So the giant Olympic countdown clocks ticks down to zero, only hours to go before the biggest and most important event to happen in London for over 50 years gets underway. If you’ve got plans for this evening – cancel them, because this is shaping up to be something very special indeed.
You can only imagine the scenes of frantic last minute preparations going on down in the Olympic Stadium but at this late stage with dress rehearsals all done and dusted it’s too late now and the show must go on. Director Danny Boyle (Train Spotting, Slumdog Millionaire) has been living on site for the last few months with rumours that the stage is rife with creative tensions, and although no stranger to big budget feature but this is on another scale altogether.
Having forked out €34.6 million for the ceremony the event is like a big shop window for the nation of Britain. So what can we expect? Well, Boyle has been desperate to try and keep details from emerging, but with over 10,000 volunteers working on it and all with smart phones, details have been steadily leaking. The ceremony is entitled ‘Isles of Wonders’ based on the Shakespeare play ‘The Tempest’. A section has been pre recorded inside Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth II and Daniel Craig as James Bond and apparently a stuntman, dressed as Bond, will parachute into the stadium.
Boyle will create a model of the English countryside inside the stadium evoking the phrase ‘A green and pleasant land’ from Blake’s poem ‘Jerusalem’ which is considered England’s unofficial national anthem. Aerial photographs of the Olympic Stadium have shown what looks like a mock up of the city of London with the River Thames winding through it. There will be choreography depicting British history of people power (a subject close to Boyle’s heart) and a troupe of dancing nurses praising the National Health Service (NHS) as well as miners and factory workers.
Characters from British fiction will also feature heavily, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter are all rumoured to make an appearance. Boyle will attempt to convey the rich cultural diversity in London through music, dance and costume with London’s huge Caribbean community a centrepiece. DIzzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah will add some edge to the proceedings. The music will be varied from ‘Jerusalem’, songs by the Sex Pistols and theme from ‘Chariots of Fire’, Paul Mc Cartney will perform the final act leading the audience in a rendition of ‘Hey Jude’.
An ambitious undertaking by any means, but Boyle’s streetwise vision and his love for Britain and its multilayered diversity will ensure that it will be fascinating and hopefully not done to excess. The identity of the torch-bearer who will light the Olympic cauldron has been the closest guarded secret of all but the contenders are Daly Thompson, Kelly Holmes and Sir Steve Redgrave.
By Hugo Mc Cafferty