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 848.

    775. DannySpud
    "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."

    True, but the bottom line is that the budget has multiplied almost four times since then. It's obviously impossible/idiotic to cancel the games now, but the debt WILL last for a long time afterwards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    @824 Nick long do you think your post will be on for though ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    English Countryside 2012. Where's the 600 new build houses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.

    Green and Pleasant = Jelly Babies of that colour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    As someone who grew up in a rural area and has been lucky enough to go to festivals and the Proms the opening ceremony sounds great. But does it really represent the country as a whole? They seem to have reverted to the UK stereotype - green and pleasant land. It is all a bit Midsummer Murders - which as we all know, isn't very diverse!

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    Remind me again.

    How many Olympic host countries have ever actually benefited, financially or otherwise, from the vast expense and disruption that these events always incur?

    How many Olympic host countries have actually provided a demonstrable sporting legacy for their citizens?

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    @830 - do you know for a fact that taxpayers money is paying for the opening ceremony?

    I'd guess it's more likely Visa, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Panasonic, P&G, Acer et al's money paying for it.

    I'd also hazard a guess that the majority of the £40 billion is from them as well. So maybe it's not a total joke when you look at it properly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 841.

    Old McDonald had a farm EI EI Oh.
    If D Boyle thinks in any way this represents the History of the British Isles - he is sadly mistaken! Where is Queen Boudica, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, the Empire... Not in this drap damp squib of a opening ceremony. How disappointing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 840.

    Ok, am I get this right? Our opening ceremony will be about how the country side looks like! And people watching from other countries want to see the British country side! That's why they flock to the UK! There must be something more to it. I have no problem with the amounts spent, but cows and goats will compete with the cultural explosion we saw from the Chinese and the Greeks?

  • rate this

    Comment number 839.

    Yep ...Lala and Tinky Winky!

  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    Having seen the scale model, now I recognise where it's from... Baby David's farm on the Royle Family...

  • rate this

    Comment number 837.

    just imagine we have the same weather as those awful last days, swamps city, every athletes in hunter plastic boots!

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.

    Does Wenlock and Mandeville remind anyone else of Kang and Kodos, the aliens from the Simpsons?

    FOOLISH BRITISH EARTHLINGS! Thinking they can put on a show as good as last time's.
    I can't wait to see their team flounder against the better prepared American, Russian and Chinese teams.

    (Beeb cut off half my comment!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    It looks a bit... rubbish. Never mind, opening ceremonies are only a support act. And who remembers those?

    For me, I was never bothered about us having the games - but the more the moaners come out & embarrass us, the more determined I am that it's going to be great.

    It's happening & if you don't like it - tough. You should've complained seven years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 834.

    It's Tellytubby Land!

  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    Couldn't they just be content with opening the doors, shortly before the first events?

    Seems to work fine for everything else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    ..actually, I thought it was supposed to be about London. It is "London 2012" right?

    Perhaps it is a way of helping the whole of the British Isles feel that they are involved as well, just like the Olympic torch making its way round the whole of the British Isles. After all Team GB involves athletes from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland not just London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    sounds brill,i cant wait.the victor meldrews of this country,posting negative comments can all one likes a whinger.think positive and great things can happen.come on team gb.i will be there in that london from day one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    This is a disgusting waste of tax payers money !!!!!!!!!!! £27 million for 3 hrs in fact how about the total cost which will be about £40 BILLION !!!!!!!!

    Those who want this farce should be paying for it not using hard up TAX payers who are struggling to make ends meet

    I am lost for words This is a total joke !!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.

    I am so excited about the olympics and loving the idea behind the Opening Ceremony - hope theres Morris dancers - how brilliant would that be,


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