Jay-Z, Rihanna and Cate Blanchett To Appear At London Olympics Arts Festival

Rihanna Jay-Z - P 2012
Getty Images

Rihanna Jay-Z - P 2012

The 17-day extravaganza, set to coincide with the 2012 Summer Games, will feature 12,000 events scattered around the U.K. -- but some critics ask what it's all for.

The organizers of the London Olympics have announced the lineup of the London 2012 Festival -- a hugely ambitious cultural celebration coinciding with the 2012 Summer Games, with big names like Cate Blanchett, Jay-Z and Rihanna set to participate.

"The London 2012 Festival will be the largest cultural celebration in our lifetime," said Ruth Mackenzie, director both of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, at a news conference in London on Thursday.  

"With new work from the best musicians, comics, artists, filmmakers and more, there will be arts events taking place in unusual places all over the UK that will showcase the best in international culture when the eyes of the world are on us this summer," Mackenzie said.

Jay-Z and Rihanna will headline the BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekend music festival, which is predicted to draw over 100,000 fans, and will include performances by other top-tier draws like Jack White and Florence + the Machine. Classical music fans will be able to enjoy Gustavo Dudamel conducting the 200-member Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in a performance outside Scotland's historic Sterling Castle. In the realm of visual arts, a life-sized Stonehenge "bouncy castle," which will tour around the U.K..

All told, the festival -- running from July 27 to August 12 -- will host 12,000 events featuring 25,000 artists, with contributions from every nation competing in the Summer Olympics. 

The festival is not without its critics, however. Jonathan Jones, art critic for The Guardian, asks of the festival, "Why? What's all it for? And how does it connect in any interesting way with the Olympics?"