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 1128.

    Why don't the just put some shoddy new build houses in there. The "English" humour part of the show could be watching more than two people trying to enter each house, and instead of fireworks we could just have the "mosh" crowd burn down said houses!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1127.

    During the ceremony they will erect barbed wire fences with signs saying 'Private Keep Out' The men will drive around in Range Rovers or Porches and the ladies ride around on horses. That would be a true representation of the countryside where I live. The super rich are buying it up everywhere as their personal playground.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1126.

    You've been taken in by the Mine is Bigger Than Yours hype. What exactly has an opening ceremony to do with the Olympic spirit? Nada! A song, welcome, walk around the track, another song and then off to bed would do it. Costs would be stadium hire, electricity, staff, insurance, policing, transport, band, PA system, MC and a bunch of flags. Fifty grand should cover it. Get a life, you suckers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1125.

    Tinky Winky, Dipsy, La La and Po in a land that doesn't exist, being very silly and watching sheep doing their thing
    Sounds like the Coalltion government to me

  • rate this

    Comment number 1124.

    Oh. My. God. I'm already cringing. This is up there with John Major's village green cricket fantasies and old Margaret rutherford films.
    I knew we would never be able to beat China's incredible opening ceremony, but this...? The only thing that could make this worse is Boris waving from the top of a double decker bus...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1123.

    Bucolic utopia-YUK!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1122.

    Think I would have represented 'countryside' with a filmed jet fly by of our most dramatic landscapes (White Cliffs, Llanberis Pass, Wasdale, Glencoe etc.) and projected it on a HUGE screen - jet pilot's view. Soundtrack - something euphoric. 'Countryside' sorted.

    Now the dancing girls...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1121.

    Utterly outrageous: £27m to open sports day. Mr. Boyle must feel at home with the politicians who support this farce: they all delight in spending other people's money. How many university places to the most academically able would £27m have provided? No, we can't have that, can we? It would be (horror of horrors) ELITIST. Not one penny of taxpayers' money should be gone to this charade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1120.

    I am in the ceremony as well as some people here. It's a bit disappointing they have told people everything that is happening, there is no surprise left for people now, that's pretty much it ........

  • rate this

    Comment number 1119.

    I really want the Olympics to be a success, but no one wants this, how are we supposed to show that Britain is modern, dynamic and up for anything country, for gods sake please NO,NO,NO, this is not the RHS, an whats with whole English country garden attitude?, I love the traditional but this is modern Britian come now it look’s like the secret garden and where’s the mountains and the sea?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1118.

    We could have had... Stereophonics; Dr Who & the Daleks; James Bond; Aston Martins; Snow Patrol; Judge Dread; hovercrafts; Rolls Royces; Franz Ferdinand; Harry Potter on Broomsticks; Hot Chip; Harrier Jets; Pashley bicycles; ice cream vans; brass band; Land Rovers; Proclaimers; Pink Floyd light show; Tom Jones; massed pipes & drums of the royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the fffffing THUNDERBIRDS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1117.

    ok so where will the badger murders be of farmers with guns saying gewt off my land or the slightly angry cows aka mad cow disease or the piles of farm animals killed in the name of disease caused by over intensive farming but really all about mqaximising profits for land owners

  • rate this

    Comment number 1116.

    Eclectic! Not the design ... these comments! A brilliant UK menagerie. Please read Mr Boyle. If you follow them it'll be a magical mix of England's green and pleasant land (maybe Ireland, Scotland and Wales will get a look in), break dancing, high speed trains, windfarms, sheep, cows, pigs (animals and/or Government ministers and VIPs), all sheltering from the rain under the wicker man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1115.

    I hope there is no Foot and Mouth outbreak before the event as that would require a re-write of the script to keep things accurate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1114.

    The City of London will be represented by 30,000 pigs with their snouts in the trough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1113.

    I hope it doesn't end up being like a cheesy sequel to the Millennium Dome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1112.

    I was looking forward to the Olympics-now I will book a holiday abroad....have they run out of money.
    Here is a plan:Get Jeremy Clarkson to start a wip round while we still have time to sort this mess out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1111.

    Must be a double bluff, why would he make this country look like a rural community? China went with extravaganza and imagination, we are going with petite and sheep!!! Give me £27millon and I will give you morris dancers with lightsabers and androids wearing union jack waistcoats breakdancing

  • rate this

    Comment number 1110.

    With all the livestock on hand, maybe the Olympic Flame will be a giant BBQ.

    I've just realised why my ticket's a £20 cheap seat. It's right behind "Glastonbury Tor, and I won't see a bleedin' thing. (I suppose that'll save me the bother of wanting to close my eyes in embarrassment).

  • rate this

    Comment number 1109.

    I love it! Celebrate the countryside and stop comparing. We don't appreciate enough what we have, how lucky we are compared to the living habitats in other parts of the world. We really could do with more pride of the countryside and astonishing landscape we live in. Foreign visitors are, I can assure you!!! And don't forget where food, our daily energy source and survival, comes from!


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