Real clouds, real grass, real ploughs, real soil and real life cattle are what have been proposed for the opening ceremony of London’s 2012’s Olympic Games and already animal activists are protesting in their thousands.
As film director Danny Boyle revealed his plans for the opening ceremony, which included a village cricket team, maypoles, a model of Glastonbury Tor, two mosh pits, the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world and rain, animal lovers were aghast at the fact that he would also be using 12 horses, 10 chickens, 70 sheep and a range of other cattle.
The director of such films as Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, is recreating Britains’ ‘green and pleasant land’, with giant maypoles representing the symbols of the four nations of the UK around which children will dance, and the whole extravaganza will cost in the region of £27million.
He is even supplying clouds that will produce ‘rain’ on the night, but will not reveal how he will manage to do this, saying, “They will be real clouds that will be hanging over the stadium. Work that out if you can. We know we’re an island culture and an island climate. One of these clouds will provide rain on the evening, just in case it doesn’t rain.”
Acts that are rumoured to be taking part are Sir Paul McCartney, Take That and The Who. Electronic group Underworld have already recorded the musical score that accompanies the three hour ceremony and in closing it will become more traditional in feel, with nods to Shakespeare’s The Tempest throughout. The ceremony is entitled ‘Isles of Wonder’ and will evoke a rural pastoral vision of William Blake and Jerusalem, taking on a more urban and modern feel as it progresses.
Boyle was keen to underline that it was not a musical show, more of a film being shot live that millions are watching. “We’re trying to make you feel like you’re watching a live film being made. It feels like when you’re planning a big sequence in a film. We’re trying to make it feel like a live recording of a film that all happens on one evening. We’re trying to shoot it in a very visceral way.”
It is thought that the overall theme of the ceremony is a light hearted look at British culture and pageantry and that it will not be overtly political. Boyle commented on the enormous pressure of the project, “You’re bound to fail, that’s built in. But you hope that on the journey, you hope people will find enough in it to feel that it is representative of us.
This is a festival of celebration of an Olympic ideal. But it’s not a naive show. We’re trying to show the best of us, but we’re also trying to show many different things about our country. The growth of cities is an extraordinary phenomenon that is clearly linked to the growth of the Olympic Games.”
The 10,000 volunteers who make up the cast and crew of the ceremony have been rehearsing in Dagenham but will move into the stadium shortly before the weekend of the Olympics. There have already been 157 rehearsals. One of the highlights of the show is the giant bell which Boyle said sounded ‘amazing’.
It will ring to start the ceremony. “You will feel different when you’re in there and you hear it ring. When you hear it it’s very sweet. It’s ancient, so it reminds you of the past. It’s also timeless, so it evokes the future. That was how communities notified each other something important was about to happen.”
Animal activists are concerned that live animals will be traumatised by the huge crowds, the transportation of getting them there in the first place, and want to know what will happen to them after the ceremony has ended.