London Gears Up For The 2012 Olympics
Queen Elizabeth II will officially open the "Isles of Wonder" titled ceremony inspired by Shakespeare's "Tempest."
The three-hour long showcase was created by Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle who will take viewers on a journey from "Britain's idyllic countryside through the grime of the Industrial Revolution and ending in an explosion of pop culture," according to Reuters.
Watched by 60,000 people at the main Olympic stadium built in a run-down part of east London and a global audience of more than a billion, the event will have passages described by British Prime Minister David Cameron as "spine-tingling."
"There is a huge sense of excitement and anticipation because Britain is ready to welcome the greatest show on Earth," said Cameron. "This is a great moment for our country so we must seize it."
Boyle has attempted to keep the opening ceremony a secret but some of the details are already in the public domain. The show is expected to feature fields, hedges, sheep, geese, a shire horse, shepherdesses and even a game of village cricket to recreate a scene of what Reuters refers to as "bucolic bliss."
The green pastures will then transform into soot-filled chimneys and steel works to evoke an industrial scene like "the 19th century urban settings of Dickens."
Music from Britain's past and present will provide the soundtrack and will be a prominent feature as the show progresses out of the Industrial Revolution and into a celebration of pop culture.
There will also be cyclists with illuminated "wings" circling the arena to create "a stunning effect for cameras suspended from the stadium roof. Reuters reports, "Boyle's ode to the National Health Service, a politically charged topic in Britain where people are emotionally tied to the ideal of a welfare state, may make less sense to people watching from afar."
Boyle had a budget of $42 million to spend on the opening ceremony, less than half the amount estimated to have been spent in China for the 2008 Olympics.
The San Francisco Chronicle said Britain allocated $14.6 billion of public money to host the 17-day spectacle, compared with China's $70 billion outlay for the games four years ago.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics on July 25, show Britain's gross domestic product fell 0.7 percent from the first quarter, when it dropped 0.3 percent. The Chronicle said "the games arrive as Britain's economy shrank the most in more than three years in the second quarter, extending its first double-dip recession since the 1970s."
John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, said the U.K. may not have put in a bid to host the 2012 Olympics if officials knew the country would face four years of economic turmoil.
The San Francisco Chronicle:
The use of existing or temporary facilities has helped London organizers keep costs down. The 15,000-seat beach volleyball arena at Horse Guards Parade is one such venue and is near Cameron’s official residence at 10 Downing Street.
Those stadiums will probably be full as tickets for London’s record third Olympics are close to sold out.
However, the seven year preparation has not come without its hiccups.
Recent news of security firm G4S's admission that it could not provide enough guards for Olympic venues caused a stir. At the last minute, thousands of extra soldiers were deployed despite a multi-million dollar contract between the security firm and the government said Reuters.
This year the Olympics coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic team members by Palestinian militants in 1972. During this month in 2005, suicide attacks in London killed 52 people.
Cameron said having a safe and secure Olympics was his first priority.
"This is the biggest security operation in our peacetime history, bar none, and we are leaving nothing to chance," he said.
According to Reuters:
Heavy traffic in central London and severe delays on Britain's creaking train system have added to the grumbling.
A series of doping scandals have tarnished the Games' image in the buildup, with at least 11 athletes banned, and Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou became the Olympics' first "twitter victim" when she was withdrawn from the team over tweeted comments deemed racist.
An early diplomatic faux pas, when the flag of South Korea appeared at a women's soccer match between North Korea and Colombia, prompted fuming North Korean players to walk off the pitch and delayed kick-off by more than an hour.
Yet, the excitement for the games continue as an estimated three million people have taken to the streets to cheer on the Olympic torch in the past week.
"London has taken a long time to get on board, but it has eventually," Pauline, a 48-year-old IT contractor, said to The Chicago Tribune, while watching the flame on Thursday outside Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the monarch.
"This is the start of the Games," said Frazer, 63, a retired Methodist minister. "It's quite exciting - you feel part of it. The hiccups get forgotten now."
For more of Neon Tommy's coverage on the 2012 Olympics, click here.