Opening Ceremony to feature livestock, rain, Paul McCartney, 23-ton bell

Danny Boyle's vision is driven by the British countryside lifestyle. Muted sorrow and refusal of regret included? (AP)

If you've ever thought, You know, I loved this year's Opening Ceremony at the Olympics, only I just wish it had more sheep, consider your wishes likely to soon be fulfilled.

While the details of the Olympics' entertaining, ultra-expensive, creatively ambiguous Friday-night party that kicks off the event remain largely cloaked, as we get closer to the start of the games (July 27), more details are bound to trickle out. The first info dump on London's big spectacular to start the XXX Olympiad were released Tuesday.

What we're hearing about right now leaves something to be desired. Not that the Opening Ceremony won't deliver -- oh, no, no. Let's not worry about that. If anything, the procedure will present myriad opportunities for snark and jokes amongst your friends and on Twitter. But in general, this year's Opening Ceremony looks like it could have the inevitable letdown from what we saw in Beijing four years ago.

Danny Boyle is the man in charge of putting the whole she-bang together. As artistic director, the good and bad falls on his shoulders. Boyle is known primarily for being a film director and producer. He won an Oscar for "Slumdog Millionaire" in 2009, and also gave us one of the best films of the '90s in "Trainspotting."

As for Boyle's vision and execution of the Opening Ceremony, here's what we know:
  • The name of the Ceremony's primary set: "Green and Pleasant," which could double as an album title for Blur.
  • The name of the actual Opening Ceremony as a whole is "Isles of Wonder," a nod to Shakespeare.
  • There will be animals. Because of this, I pray Pink Floyd's "Animals" gets some speaker treatment at some point.
  • The surface for the Ceremony, as you see in the picture above, will be actual grass/soil/mini hills. The construction of this is considered to be one of the largest "sets" ever built. There will be rivers, people.
  • The Ceremonies -- Opening and Closing -- cost £81 million. That's pounds, and exchanging it to U.S. money means it's about $12.5 million.
  • There are at least 10,000 volunteers involved in pulling the spectacle off.
  • Various types of rehearsals for the Opening Ceremony have taken place nearly 160 times.
  • 12,956 props are included.
  • We aren't certain if the livestock -- multiple horses, chickens and sheep -- are included in said props. 
  • OK, you want more on the animals? I can supply that. Here are the official headcounts on the English livestock. Twelve horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, 70 sheep and three sheep dogs, because of course: sheep dogs.
  • Keith Moon will not be able to make it.
  • The sequences are heavily sequined; the Olympics says nearly 25,000 buttons have been needed for all the costumes that have been made for the Ceremony.
  • More than a million watts and 500 speakers will create the boom and bombast inside Olympic Stadium. If they play LMFAO, everyone should walk out.
  • "Each of the four nations will be represented by their national flower– the rose of England, the thistle of Scotland, the daffodil of Wales and flax from Northern Ireland."
  •  A massive, harmonically tuned bell will be rung to indicate the official start of the Games. It's not currently known who will get to ring it, and I'm guessing someone will just have to push a button. But, still, I'm going to assume Paul McCartney is threatening to not play unless he gets to ring the 23-ton bell. 
"The Ceremony is an attempt to capture a picture of ourselves as a nation, where we have come from and where we want to be," Boyle said.

The Guardian has more:

The director has ignored the age-old maxim about never working with children or animals. The opening scene features real grass, real ploughs, real soil and – said Boyle – real clouds that would supply "rain" if there was none in order to ensure an authentically British atmosphere. With no Glastonbury festival this year, the event will be evoked with a replica of Glastonbury Tor and mosh pits at either end of the arena.

One of those pits will have a Last Night of the Proms theme and the other a festival atmosphere, with around 100 young people in each.

But the director underlined that it was not a musical show, but a narrative set to music. The electronic group Underworld have already recorded two lengthy tracks at Abbey Road to score the action. The closing ceremony will be a more traditional celebration of British music.


If the jubilee weekend was a festival of pageantry and heritage, it already appears that Boyle's opening ceremony will be a more playful and anarchic treatment of British culture.

"You're bound to fail, that's built in. But you hope that on the journey, you hope people will find enough in it to feel that it is representative of us," said Boyle.

First of all, I love how Boyle's just accepting a level of defeat already. That's so British of him. Secondly, the Jubilee factor is a good point. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, which was quite the ... thing, just happened. With that fresh in the mind of the world, but more importantly the local Brits, the Olympics have to do better than rotating boats and bored British royalty.

It's all quite the undertaking, and in general, the Opening Ceremony, for good or for bad, provides some of the best television the Olympics has to offer. As for the presentation, who knows how it will all look like. We only know it will be big and ridiculous, and for that we're thankful. The only thing I can say: There better be some croquet going down somewhere on that pitch. It cannot be authentic without mallets and wickets.
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories