London 2012 Olympics: Opening Ceremony to start with anarchic pastoral vision of GB's green and pleasant land
The London 2012 opening ceremony will start with an anarchic pastoral vision of Britain’s green and pleasant land, featuring real animals, fake rain, a mosh-pit in tribute to the Glastonbury Festival and a 'posh-pit’ summoning the spirit of the Last Night of the Proms.
Revealing details of the opening scenes of a ceremony that will be watched by more than 500 million people, director Danny Boyle said he was creating a vision of the “mythic” British countryside that he hoped would capture the essence of “who we are”.
The main stadium will be transformed into a meadow, with landscaped real grass laid over the infield and a game of cricket unfolding in one corner. The theatrical maxim of not working with children or animals will be thoroughly ignored, as 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, 70 sheep and three sheep dogs feature in the opening scene.
At one end of the stadium work is already under way on a replica of Glastonbury Tor, with an oak tree on top instead of the chapel that stands on the real thing.
In front of the Tor will be a mosh-pit, decorated with the recognisable Glastonbury flags, where up to 100 members of the public will be allowed to stand.
At the other end of the stadium, beneath a giant bell, will be the posh-pit, which will also include members of the public, and reflect, Boyle said, the spirit of promenaders.
In between will stand four maypoles, each styled as the national flower of the home nations, a rose, a thistle, a daffodil and flax.
Overhead on the model unveiled on Tuesday were model clouds, one of which Boyle said would deliver rain “just in case it doesn’t rain anyway”.
The ceremony, which will cost £27 million, will begin at 9am with the tolling of the 27-tonne bell, the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world, and is scheduled to end around midnight, though Boyle admits that is unlikely.
There will be an hour of performance, beginning with the “Green and Pleasant” opening scene, followed by the parade of athletes, protocol including speeches and the arrival of the Queen, the raising of the Olympic, British and Greek flags, and finally the arrival of the Olympic flame and lighting of the cauldron.
Boyle’s vision for the opening ceremony, inspired by The Tempest and titled the Isles of Wonder, promises to be less predictable and more innovative than the recent Jubilee celebrations, and very personal.
The Oscar-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire joked that he was “bound to fail” because the ceremony could not satisfy every constituency, but said the involvement of 10,000 volunteers would give the show authenticity.
“It is an impossible task to please everybody so I know we are bound to fail, but I hope that on the journey to failure people feel that there is more than enough that says 'this is about us’, like our sense of humour. The scale of these sort of shows is usually the enemy of humour, but we will try anyway.
“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. It is quite elusive, but that is what we are trying to do.”
“I hope that the ceremony will reveal how peculiar we are and how contrary we are [as a nation], but also the warmth that I hope will surprise people.”
Referring to the pastoral theme of the opening scene Boyle said it reflected the reality of the British countryside as well as the idealised vision evoked in William Blake’s Jerusalem.
“The meadow represents the British countryside. You get on a train from London to Manchester and you can see it still exists even if it is slowly disappearing, and it is part of all four home nations.
“It is also mythical, we have this green and pleasant land, it is in our brains, it’s part of ourselves.”
After the opening scene there are likely to be changes to the staging in the stadium. Boyle was reluctant to reveal any further details but there will be nods to Britain’s industrial heritage and some traditional symbols of London and the UK, from buses to Beefeaters.
Music will be central to the show as well, with Underworld scoring two major pieces of music, currently being mixed at the Abbey Road studios. Sir Paul McCartney has also said that he will be closing the show.
The volunteers and performers have been rehearsing outdoors at the former Ford factory in Dagenham and will have a final session this weekend before rehearsals move into the stadium ahead of the ceremony in six Fridays’ time on July 27.