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LONDON — Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle plans to transform the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics into a surreal vista of a “green and pleasant land” at the newly built host stadium in Eastern London.
Boyle, wearing his hat as London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony artistic director, will orchestrate a cast of thousands of people and live animals, including 12 horses, 10 chickens, nine geese and 70 sheep.
Also on show before any athlete has performed will be a village cricket team; a model of Glastonbury’s Tor (Hill), known for the world-famous music festival; and a parade of nurses.
Each of the four nations in the United Kingdom will be represented by their national flower — the rose of England, the thistle of Scotland, the daffodil of Wales and flax from Northern Ireland.
The opening scene promises real grass, real plows, real soil and, according to Boyle, clouds that would supply “rain” if there is none on the night in order to ensure an authentically British atmosphere.
“The ceremony is an attempt to capture a picture of ourselves as a nation, where we have come from and where we want to be,” Slumdog Millionaire director Boyle said. “The best part of telling that story has been working with our 10,000 volunteers.”
He also told gathered media Tuesday that there will be British humor and that the country’s history will be represented, but “not in a box-ticking way,” and that the show will reflect “parts of our heritage but looking forward as well.”
To date, a total of 157 cast rehearsals have taken place, with volunteer performers giving up their evenings and weekends to take part in preparations at a site to the east of London.
The ceremonies prop store at the East London studio facility 3 Mills Studio is producing 2,956 props, and staff in the costume department are working to produce 23,000 costumes for all four ceremonies. The work includes sewing 24,570 buttons onto the costumes for one of the opening sequences.
Boyle already had revealed that the three-hour Opening Ceremony would be entitled “Isles of Wonder,” a title based on a speech by Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest that will be referenced throughout the four ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Boyle said the opening show would not be a musical but a narrative set to music.
British electronica band Underworld has recorded two lengthy tracks at Abbey Road to score the action. The Closing Ceremony promises to be a more traditional celebration of British music.
The ceremonies will cost a total of £81 million ($126 million).
The British government recently said it was pumping in an extra $64.3 million from a $14.6 billion public sector funding package to double the budget for the Games ceremonies, justifying the move by saying it was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to promote the U.K.
The opening evening is expected to run as an hourlong cultural extravaganza before the traditional parade of athletes and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron and the fireworks.
Boyle said the giant bell will ring to begin the show.
The London Olympics run July 27-Aug. 12.
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