Cows to take the stage in Olympics opening ceremony

The ceremony’s artistic director Danny Boyle said the £27 million (Rs 234 crore) ceremony would give Britons “a picture of ourselves as a nation.” “On entry to the Olympic Stadium in East London the audience will see a scene that represents a traditional and idyllic view of the British countryside,” Games organisers LOCOG said in a statement. “The set will be complete with meadows, fields and rivers, and featuring families taking picnics, sport being played on the village green and farmers tilling the soil whilst real farmyard animals graze.”

Idyllic: Danny Boyle is pictured with some of the volunteers. The Olympic Stadium is to be transformed into this ‘green and pleasant land’ for the opening ceremony. Pics/AFP

Real farmyard animals will be grazing in the country scene, with a menagerie including 30 sheep, 12 horses, three cows, two goats and 10 chickens, plus three sheepdogs. A billion people worldwide are expected to watch the extravaganza on television, LOCOG said. Boyle paid tribute to the cast of 10,000 volunteers, who have already held 157 rehearsals.

“I’ve been astounded by the selfless dedication of the volunteers,” he said. “They are the pure embodiment of the Olympic spirit and represent the best of who we are as a nation.” “The best way to tell that story is through working with real people,” added the filmmaker.

The largest bell in Europe will ring inside the stadium to open the extravaganza, which has been named ‘Isles in Wonder’ after a speech from William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. The 27-tonne bell is inscribed with a quote from one of the play’s characters Caliban: “Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises”.

London Games chief Sebastian Coe said organisers had designed ‘one of the biggest sets ever built’ for the stadium, which will be equipped with a million-watt sound system. Some 80,000 spectators will be able to watch a full dress rehearsal at the venue at a date yet to be announced. The budget for the opening and closing ceremonies was doubled to £81 million (Rs 702 crore) in December, reportedly after British Prime Minister David Cameron intervened.

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