LONDON 2012: Jay-Z, Rihanna to Perform at Olympic Arts Festival

London Olympics Logo NEW - P 2012

London Olympics Logo NEW - P 2012

The $86 million London 2012 Festival includes 12,000 events and performances across the country in celebration of the Summer and Paralympic Games.


Musical stars, including Jay-Z, Rihanna, David Guetta and Elton John, films from the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Mike Leigh and art from Yoko Ono and others will all be part of the London 2012 Festival, a cultural celebration across Britain tied to the Summer Olympics that kicks off on Thursday.

The festival, which runs through Sept. 9, includes 12,000 events and performances across the country in celebration of the Summer and Paralympic Games. Organizers say there will be 10 million tickets for free and paid-for events in such fields as film, music, theater, fashion, dance and art. The festival's web site describes it as "the biggest festival the U.K. has ever seen." 

With a budget of around £55 million ($86 million), the celebration is seen as a chance to showcase Britain's cultural heritage and put the country in the Olympic spirit.

The festival is the finale of the so-called Cultural Olympiad that was started in 2008 to inspire creativity in all forms, especially among young people. According to organizers, 18 million people have taken part so far.

Ruth Mackenzie, director of the London 2012 Festival in a statement called the event "a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience to match the once-in-a-lifetime visit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to the U.K."

One of the most star-studded events of the London 2012 Festival will be a BBC Radio 1 show that the station says will be its "biggest-ever free live music event." The lineup for the June 23 and 24 extravaganza that will feature six stages in the Hackney Marshes area of East London includes Jay-Z, Rihanna, Flo Rida, David Guetta, Jessie J, Lana del Rey, Leona Lewis, Tinie Tempah, Plan B, Florence and the Machine, Dappy, Jack White and more.

The music event is part of BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend 2012 that it has organized in partnership with London 2012 Festival and the Hackney Council. Around 100,000 people are expected at the music gathering.

Among other London 2012 Festival events, Peace One Day, an organization dedicated to the idea of having one day a year free of conflict, will have an opening night concert in Northern Ireland co-produced by Jude Law who is an ambassador for the organization.

The group also will have a big concert in September led by Elton John at Wembley Arena in London. It will mark the closing of the London 2012 Festival. Further artists will be announced over the coming weeks.

The London 2012 Festival kicks off Thursday with a fireworks display by Lake Windermere in northwest England and a big open-air concert with Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel leading the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela at Scotland's Stirling Castle.

Also outdoor sites with screens "across the country will show festival films to entertain thousands of people throughout the day," according to the festival web site. Films include shorts and excerpts from Royal Shakespeare Company shows. Plus, the opening day will see the unveiling of Yoko Ono’s worldwide anti-violence initiative "Imagine Peace" on the outdoor screens.

One much-buzzed about offer of the festival is a life-sized replica of Stonehenge called "Sacrilege" that is being compared to a bouncy castle and will travel the U.K.

Among the festival's film events are screenings of British filmmaker Mike Leigh's A Running Jump, described as "a film reflecting on sport in everyday life – not to mention taxis and dodgy second-hand cars." The first screening will be at London's Hackney Picturehouse on June 25.

Hitchcock will also be part of the Olympics celebrations. The Genius of Hitchcock will present classics from the Hitchcock vault outdoors at the British Museum.

Among comedy events, Australian comedian and musician Tim Minchin will bring his brand of musical comedy to a show, and "Ha Ha Hackney" will bring LGBT comics to the Hackney Empire to celebrate 66 years of comedy between the 1948 and the 2012 Olympic Games.

Leading British fashion designers and artists will also collaborate to champion London 2012 next month in an event called Britain Creates 2012: Fashion + Art Collusion.

Twitter: @georgszalai