London 2012: Isles of Wonder theme for Olympic ceremony


Danny Boyle's opening ceremony takes its theme from Shakespeare's The Tempest

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Europe's largest bell will ring to start a £27m Olympic opening ceremony inspired by Shakespeare and featuring NHS nurses and 900 local pupils.

The show's artistic director, Danny Boyle, said the 'Isles of Wonder' ceremony was inspired by The Tempest.

Six months before the performance kicks off London 2012, the Oscar winner said it would be about a land recovering from its industrial legacy.

One billion people are expected to watch the opening ceremony on 27 July.

Billy Elliot director Steven Daldry, London 2012's executive director of ceremonies, said the task of putting on "the greatest shows on earth" - albeit with a budget of £81m - equated the task to producing 165 West End musicals at the same time.

"They [the Olympic and Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies] will represent one journey to the end of the Paralympics, looking at who we are, who we were and who we would wish to be," he said.

'Be not afeard'

Boyle, who is best known for directing Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, said the Isles of Wonder theme captured the essence of Britain.

Beijing 2008 opening ceremony Chinese film director Zhang Yimou had £65m for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Games

He added that the stadium's 27-tonne bell was being cast on Friday at London's Whitechapel Foundry - where 13.5-tonne Big Ben was cast in 1856 - and would be inscribed with a quote from The Tempest's Caliban: "Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises".

The bell would hang at one end of the stadium, and Boyle said he wanted people to hear it "for hundreds of years".

"We'll be celebrating the whole of the country... there are so many Isles of Wonder," he said.

With £27m to spend on the opening ceremony - far less than the £65m given to Chinese film director Zhang Yimou for the Beijing 2008 spectacular - Boyle said he would be taking his lead from previous Olympics.

"You're standing on shoulders of giants - you cannot but live in the shadow of your predecessors," he said.

He described Beijing's opening ceremony as "extraordinarily, eye-wateringly spectacular" and that of Athens 2004 as "incredibly beautiful". But Boyle said he would be most honoured if his spectacle was compared to the opening of Sydney 2000 - "a wonderful people's Games".

A full dress rehearsal will be held for a capacity crowd of 80,000 in the Olympic Stadium, which will be fitted with a million-watt sound system.

"Children, nurses, and humour"

Before the 20,000-cast event kicks off on 27 July at 21:00 BST, with the tolling of the bell, an Olympic Stadium packed with 80,000 spectators will be entertained by a pre-show that will start at 12 minutes past eight - 20:12 BST.

Some 900 youngsters from the six Olympic host boroughs would be given roles in the opening and closing ceremonies, he added.

A total of 1,650 children from 18 primary and seven secondary schools in east London have been auditioning for the roles in recent weeks.

London 2012 ceremonies

  • Cast of 15,000 volunteers
  • 23,000 costumes
  • 12 hours of music
  • 60 musicians
  • 15,000 sq m of staging
  • 13,000 propos
  • one million watt PA system with 500 speakers

Boyle also revealed that nurses would have a starring role in the ceremony sequence because, he said, the NHS is one of things that is "unique about us... along with our sense of humour".

While organisers will try to keep some part of the opening ceremony secret, protocol dictates it will include a welcoming of the Queen by IOC and Locog bosses, a parade of athletes, and the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic flame - the culmination of the 70-day Olympic torch relay around the British Isles.

For the opening ceremony Boyle will be collaborating with electronic musical duo Underworld whose 1990s rave classic Born Slippy featured in the gritty blockbuster Trainspotting.

The pair, who also worked with the director on his acclaimed stage production of Frankenstein last year, have been named musical directors of the three-hour ceremony.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

Some 15,000 performers using 25,000 costumes will take part in the opening and closing ceremonies of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They will be drawn from members of the public and more than 10,000 have already been auditioned.

Both Olympic and Paralympic closing ceremonies will be directed by Kim Gavin, the brains behind Take That's theatrical stadium shows, while artistic directors Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey will be behind the opening of the Paralympics.

The ceremonies are expected to be watched by four billion people, which advertising experts estimate is worth up to £5bn in airtime exposure.

Speaking earlier on Friday about the challenges that lay ahead in the next six months, London 2012 Chairman Seb Coe said it was a fabulous opportunity but a "heavy weight of responsibility".

Locog Chairman Paul Deighton said it would be all about attention to detail as well as building the excitement and helping people to be a part of what will be "the greatest thing this city has seen in their lifetimes".

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, meanwhile, defended last month's doubling of the ceremonies' budget to £81m, saying the Games represented "an extraordinary business opportunity" likely to attract foreign investment.

And Steven Daldry emphasised that despite the augmented budget, London 2012 would be spending "considerably less" on ceremonies than the two previous Summer Olympics.

Friday also saw an event to mark the handover of the Olympic Park's Athletes' Village from the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to Locog.

The 2,818 flats will now be fitted out to cater for 16,000 athletes and officials from 200 countries.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    We have had so much to miserable about lately and the Olympics is the only time that the world truly comes together in such a spectacular way.

    Hmm. The "only time" - and in such a "spectacular way"? I don't think so!
    Aren't you aware that the most "spectacular" way the "world comes together" is when various countries unite to invade another country - usually on some false pre-text?

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    What a tragic waste of money not just the opening cermmony the whole lot the money that was put into this could go along way to home every person living on the streets of the uk.

    Still it will be a nice jolly for the rich and so called elite of the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 627.

    It is simply grotesque to be spending 41 million pounds on four ceremonies. It's OUR money. And I for one could think of many better things to spend it on. Surely a simple parade of the athletes is sufficient to open the thing - why do we need a lavish ceremony at all? Is it too late to call a halt to this squandering of money?

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    Let hope its a success then the dam thing will at least pay for its self! But lets face it the old cold war game of East v West is a live and well. How many golds will the US and China get.
    For me the Olympics lost its magic once it allowed the pro's in. That kinda sums up the Olympics their all pro's and their there for the money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 625.

    624 Alie
    Under normal circumstances I would agree whole-heartedly with your kind sentiment, but this is Britain under Tory rule Nobody wants to admit it but it's the reason we had the riots, and the reason why we have record unemployment, crime and suicide rates

    Canada is a great country, Britain is a country with delusions of grandeur and a country heading for depression with rising inequality

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    I live in Canada, who hosted the games in 2010 - for months in the run up to the games the media reported nothing but negative stories about the upcoming games -the traffic, the crowds, the bill that we would all be paying for years, the lack of organization etc, and what happened it turned out to be the greatest 2 weeks ever, Britain don't listen to negative comments it's going to be great

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    These Tories are selling tickets like they do university placements. How much were uni places fetching at auction at Tory functions? This is no different and why would anyone expect any different.

    90% of the country are going to be poor and miserable unless the media back-tracks, Tory whole ethos is inequality, so what do folks expect?
    'Lord' Coe, what a fine example of humanity

  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    Having watched the Olympics from the age of 10, I was ecstatic to know we would host it here, and to coincide with my 50th Birthday! It has aways been my dream to be at the Olympics, so how cross am I that I cannot get a ticket. It has been a shambles the way tickets have been sold, going for the bigger amounts of money first, and I have paid extra tax as a londoner to pay for this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    27. dateman
    You obviously haven't used the NHS... you kn***er!

    With Underworld & Danny Boyle in charge, without any doubt the Openning Ceremony will eclipse anything gone before... IMHO.

    As for the rest... wait... see... and hope!

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    S.Coe- I doubt you are reading this, but.. If I can get a ticket to the Womens Archery Team Final (for free) I will donate £250 to my County Archery Association. The money earned from this goes to those who have potential. Strangely enough it ends up being the county level that funds these up and comming archers that eventually make it to the national team. BBC, I'm serious on this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    #612 - ludwigvb , I agree. Each sporting body should have been given a percentage of each sport to sell on to their members. Through a standard first come first served basis. At least that way the true supporters/participants of each sport would be in attendance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    Am puzzled by the news coverage.
    The comments are mixed, but the TV coverage is invariably positive.
    A £1 Million bonus has been talked about all day (well it should be), but £27 Million for an opening ceremony is not worthy of discussion.
    Time was the opening ceremony was a singer and a big parade of competitors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    Uggh! When the permafrost of sport has knocked the stuffing out of London's real cultural life (e.g. the West End) what will we have left? Nothing for Londoners hoping to do sport and much less for the rest of us in other cities wanting to do anything (everything!) other than sport. Should have left Paris "win". Easy enough to get to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    614.I can go along with that. Goodnight Children, everywhere. God bless and keep you safe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    Further to my previous comment... I cannot understand (it's so simple technicaly, as a software engineer) why the did not create an automatic sell / purchase system for the ticket resale system. It's not that complicated with a basic sell/buy queue system and seems to be a major oversight. Just another example of a poorly executed ticket management scheme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    Imagine a world where instead of trying to better the last opening ceremony we did something truly memorable... like giving the money to save the lives of children dying needlessly around the world and have some minutes silence for peace and an end to greed. Imagine...

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    610 ZoeK Oh dear another deprived village.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    606.Joanna Hammond-''It is the fact that I have a special interest in one sport, a minor sport and no matter what I do I cannot get tickets to the final of that sport (Archery.) ... leaving those who actively participate with a true interest left out in the cold.

    Archery Clubs should have had first shot! But then Coe is runner/MP ... doesn't shout thinker, does it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    If the games turn out to be run as well as our public services expect the 100m finishing line to measured at 98m and the marathon course to be a mile longer than it should be. Watch in wonder as the Italian national anthem is played for a Polish gold medalist and prepare for Brendan Foster to declare his love for a Kenyan athlete during the 10k final.then turn over and put the cricket on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    We're British, it'll be rubbish whatever we do and whether we spend £80 or £80 million. I'm glad there are nurses, the NHS is one of the great things about the UK and we should show it off.

    The music will be bad, the dancing disorganised and the costumes cringe making, it'll be just wonderful and I wish I could go.

    China is better than us, we all know it's true but so what, we have a big bell


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