David Beckham kicked a football and three-time Beijing gold medallist Chris Hoy rode a bicycle past a double-decker bus as London became the centre of Olympic attention on Sunday, dpa reported.
The next Olympics may be the winter edition in Vancouver 2010, but London hosts the next Summer Games in 2012 and presented itself to the world in the traditional handover ceremony, at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Games.
London organizers have pledged to hold Games different from those in Beijing, which can and will not be matched for gigantism, big money and an endless reservoir of people.
The handover showed the intent, termed by the local organizing committee's (LOCOG) chief of ceremonies Bill Morris as "simple, youthful, athletic loud and proud like London, entertaining and fun."
The tone was set with the introduction under the motto "From London with a Whole Lotta Love," with the iconic guitar riff later played by its composer, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, with Donna Lewis singing the rock classic.
Beckham then rose up to a wild cheer and kicked the ball to the athletes assembled in the stadium.
There were scenes from urban London life around the double-decker, including the capital's famed umbrellas in an ironic reference to the British weather.
The key moment was the official handover of the Olympic Flag to London mayor Boris Johnson, with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Princess Anne also present.
LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe, a two-time Olympic 1,500m champion from 1980 and 1984, said London would not not try to emulate the scale of the Beijing Games.
"You can't compare Games with other Games," he said.
That would have been much to the liking of Olympic supremo Jacques Rogge, who struck a similar line on Sunday.
" London will be the city of the country that has invented modern sport and has invented the rules of sport and has brought in the values of fair play," said Rogge.
Rogge also named London's multi-cultural heritage a major asset and said he was convinced that "the venues will be fine, the Olympic village will be fine, the operation of the venues will be first class."
A large group of London observers were in Beijing to watch the Games in operation in the only dress rehearsal before the real thing set for July 27-August 12, 2012.
"You only have one opportunity to watch the working model. It is a vital experience we grasped with both hands," said Coe.
Coe also said the government budget of 9.3 billion pounds (17.4 billion dollars) for all kinds of infrastructure around the Games would be met despite growing costs, including the Olympic stadium.
He also reiterated that Olympics were first and foremost for the athletes, which also applied to the legacy aspect for future training and competition in facilities used for the Games.
The start of the London countdown was welcomed by parties and broadcasts all across Britain, with 40,000 alone gathering at The Mall outside Buckingham Palace.