~ Posted by Robert Butler, July 26th 2012
It's been the mother of all spoiler alerts. The opening ceremony of the Olympics begins at 9pm tomorrow (British time) at the Olympic stadium in Stratford, east London. The film director Danny Boyle, who won an Oscar for "Slumdog Millionaire", has based his £27m production, titled "Isles of Wonder", round the theme of "The Tempest". It'll be about the same length as Shakespeare's last work—only with fireworks at the end. Some papers are saying around four billion people will watch tomorrow evening's performance—a billion sounds more likely—but either way, it's important not to give away what happens.
But this week there have been dress rehearsals in front of invited audiences made up largely of people who've been involved with the Olympics as volunteers. Our deputy art director Martin Lovelock knows someone who knows someone who has something to do with the Olympics and he went along to last night's dress rehearsal. Danny Boyle appeared on stage at the start, said nice things about the audience and how all this wouldn't have been possible without them, explained that there were one or two things that wouldn't be happening at the dress rehearsal ("planned gaps" is the term) but would be happening tomorrow night. He then urged the audience not to tell anyone about what they saw. On the screens, three words appeared: "Save the surprise."
Plenty of details have emerged in the last few weeks. Boyle had earlier shown a model of the set to the press and explained that it was a vast meadow with trees and real grass and there would be live animals and fake clouds that would rain. The basic idea is that this green and pleasant land will change with the industrial revolution and change once again as the modern world takes over. But there are now thousands and thousands of people in London who have seen, fairly precisely, what happens moment after moment during large parts of the opening ceremony. It's been heartening to see how strongly the taboo about spoiler alerts has held.
On Twitter, the tweets around the hashtag #savethesurprise have danced, discreetly, around the subject:
Gareth Davies tweeted: "The climax where the Queen and Obama sing 'Don't go breaking my heart' on roller skates though is unbelievable #savethesurprise".
Rhod tweeted: "Oi, Beijing. Did you have a shire horse at yours??? No. No, you bloody well didn't. #savethesurprise".
And Jill Lawless tweeted: "I will #savethesurprise, but will just say that Danny Boyle's #london2012 opening ceremony is splendidly British and magnificently bonkers".
Robert Butler is online editor of Intelligent Life