For the International Olympic Committee, the Olympic Games took on a royal meaning on Monday when its members were invited to a glittering reception at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.
The event, which took place in the palace ballrooms at the end of a glowing summer's day in London, came just days before the queen was to open the London 2012 Games Friday. For the queen, 86, it will be the second time that she performs the task, having launched the Montreal Games in 1976.
The reception was attended by a number of European royalty with IOC roles.
"In the coming days over 10,000 athletes from more than 200 nations will be undertaking their final preparations following years of dedication, hard work and personal sacrifice," said the queen in her address. "We send out warm wishes to them all for a rewarding and enjoyable Games."
From Buckingham Palace, the IOC officials moved on to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden for the opening ceremony of the 124th IOC Session. A human rights group said it would stage a protest outside the opera house to call on the IOC to fight discrimination in sports.
"The IOC should disqualify from the Olympics countries that discriminate against athletes on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, religion/belief, sexual orientation or gender identity," said the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
"The Olympic Charter prohibits discrimination in sport but it is not being enforced by the IOC."
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