The Olympic stadium will be turned into an idyllic scene of the British countryside for the Games opening ceremony with rivers, real cows and sheep grazing in meadows and a cricket match on a village green.
The transformation of the centre of the 80,000-seat arena in Stratford was revealed by artistic director Danny Boyle today. He said: “The green and pleasant land still exists despite the fact most of us live in cities.
“This land 200 years ago was a meadow and one of the delights of the legacy is that this whole event will be giving back a park to east London.”
There will be a burst of rainfall from artificial clouds as the stadium becomes the biggest stage set in the world for the £27 million ceremony performed by 10,000 cast and crew and watched by one billion viewers worldwide.
Glastonbury Tor will be created at one end — and members of the public will be invited to dance in a “mosh pit” at the opposite end. Huge flower symbols will be mounted on four maypoles representing the home nations.
Slumdog Millionaire director Boyle insisted that the show on July 27 was not being made specifically for television, following criticism that aspects of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games had been faked.
He said: “The battle between television and spectators on the evening is interesting. We wanted very much the experience of television to come through the eyes of the people in the stadium. This is not a specially designed show for television although obviously television is important.
“We wanted it to feel warmer than they sometimes are. As a live audience you can sometimes feel excluded from that. We are trying to have our cake and eat it.”
Despite the initial rural theme, the show would heavily reference urban Britain. “It’s not a naïve show, we are trying to show the best of us but we are also trying to show many different things about our country.
“The growth of cities is an extraordinary phenomenon and it is clearly linked to the growth of the Olympic Games,” he said.
The world’s largest harmonically tuned bell commissioned by a Whitechapel foundry — and which will ring in the Games — has been installed and tested. The pre-show will start at 20.12 before the bell sounds the start of the main event at 9pm.
An hour-long cultural show will be followed by the parade of 10,500 athletes; the lighting of the cauldron and fireworks before a midnight finish that Boyle admitted may slip to 12.30am.
Today’s preview of the show comes after Boyle revealed some of the broad concepts this year — including the “Isles of Wonder” theme from Shakespeare’s Tempest and hundreds of performing NHS nurses.
Boyle said London 2012 was breaking with tradition by being more open about the ceremony — although he admitted that the rise of social media would have made keeping secrets impossible.
Surrounded by some of the cast at the 3 Mills Studio — the former Big Brother House in Bow where rehearsals are held — Boyle paid tribute to the 10,000 cast and crew.
Volunteers will hold first run-throughs in the stadium next week, having recently moved to a car park in Dagenham as the logistics of rehearsals, of which there have been 157 featuring 3,000 props, become more challenging.
Boyle said dance DJs Underworld were putting the finishing touches at the Abbey Road studios to two “substantial pieces of music” and Elgar’s Nimrod would feature but the evening would not be a “pop concert”.
He added: “It’s an impossible task. You are bound to fail but you hope that on the journey to succeed people will find enough in it to feel ‘Yes that’s it, that’s representative of us’. You can’t do a show about Britain without humour but that’s very difficult in a stadium show which tends because of the scale of the thing to be the enemy of humour.”
The opening ceremony cost of £27 million will be partly met by taxpayers after the Government agreed to a bailout, sending the bill for all four Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies to £81 million.
Source: London Evening Standard