I was there...jumping out of a helicopter dressed as the Queen for the Olympics opening ceremony

More than a billion people tuned in to watch daredevil Gary Connery's historic parachute jump into the Olympic Park dressed as the Queen at the climax of Danny Boyle's spectacular opening ceremony.

The 43-year-old father-of-two tells for the first time how the stunt was shrouded in secrecy for 18 months, and reveals how he had the best seat in the house for a show seen around the world.

"I was first approached about 18 months ago. I had a phone call from a friend who runs a rigging company. He said the people at the Olympic stadium have been asking questions about who would be the right person for the job and I put your name forward. It turned out they'd asked a couple of other people and my name had come up three times.

I went in for a meeting. I didn't know at the time that Danny Boyle was the creative director. The guy in the office said to me 'Danny' would be along soon - he said he was in a meeting with Paul McCartney at the time. I sat and had a coffee and then he walked through the door.

When he came in he looked at me and he said 'Gary, how are you doing?'. I said 'Danny, I didn't know it was you'. I'd worked with him on his film The Beach several years before.

The whole team saw that we knew each other, and they probably thought: 'My God, this guy's name has come up three times and he knows Danny already. don't think we're looking anywhere else.'

When they told me what they were planning I thought it was absolutely awesome. What a great job to be invited to take part in.

I was sworn to secrecy and while I did tell my wife, that was about it. So many people have since asked how I kept it quiet. The truth is you keep it quiet by not telling anyone, because you want it to have an amazing impact.

We did several jumps off-site at a skydiving centre, We did maybe ten practice attempts from the helicopter just to get a feel for the height and the timing of the cues we needed to respond to.

They already had the film of James Bond arriving at Buckingham Palace, the Queen getting in, and the helicopter flying across the London skyline and arriving at the stadium.

We had to get the timings exactly right, and I had six practice jumps at the stadium itself. They were all done late at night so the exposure was kept to a minimum. But I was still amazed that word didn’t get out.

I never met the Queen, or Daniel Craig or David Beckham. I was doing my bit they were doing theirs.

On the night of the opening ceremony I got to Stapleford Airfield in Essex at 4pm. I went through costume and make-up, put on a wig to look like Queenie. I wouldn't call it a fat suit, but there was a costume that held the parachute and made me more the shape of the Queen. Then I put on the salmon-pink dress and got in the helicopter.

The helicopter was given the all-clear to take off at 8.50pm by military air-traffic controllers and then guided into position over the arena at 800ft.

Our jump time was 9.23pm but the whole thing was running a few minutes late, so we didn't actually jump on time.

After deploying their parachutes at 500ft, we steered away from the stadium and landed on a nearby bridge so while the entire stadium erupted in cheers, we were well away from it.

I didn’t realise how much of a frenzy it would create afterwards.

It was an incredible experience to be asked to be involved in the Olympics ceremony is one thing, but then be asked to be entrance of the queen is something else.

I really wanted to keep the dress, but I wasn’t allowed. It would have looked great on a night out. They wouldn’t let me keep the parachute either.

I'm sure the Queen is going to have me round for some tea and cakes sometime. I was thinking of knocking on her door and saying, ‘Hi Queenie, and just want introduce myself. I am the guy who stunt doubled for you'."

Gary Connery was talking to Simon Freeman