London: Great Britain's women footballers kicked off 19 days of London Olympics sport on Wednesday, 130 miles away from the host city and two days before the opening ceremony.
In bright sun in Cardiff, referee Kari Seitz's whistle at 4:00 pm (1500 GMT) sharp started not only Britain's game against New Zealand, but began a tournament which will be watched by billions around the globe.
At the Millennium Stadium, Hope Powell's side became the first combined British team to play an Olympics in 52 years, in the first of six games on day one also taking in Scotland's Glasgow and Coventry in central England.
In Coventry, world champions Japan open their bid for a famous double when they take on Canada, while heavyweights the United States play France at Glasgow's Hampden Park.
Brazil play Cameroon, Sweden face South Africa and Colombia are against North Korea as battle begins for a Games-wide total of 302 gold medals culminating on August 12.
"It puts women's football out there, puts it on the map and hopefully will showcase the sport," British coach Powell told the BBC earlier, when asked about opening the Games.
Heathrow Airport was expecting another 3,700 athletes, coaches officials and media on Wednesday as competitors fill up the athletes village at sprawling Olympic Park, built on a disused industrial site in east London.
At the Games, Usain Bolt is hoping for a second successive sprint treble, Michael Phelps needs just three more swimming medals to become history's most decorated Olympian, and Roger Federer leads a galaxy of tennis stars.
China are bidding to top the medals table for a second successive Games, after amassing 51 golds at their glittering home event four years ago in Beijing.
Meanwhile "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle will lead a team of 10,000 participants in the full dress rehearsal for Friday's hotly anticipated opening ceremony.
While details of the curtain-raiser -- which has much to live up to after Beijing's lavish opener -- are a closely guarded secret, the show is expected to feature cows and sheep along with Sir Paul McCartney and David Beckham.
"It is some kind of role in the opening ceremony which I am honoured to be involved in because obviously I was involved in the start process with this seven years ago," said Beckham, a key part of the London bid who has been overlooked for Britain's men's football team.