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London: The 2012 London Olympics will open with a glimpse of the British countryside, past and present from cows and sheep to meadow and mosh pit.
Danny Boyle, the artistic director for the games’ July 27 opening ceremony, today unveiled a model of the set, which will transform the Olympic Stadium in gritty, urban east London into a rural idyll.
Cows and sheep
The Olympic set will include grass and fields, sheep, cows and horses, a cricket match, picnicking families and a hill modeled on Glastonbury Tor, a landmark in southwest England.
Below the hill spectators will fill a mosh pit, evoking the raucous Glastonbury rock festival and other rural music events that are a major summer motif in Britain.
At the other end of the stadium is a more genteel standing-room-only area — one wag dubbed it the “posh pit” — that is meant to evoke the annual classical music fixture the Last Night of the Proms.
There are even real clouds that Boyle says can produce real rain — in case the British weather fails to comply. The meadow is surrounded by a circular parade ground for the 10,500 athletes taking part in the games. Boyle has nicknamed it the M25, after the often-clogged commuter highway that rings London.
Back to childhood ideals
Boyle, the filmmaker behind “Trainspotting” and the Academy Award-winning “Slumdog Millionaire,” said the set for the opening ceremony will evoke the “green and pleasant land” of William Blake’s poem “Jerusalem,” an emblem of Englishness.
He said the opening ceremony would be a “reflection of part of our heritage,” but would also depict Britain’s present and look to the future. The set is designed to evoke the site where the stadium stands: once countryside, then industrial land, bombed during World War II and now being regenerated as a park.
Boyle unveiled the model to reporters at 3 Mills Studios, near the Olympic Park, where craftspeople are working to create almost 3,000 props and 23,000 costumes for the Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies. Boyle said even though most Britons now live in cities, “it’s in our brains as part of ourselves, this ideal. It’s like a childhood ideal, in a way.”
Ring the bell
The opening ceremony will begin with the tolling of a 27-ton bell forged at London’s 442-year-old Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which made London’s Big Ben and Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell.
The bell is inscribed with a line from William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” — one of Boyle’s main inspirations for the ceremony — in which Caliban says: “Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises.”
“It’s a wonderful thing that we’ll be able to open our games with a symbol of peace, the ringing of a bell,” Boyle said. “You will feel different when you’re in there and you hear it ringing.” (PTI)