Olympics Opening Ceremony time, schedule: London welcomes world tonight for Olympics 2012

LONDON -- One of the biggest secrets in London will finally be revealed Friday: what will happen at the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympic Games.

Friday night perhaps a billion people will finally get to see the extravaganza created by Danny Boyle, best known for the Oscar-winning film "Slumdog Millionare."

The day got off to a resounding start as bells around the country, including London's famous Big Ben, pealed for three minutes.

The Olympic torch, which has traveled around the United Kingdom over the past 70 days, then set off on the final leg of its journey toward the stadium, aboard the royal barge Gloriana.

Rowers will propel the barge, which played a central role in Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee celebrations, down the River Thames from Hampton Court to Tower Bridge.

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Former Olympian rower Matthew Pinsent, tasked with carrying the flame on to the barge, said this was "a huge day for London."

Crowds lined the river's banks to cheer the torch along, adding to the more than 13 million who've turned out to watch it pass in the course of its 8,000-mile journey, according to the government.

Forecasters at Britain's Met Office say rain showers over London should clear by evening, allowing those watching the opening ceremony at the stadium to stay dry.

Few specifics have been released about the three-hour show -- but keeping the details quiet has been a challenge taking into account the thousands of performers and technicians involved, plus two dress rehearsals held this week.

A Twitter hashtag, #savethesurprise, was started by Olympic organizers to help keep details private, but some aspects of the show have leaked out nonetheless.

What the organizers have made public is that the show's opening scene is dubbed "Green and Pleasant," after a line from poet William Blake's Jerusalem and will showcase an idyllic view of a British countryside.

The elaborate set will comprise rolling hills, fields and rivers, complete with picnicking families, sport being played on a village green and real farmyard animals.

Not many names of the celebrities that will be part of the ceremony have been released. But star footballer David Beckham has said he has a role in the spectacle.

It will begin at 9 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET) with the tolling of the largest harmonically tuned bell in Europe, cast by the nearby Whitechapel Foundry.

The torch will reappear during the show's grand finale, when it will be carried into Olympic Stadium and used to set the Olympic cauldron aflame, symbolizing the beginning of the Games.

On Thursday, the torch was taken past iconic London landmarks.

Crowds joined British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife as the torch reached the doorstep of their Downing Street home. Next, the torch went past the Big Ben clock tower, carried by 81-year-old native Londoner Florence Rowe, who says she fondly remembers the excitement of the 1948 London Olympics.

The last major stop was Buckingham Palace, where Prince William, his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry greeted the torchbearers.

Fake ticket warning

Some Olympic competition commenced ahead of the official opening ceremony.

All 128 competing archers are taking part Friday in a preliminary round at Lord's Cricket Ground to determine seedings for the individual and team competitions.

UK media reported Friday that hundreds of disappointed people had been turned away from the site Friday morning, however, after the apparent sale of some fake tickets and confusion over whether the event was open to the public.

The London organizing committee, LOCOG, said tickets had neither been advertised nor sold.

"We think we have made it very clear that this is not a free event, like the Road Races or Marathon which have been advertised as free events," a statement said.

"This is a ranking round and there is no spectator access at all. We are dealing with this at the venue, along with some people who have turned up with fake tickets purchased from a fraudulent website."

People are urged to "be extremely cautious and vigilant when attempting to buy tickets and only purchase from an official source," the statement says.

Thursday saw the start of the men's football competition, with global favorites Spain and Brazil playing, though not against each other.

Spain, which won the European Championship this year and the last World Cup, suffered a surprising 1-0 defeat to Japan in one of eight games scheduled Thursday.

Brazil -- which, like Spain, is considered a likely contender to win Olympic gold -- beat Egypt 3-2. Great Britain, playing football in the Olympics for

the first time since 1960, scored a 1-1 draw in its match against Senegal after letting in a late goal.

Two notable absences are Argentina and the United States, neither of which qualified.

U.S. lawmakers remember Munich killings

Sixteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives held a moment of silence Thursday to honor the 11 Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics and urged Olympic leaders to hold a similar moment of silence at Friday's opening ceremony.

American Jewish leaders and the widow of one of the Israeli athletes have made a similar plea.

The International Olympic Committee says it will honor the slain athletes at a ceremony in September for the 40th anniversary, but so far there are no plans for an official remembrance Friday.

The Israeli athletes were killed after eight Palestinian terrorists disguised in track suits broke into the Olympic Village in Munich, demanding the release of 200 Arab inmates from Israeli prisons.

CNN's Stephanie Halasz and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.