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 788.

    All the competitors march through the stadium waving and smiling at the crowd.

    Seb Coe lights the flame.

    We all go down the pub.

    Cost = nothing.

    Amount saved = £27m

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    I regularly bring American principals over to visit customers around the UK, the Americans always remark how much greenery there is and ask we've managed to cram 62M folks in such a small island with so much natural beauty. I've lost count of the stops I've had to make so they can take photos of our glorious country.

    Danny, I think you may be on to something!

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    Danny Boyle should really be taking cues from his masterpiece 'Trainspotting' if he wants to create an accurate rendition of the UK rather than this twee rubbish.

    What happened to the seriously cool sounding intro with Daniel Craig parachuting into the stadium and lighting the Olympic torch?

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    where is the door the teletubbies come out from?

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    actually, I thought it was supposed to be about London. It is "London 2012" right? There aren't any rolling hills there at all. I like the British countryside a lot but think there should be more about London without the toe-curling cringe fest that we had for the closing of the Beijing games. Looking forward to the Specials.

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    From "whole lot of love" to "last of the summer wine" in four years...

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    Why not just take people into the countryside to see the real thing! It's like building the mountain bike course when there are real places that would be superb. At a time of austerity, it is unnecessary expense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    Is this a wind up?
    This is the most hilarous thing i have seen all year.
    27 million quid on a farm yard that is going to scare the life out the animals.
    Clouds on wires? Do we need them here?
    I am completely ashamed of the entire concept.
    If it wasnt to funny i would be very angry about such a waste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    Having read more detail on other media sites ... LOL, I can't wait!!

    Sounds like we have turned the Olympics into It's a knockout! Maypoles and clouds.

    How do we do this?!
    We have already turned the simple symbolic gesture of using the Olympic flame to light the start of the Olympics into a 70 day 'red nose children in need' style nationwide jamboree.

    Is Britain's X factor now just a TV show?

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    Wasn't that the land that was there in the first place, before being dug up to allow a monstrous stadium to be built upon it, how ironic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    Oh the miseries and naysayers on here - get a life! A bit more effort being positive and we'd all be much better off!
    This opening ceremony is a globally televised event. It will positively enhance the impression of the UK as a beautiful place to visit and, at £27M, the advertising opportunity for the UK's tourism industry alone is a snip. Bring it on, it sounds wonderful!

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.

    775. DannySpud

    I agree, but when it was won the budget was around £2bn. Now its over £9bn. Not suprising people are questioning the costs and the term "on budget".

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    Exactly how many hospitals, nurses, medical equipment, would the cost of this ridiculous extravanganza - including this obscenely expensive opening ceremony - provide? What a disgrace!

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    Those who say the Olympics is too expensive in these times of cuts need to remember than when we got it it was 2005 and most of us didn't know what the word recession meant. We have it now so we might as well make the most of it. All the reasons for anyone hosting a games still apply, such as increasing tourism. We need to spend big to show off our country. You'd buy a suit for a job interview.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    I'm keeping my mouth shut for once. This is a small part of the whole thing and until I've seen it I won't be cynical. I won't be cynical. I WON'T!

    Apart from hoping there will be some pigs. In suits. With snouts in troughs. And some people sleeping under a bridge.


  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    757. PMK

    No. I stand by it.

    But maybe you should take the whole post in context instead of choosing the bit you want and creating a context for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    @754 'SammyJo'
    I do wish that Paul McCartney will refuse to 'perform' at the Olympics for any reason - whether animal rights, or otherwise. Sadly, we will have to endure his performance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    "a land recovering from its industrial legacy"!
    What is this? Back to the middle ages? Before we had all those factories, mills, mines and steelworks that produced the wealth that founded our civilisation and services?

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    Sounds really good and I for one am so excited for our athletes who have trained so hard. Yes its a lot of money, but what all the people that will come with their own money to our country and spend it!! Go team GB we are proud to be Brits!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    looks great, but not accurate is it? where's the roads,hs2 and extra housing in the greenery.


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