It might not feel like it at the time, but selection for the Olympics is not normally a matter of life and death. At least until now.
Under pressure from the never knowingly under-hysterical People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals group, Olympics opening ceremony director Danny Boyle has said he will “vigorously” ensure that the two goats, three cows, 10 chickens, 10 ducks and 70 sheep that are to take part in the ceremony’s opening bucolic scenes are spared the abattoir.
Mr Boyle has written to PETA insisting he will “follow up vigorously” their suggestion that the ceremony animals be retired to sanctuaries.
It is a tactic at which the group have past form. After filming ‘Babe’, director Chris Noonan went to considerable effort to ensure the 48 piglets used in the film came not within a mile of a spoon of apple sauce.
In his letter, Mr Boyle also states that “genuine care will be taken of the animals”, including judging how they react to the stadium environment. He goes on to say that the animals “will feature only in the very beginning of the show during daylight hours and will leave the stadium shortly after the 9 pm start and before any large effects or noisy sequences take place”.
Intriguingly, of the hundreds of thousands of athletes, performers, volunteers and whomever else involved in the games, these animal stars will be among the last to be chosen.
A locog spokesperson says that the animal acting specialists are “going through the selection process now”, and the farmyard beasts will only be introduced to rehearsals in the final week.
If only they know what’s riding on it. It is the most cut throat selection battle of them.