Organisers struggle to keep plans a secret


OLYMPIC ORGANISERS trying to keep London’s opening ceremony secret have appealed to rehearsal spectators and performers not to leak details of the event that insiders describe as spectacular with a touch of quirky British humour.

At a rehearsal on Monday night, Oscar-winning film-maker Danny Boyle asked some 30,000 spectators not to post details or photos on social networks of his £27 million (€35 million) ceremony – and most honoured his plea.

Boyle has voiced frustration at details leaking before Friday’s show, particularly after he unveiled part of the set last month to sate growing curiosity. But the explosion of social media has made secrets almost impossible to keep at this Olympics. In a move to counteract leaks, organisers emblazoned a Twitter hashtag #savethesurprise on screens inside the Olympic Stadium on Monday, urging people to use that tag to build a buzz before Friday.

“The ceremony is very emotional, very British, with quirky humour. And it will have surprises, even for the critics,” said Dikaia Chatziefstathiou, who researches the Olympic movement at Canterbury University and is himself dancing in the opening ceremony. Chatziefstathiou said the 10,000 volunteer performers in the three-hour ceremony signed contracts stopping them from giving away details or posting photos onto social network sites. But she was allowed to say the show spanned the period 1896 right up to the present day.

The ceremony poses a challenge to organisers to strike a balance between global and national appeal. Beijing in 2008 was determined to use an opening ceremony watched by about one billion people to forge a new identity as a modern, global powerhouse on the world stage and produced a lavish, meticulously choreographed show. Athens in 2004 used its event and hosting of the Games to try to shed its reputation as a parochial and unruly corner of the European Union, while Sydney in 2000 showcased its appeal as a sophisticated tourist destination, and not just the outback.

With another 60,000 people due to attend another dress rehearsal tonight, organisers were finding it difficult to keep a lid on their plans. Hundreds took to Twitter and Facebook after Monday’s rehearsal to rave about the event, describing it as “out of this world”, “bonkers”, with some sarcastic silliness and a “mind-blowing finale”.

The ceremony, titled “Isles of Wonder” and inspired by William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, is due to begin at 8pm in front of a huge global television audience.


Boxing legend Muhammad Ali and footballer David Beckham appear likely to play a role in the opening ceremony, after flying into London four days before it takes place. They last night presented an award at a reception to mark the beginning of Beyond Sport, a conference devoted to the social impact of sport. Amid speculation the climax of the ceremony will feature big names collaborating to light the cauldron, Ali and Beckham are expected to have a role. Ali lit the flame at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and Beckham has been promised significant roles at the Games by London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe.

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