Huge bell set to ring in London 2012 Olympics


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The Independent Online

The London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony should make everyone feel like it is "the people's Games", artistic director Danny Boyle said today.

He is hoping that everyone, both inside east London's 80,000-seater showpiece Olympic Stadium and the worldwide audience of billions, will get a sense of intimacy and humanity. It is also set to reflect the British sense of humour and be a bit of fun.

With six months to go to the spectacular opening, he said: "We would be very honoured if we are compared very favourably to Sydney (the 2000 Games) and this was another people's Games."

The sound of an enormous bell, set to be the biggest ringing bell in Europe, has been commissioned from a foundry in Whitechapel, east London, to kick off the proceedings.

Boyle has picked the title Isles of Wonder for his work on the ceremony, setting a target for himself to try to celebrate the best of British while representing all the regions.

There is a special sequence, using nurses to celebrate the NHS, that he feels is quite special.

Up to 900 children, aged seven to 13, from the local Olympic host boroughs are also set for a starring role in the London 2012 ceremonies. Stating that for them it will be the stuff that memories are made of, Boyle added that it will "make an indelible mark" on them about how unique this event is.

He said: "You are standing on the shoulders of giants when you do this kind of job.

"You can not but live in the shadow of your predecessors. The spectacle of Beijing was just breathtaking. The sheer beauty of Athens is very inspiring but I have to say that Sydney has inspired us. It got the feel of a people's Games right.

"It is inevitable that people will compare us - and that is fine.

"I think there is a sea change and we are lucky enough to be setting it. It will be spectacular but the reduction in scale is inevitable."

London 2012 said they will release some details of the opening in the run-up to the Games to give people a flavour of what to expect. Boyle said he would have preferred to keep everything a "surprise" but that is not necessarily possibly in this hi-tech age, especially as there is such interest in it.

London 2012 chair Lord Coe said one of the motifs of the ceremonies would be "who we are, who we were and who we hope to be".

More than four billion people are set to make up the combined audiences of the four opening and closing ceremonies.

There will be 15,000 volunteers cast across all four ceremonies, with those auditioning ranging from 18 to 90 years old, from all across the UK, including people who watched the 1948 Games live.

Estimates suggest that in advertising spend it could be worth £2 billion.

Boyle said the NHS was picked as a feature because it is something unique.

"When you start this process, you sit there and think 'What is unique about us?'," he said.

"You try to capture that but some of it will be very difficult because it is a stadium show.

"There is our sense of humour, which is difficult to get in a stadium show where language will not be the way to do it - but we are working on that."

There will be at least two full dress rehearsals, probably with a crowd.

The NHS staff, many of whom come from London, will be in special costumes and a link will be made with the children who will be taking part.

"We will be celebrating the whole of the United Kingdom," said Mr Boyle.