percent of the athletes are women. Three Saudi women marching behind the men in their delegation flashed victory signs with their fingers.

“This is a major boost for gender equality,” said the International Olympic Committee president, Jacques Rogge. These are his last games as head of the IOC. He steps down in 2013 after completing the maximum two terms.

Rogge honored the “great, sports-loving country” of Britain as “the birthplace of modern sport,” and he appealed to the thousands of athletes assembled before him for fair play.

“Character counts far more than medals. Reject doping. Respect your opponents. Remember that you are all role models. If you do that, you will inspire a generation,” Rogge said.

The queen then said: “I declare open the games of London, celebrating the 30th Olympiad of the modern era.”

Last month, the nation put on a festive Diamond Jubilee — a small test run for the games — to mark her 60 years on the throne, a reign that began shortly after London’s last Olympics, in 1948.

Former world heavyweight champion and 1960 Rome Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali was cheered when he appeared briefly with his wife, Lonnie, before the Olympic flag was unfurled.

Some 8,000 torchbearers, mostly unheralded Britons, had carried the flame on a 70-day, 8,000-mile journey from toe to tip of the British Isles, whipping up enthusiasm for a $14 billion Olympics taking place during a severe recession.

The final torchbearers were kept secret — remarkable given the scrutiny on these, the first Summer Games of the Twitter era.

The show’s lighter moments included puppets drawn from British children’s literature — Captain Hook from “Peter Pan,” Cruella de Vil from “101 Dalmations” and Lord Voldemort from J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, as well as Mary Poppins.

Their appearance had a serious message, too — the importance of literacy.

“If you can read and write, you’re free, or you can fight for your freedom,” Boyle said.

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