London 2012: Olympics opening ceremony details revealed


Danny Boyle: "It's mythical. We have this green and pleasant land"

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The Olympic Stadium will be transformed into the "British countryside" for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Games on 27 July.

A cast of 10,000 volunteers will help recreate country scenes, against a backdrop featuring farmyard animals and landmarks like Glastonbury Tor.

The opening scene of the £27m ceremony will be called "Green and Pleasant", artistic director Danny Boyle revealed.

He added the show would create "a picture of ourselves as a nation."

"The best way to tell that story is through working with real people," said Boyle, who has reserved a role for NHS nurses in proceedings.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

There have already been 157 cast rehearsals and Boyle added: "I've been astounded by the selfless dedication of the volunteers, they are the pure embodiment of the Olympic spirit and represent the best of who we are as a nation."

The set will feature meadows, fields and rivers, with families taking picnics, people playing sports on the village green and farmers tilling the soil.

Real farmyard animals will be grazing in the "countryside", with a menagerie of 70 sheep, 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese and three sheepdogs.

One billion people worldwide are expected to watch the opening ceremony.

Boyle, best known for directing Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, said the show was inspired by The Tempest and would be about a land recovering from its industrial legacy.

Opening ceremony in figures

The 27 July event will feature:

  • Pre-show starting at 20:12 BST
  • 1,100 automated lamps
  • One million watt sound system with 500 speakers
  • 50 tonnes of sound gear
  • 15,000m sq metres of staging
  • 12,956 props
  • 24,570 costume buttons for one of opening sequences

The world's largest "harmonically-tuned" bell, weighing 23 tonnes and measuring 2m tall x 3m wide, will ring inside the Stadium to start the Shakespeare-inspired spectacle, featuring 900 children from the six Games host boroughs.

The bell, which was produced by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and is inscribed with a quote from The Tempest's Caliban: "Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises", was installed in the Stadium last week.

Boyle said it was appropriate because: "That's how communities notified each other that something important was going to happen...after the war the bells were rung in London to announce the peace and we will begin our Games with a symbol of peace."

Among the other features will be two mosh-pits - one representing the Glastonbury festival and another the Last Night of the Proms - filled with members of the public.

Tickets for these positions are yet to be allocated, with organisers still to decide how to distribute them.

Model of set A model of the set being built in the stadium

The set will feature real grass, an oak tree and "clouds" suspended from wires above the stadium - one of which will produce rain, provided the British weather does not provide its own on the night.

Meanwhile, the home nations will be represented by Maypoles topped with a thistle, a leek, a rose and flax.

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.

The production team at 3 Mills Studios is completing work on nearly 13,000 props, while staff in the production department are creating 23,000 costumes for the four Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies.

'Fantastic celebration'

Seb Coe, who chairs the Organising Committee Locog, said it would be one of the biggest sets ever built for a show.

"I'm sure [it] will be a fantastic celebration that will welcome the 10,500 athletes from around the world and make our nation proud," he said.

The three-hour ceremony will begin at 21:00 BST with "an hour of culture", followed by the athletes parade, then the lighting of the cauldron and a fireworks display to bring down the curtain.

Boyle is collaborating with electronic musical duo Underworld, whose 1990s rave classic Born Slippy featured in Trainspotting. They have already mixed two tracks at London's Abbey Road studios.

Asked about timings for the ceremony, Boyle said the music will be used to help dictate the pace of athletes parading around the stadium.

The director, who said it would be impossible to keep details of the show secret, said he was trying to represent something of everyone's dreams in the ceremony and hoped viewers would "find something of themselves" in what they saw.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    I'm actually beginning to enjoy the crappiness of it all. Truly British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    A refreshing point of view to hear Danny Boyle suggest stepping away from one upmanship on previous ceremonies and more concentration on actually representing what makes these isles stand out. A green and pleasant land indeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    Please get Sir Paul McCartney to mime during his upcoming performance at the Olympic opening ceremony. We don't want a repeat of his embarrassing performance at the Diamond Jubilee Concert.

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    I do hope no one will be dressed in Hunting Pink.
    Will all the overseas athletes be run off by yokels yelling 'Get off my land' as a way to guarantee some gold for the British?

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    with a massive nod to #618 ....

    Over the hills and far away,
    London Olympics come to play ....
    Time for Olympics,
    time for Olympics,
    time for Olympics....
    "Boris Johnson"
    Say, Heeeeee-lo! "Eh-oh!"
    Boris Johnson, Beckham, Robertson, Coe.
    Olympics. "Olympics!"
    Say Heeeeeee ......... "Uh-oh!"
    "Where have the Olympiads gone ?
    Where have the Olympiads gone?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    @657 'Blythespirits'
    Ah, The Animals. A great British rock band.

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    'Till we build Jerusalem on England's Green and Pleasant Land'.

    Forget the toy farm, think instead of what the line above means, and do a bit of research. Could be an omen for the (near ?) future.
    Beware False Prophets which may surface shortly.

    I'm Atheist by the way, and think outside the box, before any religious nuts write in. A 'goat' rather than a 'sheep'
    Hope it all goes well, and enjoy

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    27 million pounds in a time of austerity is obscene. For that amount of money the least I would expect is the second coming of Christ.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    Where is all the fly tipping, dog mess, travellers, trains that are repeatedly listed? I went to Todmorden, Lancs last week and it is exactly the rolling green idyll that DB depicts.
    I am proud of our nation and consider myself lucky to live here, if you don't feel that way then please contact your MP or council and get them to do something about it. If we all do nothing then nothing will change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    An expensive episode of Emmerdale!

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    For all those people who say .. "If you dont like it then dont watch it" ..

    Shame that we didnt get the same choice in paying for it.

    We didnt get "If you dont like it dont pay for it". And having paid our money we have every right to object to the way it is spent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    well I hope they take the animals away before they start blaring out the sounds from the 1000Watt system...

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    For far less money & a great deal more impact, I'd have bussed everyone around Snowdonia, the Lake District & the Highlands.

    But no, we've spent £27 million 're-creating' nature's splendours (well OK, a meadow & some sheep) in a concrete bowl in E. London.

    Someone pls tell me this is some phantasmagorical nightmare.

    "It's OK, it's called creative genius."

    Phew, for a minute there...

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    Will there be a bridge for the volunteers to sleep under?

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    #629, "If you support the Olympics; great, get behind it. If not, keep quiet."

    & there goes freedom of speech, thank you for proving my point! What is now left of those mysterious "British values" G. Brown used to bleat about?! Coupled with the equally wasteful Jubilee ... (why did we throw a party for one of the country's richest women) ... this event will be the last hurrah of Britishness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    God, why are people so depressing? I have to admit that I do feel the olympics have been over-comericalised thiis time round. But we should be proud of our little country, yes we have our problems but show me a "perfect" country. As commercialised as this may be it is our time to shine, rise above our issues and show the world that Britain has as great a culture as ever!

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    I am so heartily of sick of the negative, cynical, pessimistic views about London 2012. The Olympics should (and I believe will) be an opportunity to showcase all that is best in Britain and be an event we can be proud of for years to come....

    If you dont like it go and sit in darkened room fro a few weks and let the rest of us enjoy it..

  • rate this

    Comment number 651.

    When visiting the countryside, I was educated to take my litter home with me, so others may have the same enjoyment. Plastic bags and empty drinks cans, deemed to be disposable, are a common blot along our verges and within the trees.

    For authenticity, the organisers will have to import 200 tons of rubbish and have it strewn freely around their idyllic green and pleasant land.

  • rate this

    Comment number 650.

    Please BBC, do us all a favour and don't show this monstrosity on BBC Scotland... You ignore us the rest of the time, so please make this one of those times, we do not wish to see London glorified as usual to the detriment of the rest of these British Isles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 649.

    Meanwhile where I live the countryside is about to be torn apart to build 6000 new houses which we only need due to the immigration fiasco.


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