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Muhammad Ali, David Beckham participate in Olympics opening ceremony

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: David Beckham passes under Tower Bridge driving a speedboat named 'Max Power' which carries the Olympic Torch with its torchbearer on July 27, 2012 in London, England. Athletes, heads of state and dignitaries from around the world have gathered in the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of the 30th Olympiad. London plays host to the 2012 Olympic Games which will see 26 sports contested by 10,500 athletes over 17 days of competition. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Matthew Lloyd
David Beckham passes under Tower Bridge driving a speedboat which carries the Olympic Torch on July 27, 2012, in London.
Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images

(CBS News) Former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and professional soccer player David Beckham both played a part in the London Olympics opening ceremony.

Pictures: London 2012 Opening Ceremony
Complete Coverage: London Olympics 2012

Ali, an Olympic gold medalist, was among a handful of dignitaries who escorted the Olympic flag into the east London Stadium. He sat as the flag was raised minutes before the seven young promising athletes lit the Olympic cauldron. Ali lit the cauldron himself at the 1996 Atlanta games.

Beckham also played a role in marking the start of the Olympic Games at the ceremony on Friday.

Beckham drove a speedboat, with the flame on board,  down the River Thames to the Olympic Stadium. He then passed the flame to five-time Olympic gold medalist Steve Redgrave, who then handed it off the to the young athletes who lit the cauldron.