London 2012: Olympics opening ceremony details revealed
- 12 June 2012
- From the section UK
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.