Around five million people watched the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on BBC One on Friday, according to initial figures.

That figure accounts for more than 50 per cent of the TV audience at the time, with figures peaking at 5.4m at 5pm.

However due to the time difference in China figures were down from the eight million who watched the opening ceremony in Athens in 2004.

Around the world, more than one billion people are thought to have tuned in – but viewers in the US reacted angrily after they were denied the chance to watch the ceremony live.

TV network NBC, which owns the rights to show Olympics coverage in the US, showed it in the evening instead in order to maximise viewing figures.

But viewers were not happy – and took to the internet to complain. “It sort of feels like the entire world is attending a huge party and NBC threw away our invite,” one angry blogger wrote.