We discovered yesterday that the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games will feature 70 sheep, three cows and a country cottage. The interior of the athletics track will be turfed over to create a few acres of pretend farmland, complete with wiggly hedgerows, a village cricket pitch and thousands of dancing schoolchildren. It's called "Green and Pleasant", and in six weeks time billions of viewers worldwide will watch this peculiarly English vision of Arcadia unfold. Yes, someone actually had this idea, probably on the back of an envelope, and suggested it, and got it accepted, and had a multi-million pound budget pumped into it, and soon it'll be a moment of global TV history. Sparks of creativity don't run much bigger than this.
Who knew? Well, we had a hunch, didn't we? [photo] I spotted a mysterious stone-in-the-grass round the back of 3 Mills Studios last month, which is where the Olympic Ceremonies are being assembled, and deduced it might be rather important. A bit of a squint revealed the inscription to be identical to that at the start of the Thamesin a Gloucestershire field - so identical in fact that it had clearly been designed with a TV close-up in mind. The turf laid round about was real, rather than astro-, and there was a rocky space in front where maybe, just maybe, a water feature might flow forth. And yes, look, there's a small stream winding forth across the publicity pictures released yesterday, starting roughly in the middle of the stadium. That river must therefore be the Thames, which places this imaginary swathe of farmland a few miles southwest of Cirencester. You heard it here first.
Olympic ceremonies are normally top secret until they happen. Those massed Chinese drummers took our breath away because we weren't expecting them, ditto the spectacles in Athens, Vancouver, Sydney et al. But London is dripfeeding information to keep a hungry media fed, and because it's bloody difficult to keep a secret these days. All it takes is one slack-mouthed volunteer to leak to the press, or a blogger with a camera at a studio back-lot, and details of the ceremonial programme might slip forth. So now we know 2012's launch will feature the world's largest harmonically-tuned bell, and artificial rainclouds, and two moshpits for which 200 lucky East Londoners have yet to get tickets. But this pastoral scene is only the first tableau in Danny Boyle's hour-long extravaganza. We have no idea what will follow when the fields are rolled away, only that eventually thousands of athletes will parade by and that the Queen will probably smile. Indeed we still don't have a clue how London's Olympic cauldron will be lit, nor even precisely where it's going.
You have to be a bit trusting when buying a Games Ceremony ticket. Unlike those sat at home you can't nip to the fridge or switch channels, you've got to watch whatever the creative director puts on in the stadium for you. Those who've bought tickets to the Olympic Closing Ceremony were probably expecting an hour of girls waving ribbons, but are actually going to get a concert featuring Paul McCartney, George Michael, Take That and the remaining members of The Who. That'll have saved a huge amount off the special effects budget, I bet. Spectators at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony will see, as expected, "a celebration of the inspirational spirit that challenges perceptions of human possibility." And the Paralympic Closing Ceremony? Cash up front has earned ballot winners tickets to a souped-up Coldplay concert, the idea of which might excite you, but I'd be less than thrilled. But hey, once the world's watching, maybe a collective magic will wash over all four of these ceremonial displays. And when the Thames ripples forth beneath a sylvan bridge, let's hope the world smiles.