London 2012: 5 Things to Know About the Opening Ceremony

From a flock of live sheep to a closing number from Sir Paul McCartney, filmmaker Danny Boyle’s over-the-top spectacle promises a little bit of everything.

1. A Royal Question Mark

While their attendance is being kept secret for security purposes, the Queen, Prince William, new wife Kate Middleton and Prince Harry are expected to be on hand when the ceremony kicks off at 9 p.m. London time. Whether they’ll be there for the whole show is anyone’s guess, but if they do stay to the end, they’ll get to see Sir Paul McCartney close the event with a song. The former Beatle has been mum about whether the tune will be an original composition or one of his many hits.

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2. Expect Pageantry – With an Edge

Boyle’s ceremony has been described as a sublime and very British mix of urban edginess and bucolic green pastures. Named Isles of Wonder in a nod to a speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the spectacle will boldly break a golden rule for live television – never work with children and animals. In addition to an untold number of youngsters, the show's cast will include 12 horses, 10 chickens, nine geese and 70 sheep. The ceremony will also feature a model of Glastonbury Hill, maypoles, a cricket match, fake clouds complete with London-style rain, models of the Thames and two “mosh pits” filled with dancers. Fiery Olympic rings will be raised over the stadium, and the ceremony will begin with the ringing of the world’s largest harmonically tuned bell, forged in Whitechapel.

3. London Will Rock

Music will be central to Boyle's vision, and the entire cast is expected to jump, run and gyrate to beats provided by British electronic music maestros Underworld. The act, which has composed an original score for the show, has enjoyed a long and diverse collaboration with Boyle since the track "Born Slippy" featured in the director’s 1996 release Trainspotting.

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4. Tension Has Been Rising

It hasn't been smooth sailing for Boyle, with an emergency meeting called less than a week before the ceremony. Tensions between the filmmaker's crew and the Olympic Broadcasting Services over camera positioning and logistics threatened to boil over. The differences have reportedly been ironed out, with everyone involved adopting a more diplomatic tone.

5. Early Reviews Are Positive

Despite the internal squabbling, a 52,000-strong crowd has already seen the show at Boyle's final run-through of the extravaganza on Wednesday evening. While sworn to secrecy about the content, the general consensus for those lucky invitees is that it exceeded their wildest expectations. The BBC's London Olympics 2012 coverage tsar Roger Mosey is among a very short list of people who has seen the script for the show. He told THR there is no doubt in his mind that viewers — including the Olympic committee —have never seen anything quite like Boyle's vision for the opening. Says Mosey: "He's a filmmaker after all, not a sports broadcaster."