In the show's first sequence, Brunel (played by actor Kenneth Brannagh) directed the transformation of Britain into a modern, industrial power, acknowledging the historical significance of pioneering civil and mechanical engineers.
Moment of pride
ICE President, Richard Coackley, said: “To see heavy engineering depicted through art was truly inspirational. It was a superb portrayal of how Brunel worked with both human and nature's energy for the benefit of all and also importantly, got across the hard work, toil and risk that our country went to, to give us the global standing we have.
“The volunteers did an excellent job re-enacting the hard work and recreating the excitement of construction work which is not lost even today in the work of the civil engineer. Overall, an inspirational message for young people and a moment of pride for the civil engineering community.”
The ceremony's director, Danny Boyle, spoke of the social progress which accompanied the engineering achievements of this period, commenting:
"[The Industrial Revolution] unleashed tremendous potential and the growth of cities was extraordinary. It led to education, the ability to read and write... We all began here and look where we ended up."
Engineering in the spotlight
Present day engineering was also central to Friday night's events, with London's Olympic Park and its showpiece stadium excelling in the spotlight. The estimated global audience was over a billion viewers.
The show's organisers had worked closely with the stadium design team since 2010 to adapt the arena for their purposes, particularly the steel cables suspended above the stage and the location of the cauldron.
Looking to the future
Civil engineers have been at the heart of preparations for London 2012 since the bid was won seven years ago. The venues and infrastructure they have delivered on time and within budget are now ready to provide not only "The Greatest Show on Earth", but also a sustainable legacy for the future.
Fittingly, in the ceremony's finale, hundreds of those involved in the Olympic construction project formed a guard of honour as Sir Steve Redgrave carried the torch into the stadium they had helped build.
It is hoped that the world class infrastructure and technological innovation behind London 2012 will inspire a new generation to pursue careers in engineering. A recent ICE commissioned poll also showed how public awareness of civil engineering was changing as a result of the Olympics.
Find out more about how civil engineers have been involved in delivering the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games on the Learning Legacy section of the website.