Queen Elizabeth II will pay tribute to the London 2012 athletes in her annual Christmas message to the Commonwealth, saying they had inspired the world and drawn people in to the excitement and drama.

The 86-year-old monarch will praise the achievement and courage on show at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in her annual Christmas address, which will be broadcast in 3D for the first time when it airs at 1500 GMT on Tuesday.

"The Queen's broadcast this year focuses on service, achievement and the spirit of togetherness," a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said.

The message was recorded in the central London palace's White Drawing Room on December 7.

"As London hosted a splendid summer of sport, all those who saw the achievement and courage at the Olympic and Paralympic Games were further inspired by the skill, dedication, training and teamwork of our athletes," Queen Elizabeth will say.

"In pursuing their own sporting goals, they gave the rest of us the opportunity to share something of the excitement and drama."

The Queen formally opened the Games in dramatic fashion herself, after taking part in a James Bond scene, which ended with the pair seemingly parachuting down to the Olympic Stadium from a helicopter.

It was one of the standout moments from her diamond jubilee year.

Exactly 80 years after her grandfather king George V first started broadcasting a speech on December 25, Queen Elizabeth will embrace 3D technology to mark her 60 years as the sovereign.

She has made a broadcast every year since coming to the throne except 1969, because a repeat of the landmark behind-the-scenes documentary "Royal Family" was already scheduled for the holiday period.

In footage released ahead of this year's broadcast, the monarch is shown wearing 3D glasses to watch back part of her recording.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said the sovereign thought it was "absolutely lovely".

"We wanted to do something a bit different and special in this jubilee year, so doing it for the first time in 3D seemed a good thing, technology-wise, to do," she said.

"The Queen absolutely agreed straight away there was no need for convincing at all, she was absolutely ready to embrace something new in this year."

The speech is one of the rare occasions when the Queen is able to voice her own views, since as a constitutional monarch she has to remain strictly neutral in political affairs.

She writes the speech herself and often draws on her own experiences, while at the same time reflecting current issues.

Members of the royal family are at her private Sandringham estate in eastern England, where they traditionally spend their winter break.

However her grandson Prince William, the second-in-line to the throne, and his pregnant wife Catherine will spend Christmas Day at her parents' family house west of London.

A cold kept the Queen away from her usual visit to church on Sunday.

"The queen was getting over the tail end of a cold," a spokeswoman said. "We are expecting business as usual next week."