Philip Barker

No one will ever forget the moment when Queen Elizabeth II starred in the opening sequence of the London 2012 Olympics.

"Good evening, Mr Bond" the Queen said, as actor Daniel Craig, aka Agent 007, arrived in her private study.

It was a moment which drew a roar from the crowd inside the stadium when it was shown on the big screen, and then the Queen appeared to jump out from a helicopter above the venue.

The moment was perfectly synchronised so that when the stunt jumpers landed outside the Olympic Stadium, the Queen appeared in the Royal box.

The cheers from the crowd were echoed by astonished gasps from from Prince William and Prince Harry.

"Both of us were slightly surprised with our grandmother's secret hobby that she had of parachuting, which went down unbelievably well," Prince Harry said later.

It transpired later that the only condition the Queen had imposed was that she be allowed to choose her own outfit for the performance.

A few hours later, the Queen made another unusual piece of history.

She remains the only head of state to declare the Games open in two separate countries.

In 1976, she stood alongside International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Lord Killanin in Montreal.

She made the opening declaration in both French and English.

The Queen also opened the 1991 IOC session in Birmingham.

"Happily I shall be in a good position to receive a first-hand report," she joked in her speech to the members.

This was a reference to her daughter Princess Anne, who had become an IOC member three years earlier.

The Queen’s own introduction to sport came at the Highland Games in the Scottish village of Braemar, which she first attended as a child.

In 1948, her father opened the London Games and the Hellenic Olympic Committee presented her with a lychnos lamp which had been used in the lighting ceremony for the Olympic Flame.

She became Queen only a few days before the 1952 Olympics when her father died. At Oslo's Bislett Stadium, the flags were lowered to half mast in tribute. 

Today is exactly 70 years since she acceded to the throne.

The Queen opened the London 2012 Olympics © Getty Images
The Queen opened the London 2012 Olympics © Getty Images

Throughout her reign, she has been known for her enthusiasm for horses and racing remains her passion, though a classic race win has eluded the British head of state.

Her racing colours, the purple jacket with gold braid, red sleeves and a black velvet cap with a gold fringe, are known throughout the sport.

In 1953, her horse Aureole finished second in the Derby.

She also owned Countryman V, a horse which did bring her a measure of reflected sporting glory at the Olympics. In 1956, he was ridden by Bertie Hill at the equestrian element of the Olympic Games in Stockholm.

The Queen herself was the guest of the Swedish King and joined him in an open carriage for the procession to the Opening Ceremony.

She was joined by her sister Princess Margaret to spectate at the competition itself.

The Queen took great delight in following the cross country phase fence by fence.

Britain won team gold and were then invited to meet her on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

She did not travel to Australia that November for the Melbourne Olympics, but was represented by her husband, Prince Philip, who opened the Games. 

The Queen, seen with the Duchess of Cambridge at Royal Ascot races, is a keen fan of horse racing © Getty Images
The Queen, seen with the Duchess of Cambridge at Royal Ascot races, is a keen fan of horse racing © Getty Images

Two years later came the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff.

A new tradition was inaugurated when she consigned a message to a baton which was carried overnight to Cardiff Arms Park. Her message was read by her Prince Philip.

"I hope that many lasting friendships will grown" the message said at what became known as the "Friendly Games".

The message signed off, "I am greatly looking forward to being with you at the end of next week."

In fact, she was too unwell to attend, so a recorded message relayed by loudspeaker announced Charles would become Prince of Wales.

The tradition of the Baton endured and from 1966 onwards, she has sent a message to every Commonwealth Games. All but two have begun their passage at Buckingham Palace.

The Queen has opened the Commonwealth Games by reading her own message in 1978, 1994, 2002, 2006 and 2014. On such occasions, the message is officially known as an address.

When Princess Anne won a solo title at the European Eventing Championships for the first time in 1971, the Queen was on hand to present the trophy.

She was also present to watch her daughter compete in the 1976 Olympics.

The Queen he is not known to be a great football fan but has been present at some memorable occasions, most notably the 1966 World Cup. She opened the tournament and three weeks later was back for the final.

FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous confided that she had anxiously enquired, during the dramatic closing moments when England beat West Germany, "how long is left?"

Earlier in her reign, she visited Hampden Park in Glasgow for the Coronation Cup in 1953, a competition which featured English and Scottish teams and was won by Celtic.

In 1977, she returned to see Kenny Dalglish lead a Glasgow Select XI in a celebratory match for the Silver Jubilee Fund. It was also the year she attended two other high-profile sporting events.

In March there was concern amongst organisers of the Test match to celebrate the centenary of Test cricket that the game might be complete before she got there. Happily she arrived in time to see the final session of a memorable match. 

Australia beat England by 45 runs.

When she was introduced to the players afterwards, Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee asked her for an autograph.

That summer the Queen made a rare visit to Wimbledon to present the trophy in the women’s singles final to Virginia Wade.

"Virginia will take tea with the Queen," BBC commentator Peter Jones said.

The Queen also presented the FA Cup to Blackpool in 1953 after a match that is still talked about today.

In 2013, Buckingham Palace hosted a commemorative match between Polytechnic and Civil Service, two of England’s oldest clubs, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Football Association (FA).

Prince William had by now become FA President.

The Queen welcomed the Olympic Flame to Windsor Castle in 2012 © Getty Images
The Queen welcomed the Olympic Flame to Windsor Castle in 2012 © Getty Images

"I cannot tell you how excited I am that later today, we will be playing football on our grandmother’s lawn," Prince William said.

"One warning though, if anyone breaks a window you can answer to her."

The Queen was patron of many sporting organisations including the FA, the Rugby Football Union, the Lawn Tennis Association and the British Olympic Association.

When in 1971, the British Olympic Association decided on a crest which incorporated the royal crest, it was necessary for the Queen to give her approval to the design.

She remains patron of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

In 2012, then-IOC President Jacques Rogge paid his own tribute by quoting a stanza from the British national anthem to describe the London Olympics.

They were, he said, “Happy and Glorious".

The Queen’s association with sport in the last 70 years has been just that.