The entire coverage, hosted by Sue Barker and Steve Rider from 6.35pm, lasted nearly four hours and began with 6.4 million (38.2%) but slowly built its audience to a peak of 10.7 million (50.3%) at 10.05pm.
ITV1 put up some strong opposition at first by airing Emmerdale and Coronation Street , which got 6.5 million (32.9%) and 8.5 million (40.2%) respectively, but a repeat of Foyle's War at 8pm only got 4.6 million (21.5%).
The opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 picked up 3.5 million (53%) despite an early morning start at 8.45am while the opening of the Atlanta games in 1996 drew 1.1 million (75%) from 1pm.
BBC2 also got in on the Olympics action as 4.4 million (23%) saw Peter Waterfield and Leon Taylor win a silver medal in the synchronised diving between 9pm and 9.15pm on Saturday (14 August).
Match of the Day returned to BBC1 to mark the start of the new football season after the corporation had regained the rights to the Premiership. The 90-minute programme, also on Saturday, at 10.30pm, averaged 3.4 million (26.6%). The first of ITV1's The Premiership last season took 4 million (30%).
Top 10 Sports Events 2004
In viewing terms, TV's sporting calendar has been dominated by ITV and BBC1's Euro 2004 tournament, which completely overshadowed all other events this year, taking the top six sports spots. Predictably, football in general has also proved popular, taking up three of the top four places. Elsewhere the list comprises the so-called 'crown jewels' of sporting events such as the Grand National and Wimbledon.
1Euro 2004 (Portugal v England)BBC124.6.0420.672.5
3Uefa Champions LeagueITV16.4.047.731.9
4Match of the Day LiveBBC124.1.047.235.7
5Six Nations RugbyBBC121.2.047.135.7
6The Boat RaceBBC128.3.045.731.9
7American Grand PrixITV120.6.044.826.7