‘Green and pleasant’ Land Opening Ceremony Includes Sheep and Cows
Oscar-winning producer Danny Boyle has unveiled what the Olympic Stadium will look like during the Opening Ceremony of London 2012 next month and revealed that the first sequence will be called “Green and Pleasant.”
The venue will be transformed to “celebrate the English countryside” and will feature fields containing 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, 70 sheep and three sheep dogs, real grass and a plough, along with 10,000 volunteers with music by British dance act Underworld.
Work has already begun on installation of the set for the opening scene of the Ceremony on July 27, which evoked the “green and pleasant land” of William Blake’s poem “Jerusalem,” an emblem of Englishness, Boyle said.
It even includes a game of cricket going on. At one end of the Stadium is a giant replica of Glastonbury Tor, the famous pagan hill in Somerset. Below it is a Glastonbury-style “mosh pit” to be filled with as yet unselected members of the public.
At the other end will be a second mosh pit, which will be “more like the last night of the Proms” or the “posh pit,” as it has already been dubbed.
“We hope the two mosh pits will do battle with each other,” he said.
At the Proms end will also be suspended the giant bell—”the biggest harmonically tuned bell in the world”—which has recently been completed by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and installed in the Stadium last week. It is expected to be rung to mark a Shakespeare-inspired segment based on “The Tempest,” which will feature 900 children.
“When they ring it, you can hear it all around the Olympic Park,” Boyle said. ”The 1948 [Olympic] Games brought to London nations that had been at war. The bells weren’t rung during the war. They rang to announce the peace. So we will begin our Ceremony with a symbol of peace.”
Four cotton wool clouds sat above Boyle’s model, one of which he said rather enigmatically, “will have rain coming out of it.”
Four huge maypoles, which children will dance around, sit on the in field, one each of which is topped with a giant rose, daffodil, thistle, and flax, to represent the four home nations. Where the Olympic cauldron is to sit is, he said, “one of the pieces of the puzzle.”
Where Her Majesty the Queen fits in—rumors abound of her having filmed an opening James Bond sequence with Daniel Craig at Buckingham Palace—is also “part of the puzzle.”
Boyle, who is best known for directing award-winning films such as Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours and Trainspotting, said some of the challenges came from “the struggle between spectators and television viewers.” He said he wanted the show to “feel spectacular, but also warmer.”
Boyle said he wanted to make people feel like they are watching a live film being made. ”We want the cameras to feel more involved, like they would be in a film,” he said. ”We want people to feel that they are emotionally involved in it.”
Boyle has created roles for NHS nurses in the spectacle. ”The best way to tell that story is through working with real people,” he said.
Thousands of volunteers have already attended a total of 157 rehearsals.
“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,” Boyle said. ”Before I started this, I had only a woolly ideal of the Olympic Dream. It’s been battered about a bit now but the volunteers most beautifully express this Olympic ideal. Some of them have got a lot of spare time because they haven’t got jobs, some of them haven’t got much. But they give up their time, and try to present something that is the best of all of us.”
A full dress rehearsal is expected to take place ahead of the Ceremony in front of an audience of 70,000. Installation of the final set of equipment needed will begin in the Olympic Stadium soon. These include 1,200 automated lamps, 1,000 conventional lamps and 500 LED fixtures.
Videos of the show, which is costing $42 million, have been played to the Prime Minister, other government members and the opposition as well as both London Mayor Boris Johnson and his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, who played an important role in the capital’s successful bid seven years ago.
The show is expected to be a celebration of Britishness and British history but not a full compendium of the last thousand years. It will be “a celebration of what Britain has given to the world” rather than a comprehensive trawl through British history, said Boyle.
Stephen Daldry, the Ceremonies executive director, praised Boyle’s vision. ”This is not a show by committee, it has been created by Danny Boyle and it represents all of the depth, imagination, humor and visceral film making style Danny brings,” he said.
The BBC was also officially announced as the London 2012 Olympic Ceremonies Featured Film Producer, with the news that it will make two short films for the Opening Ceremony.
Insidethegames.biz is a blog published by the British Organizing Committee for the upcoming Summer Games in London. This article is reprinted here with permission of the editors. The Sport Digest will continue to post stories on the upcoming Summer Games, which begin in less than 40 days.