China fired out a signal of their Olympic intent with the first gold medal of the London 2012 Games on Saturday in the shooting.
The South Korean, who won gold in over that distance four years ago, came first but had left the blocks a fraction too early.
China’s Yi Siling became the first gold medallist of the Games when she won the 10 metre air rifle shooting – despite confessing to reporters: “For the first round and the last round I was very nervous and didn’t know what I was doing.”
Competitions in badminton, archery, table tennis and judo also started early on a bright sunny morning in London.
After Friday night’s opening ceremony, where Britain laid on a mesmerising and sometimes eccentric extravaganza for the world, the host nation was hoping world champion Mark Cavendish would bring home its first gold medal in the men’s cycling road race.
A celebration of the country’s grandeur and quirky humour, the ceremony extended into the early hours and wowed the crowd of 60,000 in the stadium and a probable billion television viewers around the globe.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge told the audience: “In a sense the Olympic Games are coming home tonight. This great, sports-loving country is widely recognised as the birthplace of modern sport.”
On a darker note, Albanian weightlifter Hysen Pulaku became the first athlete to be ejected from the Games after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.
“Of course it is always a sad day when a cheating athlete is caught,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “I hope there will not be more.”
Ireland’s Olympic Council said it was investigating an allegation that one of its competitors at the Games had previously bet on an opponent to win an event in which they were both competing. It did not name the athlete or the sport.
More than 10,000 athletes from 204 countries will compete in 26 sports over 17 days of competition in the only city to have staged the modern Summer Games three times.
The biggest event of the first day is in the pool, where Phelps defends his 400 metres individual medley title against Lochte.
Phelps has 16 Olympic medals, 14 of them gold, and is bidding to become the most prolific medallist of all time by overhauling the record of 18 held by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.
If he wins the gold on Saturday, he will become the first man to capture three consecutive Olympic swimming titles in the same discipline. However, Lochte finished first in the U.S. trials this year and has exuded confidence this week.