London 2012: Olympic Games’ opening ceremony facts

Millions of people will tune in to watch the ceremonies opening and closing the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The content of much of the shows is being kept top secret, but here’s what we do know about the first ceremony, which takes place tonight...

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is called Isles of Wonder and takes its name from a speech by Caliban in Act III, scene II of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which reads as follows:

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,

Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.


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Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices

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That, if I then had waked after long sleep,

Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open and show riches

Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,

I cried to dream again.

The ceremony starts with the ringing of the largest harmonically-tuned bell in the world, produced by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

The opening scene of the ceremony is called Green and Pleasant, and will portray a picture perfect view of the British countryside, complete with live farm animals, families having picnics, and people playing cricket.

Each of the four nations of the United Kingdom will be represented by their national flower in the opening scene – the rose of England, the thistle of Scotland, the daffodil of Wales and flax from Northern Ireland.

One of our most famous institutions, the NHS, will be represented in the ceremony, with scenes involving hospital beds being pushed around the arena, and real NHS staff taking part.

For all four ceremonies there will be 20,000 volunteer cast members, 23,000 costumes and a total of 12 hours of music, and 2,000 staff, crew and suppliers.

A combined television audience of more than four billion people is expected to tune in to the ceremonies.

There are 24,570 buttons on costumes for one of the opening sequences of the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony.

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