Olympic opener will impress, but not surprise

LONDON — The London Olympics opening ceremony will be a grand spectacle — but will it be a surprise?

In a word, no.

Director Danny Boyle wants the details to stay secret and games chief Sebastian Coe has pleaded for insiders to stop leaking details of the extravaganza. But in the age of camera phones and social media, with 10,000 performers in the ceremony, thousands of Olympic security and staff and more than 10,000 journalists already at the Olympic Park, not much can be kept out of the public domain.

"Part of the modern world means you can't really do that," Boyle acknowledged about keeping secrets as he showed journalists a mock-up of the set for the opening scene of the ceremony, weeks before the event.

So, a spoiler alert: Stop reading now if you want Friday's opening ceremony to be a surprise. Stop, stop, stop.

But if you are as irresistibly curious as the rest of us, well, prepare for everything from James Bond to Lord Voldemort to a spoonful of sugar. Boyle has revealed only selected details about the show, But since the performers started rehearsals in June at the Olympic Stadium — and an army of journalists started arriving to cover the July 27-Aug. 12 games — a trickle of details about the 27 million pound ($42 million) opening ceremony has become a torrent.

The leaks became too much for Coe, who tweeted: "Share the frustration of volunteer performers and the public at Opening Ceremony being unofficially trailed. Let's (hash)savethesurprise."

His imploring hashtag fell on deaf ears. Still more information emerged.

So what do we know?

The ceremony's theme is "Isles of Wonder," inspired by William Shakespeare's play about shipwrecked castaways, "The Tempest." An actor is due to recite Caliban's speech, the one that runs "Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises." Mark Rylance, who had been due to perform the lines, pulled out after the death of his stepdaughter. Kenneth Branagh is rumored to be his replacement.

Despite Boyle's enchanted-island inspiration, few expect the man who depicted Scottish heroin addicts in "Trainspotting" and Indian slum dwellers in "Slumdog Millionaire" to deliver a sanitized image of Britain.

It sounds more like Isles of Wonder and Woe — with a big dash of British whimsy thrown in.

Boyle has said the show is "trying to show the best of us, but we're also trying to show many, many different things about our country."

The ceremony will open at 9 p.m. with the sound of a 27-ton bell — the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world — forged at London's 442-year-old Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which made London's Big Ben and Philadelphia's Liberty Bell.

A prerecorded segment has been filmed inside Buckingham Palace, reportedly involving Queen Elizabeth II and Daniel Craig as secret agent James Bond. If rumor is to be believed, a stuntman dressed as 007 will parachute into the stadium to start the show.

The opening sequence will evoke a pastoral idyll, the "green and pleasant land" described in William Blake's poem "Jerusalem," which has been set to music and is regarded as England's unofficial national anthem. There's a meadow, livestock, a farmer plowing his field, a cricket match — and, in a nod to Britain's plethora of rural summer music festivals, a mosh pit.

Boyle hasn't disclosed what comes next, but has said the ceremony will depict Britain's past, present and future for a global television audience estimated at 1 billion. In addition to the athletes and performers, some 60,000 spectators will be in the stadium, including political leaders from around the world. U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and her daughters and a sprinkling of European and celebrity royalty will be among those attending.

Aerial photographs of the set for the second section of the show depict dark buildings and smokestacks with the River Thames running through it. This is the other side of the country described in "Jerusalem" — a land of "dark satanic mills."

A third act will tackle the regeneration of east London, where the Olympics are taking place, as parkland and a creative heartland, home to many artists, designers and Internet startups.

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