Albarn leads running to be artistic director of 2012 Olympics

Damon Albarn has emerged as a leading contender to be the artistic director for the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012.

The Blur and Gorillaz frontman worked with the artist Jamie Hewlett to create the animation and music for BBC's coverage of the Beijing Games.

The Independent understands that preliminary discussions have taken place between the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog) and the musician, as part of a wide consultation process that is likely to take months.

Stephen Daldry, the Oscar-nominated film director, has also been the subject of preliminary soundings and is the preferred choice of much of the arts establishment. Locog has not ruled out the idea of having several artistic directors, with four separately themed ceremonies for the opening and closing of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The appointment may take place within the next six months, though probably not until the new year. Officials are speaking to senior figures in the arts world and cultural bodies from around Britain, as well as key stakeholders in the Games, to hear views on the type of opening ceremony most appropriate for London.

Officials have played down expectations that the British ceremony might match last year's opening in Beijing, where audiences watched in awe a spectacular performance by 14,000 dancers, musicians and volunteers.

The Locog chief executive, Paul Deighton, has said: "I am not sure how many countries would have either the resources or indeed the controlled resources to put on an event like [Beijing's]. I doubt we will have 20,000 people doing things in unison in our opening ceremony. That's just fine. That's the beauty of the contrast."

Some feel that Albarn, 41, who was born in east London where the Games will take place and was a pivotal figure in Britpop, would be capable of producing a ceremony that helped to define London's place in the world.

Locog's first decision will be to appoint an organisation or company to produce the ceremony. A Locog spokeswoman said it was too early to discuss the identity of the artistic director. "It is complete speculation and we are still months away from making appointments," she said.

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