£27 million Opening Ceremony shortened by 30 minutes amid transport fears
Director Danny Boyle has been told to cut the length of the Olympic Opening Ceremony with organisers increasingly anxious that spectators will be left without transport home if it overruns.
The decision to cut back the artistic element of the ceremony was made following rehearsals on Saturday night and Sunday raised concerns that the show will take longer than its three-hour target time.
Rehearsals will continue on Wednesday, with volunteers and performers running through the refined program. A 10-minute sequence from the end of the show involving stunt-bikes has been cut altogether.
There is particular concern that were the show to overrun and leave spectators stranded it could set the tone for the start of the Games, much as problems on the opening night of the Millennium Dome coloured perceptions of the Greenwich arena for years afterwards.
Boyle has been working on a 90-minute opening sequence, which will be followed by the parade of athletes from all 204 competing nations, the formal opening of the Games by the Queen and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.
The athletes’ parade is always the lengthiest part of an opening ceremony but with the IOC insistent that all nations take part it is non-negotiable. With athletes likely to be taking pictures and using their phones it is expected to take at least 90 minutes.
Organisers have always said they want to be finished by midnight or 12.30am at the latest, but the tube network will run until 2.30am in anticipation of an overrun. London’s options are limited because the show, which will rely on lighting and fireworks for dramatic effect, has to take part largely in the dark.
The major challenge is getting spectators and a high volume of VVIPS – more than 120 world leaders and heads of state are expected – in and out of the stadium’s island site.
The unfolding security shambles may have an effect on spectators accessing the stadium, but could be partially offset by encouraging ticketholders to arrive earlier ahead of the 9pm start.
Getting them out again is less a matter of security than pure logistics, with the VVIPs and IOC members expected to get priority as they leave by road.
The rest of the 50,000 or so spectators, sponsors and media will make their way off site by public transport or on dedicated buses.
It is a hugely complex process that will provide a huge test of London’s readiness.
Locog’s director of communications, Jackie Brock-Doyle, said: “[The Opening Ceremony] is not actually being cut. It starts at nine o’clock, it is going to finish between 12 and 12:30am, as we have said all along.
“Currently it is running slightly over that, so we need to make sure it fits within the slot we always said it was going to fit into. So, what’s actually happening is, it’s tightening up.
“The transport’s been great because Transport for London have extended [the last train] to 2.30am.”
About the section been taken out she added: “One small segment, which is about three, four minutes, has been cut and that’s the stunt bikes, the rest of it has just been tightened up, primarily the transitions.
“The reason it was made [to cut the stunt bikes] is they were all on contracts, they will be paid out. They’re proper stunt riders.”
Boyle will be reluctant to cut a ceremony that he has been working on for almost two years. Volunteer performers have been rehearsing for months in largely foul conditions, and there is frustration that their work may be wasted.
The irony is that whatever the logistical challenges, a successful ceremony that lights the imagination of spectators and the millions of people expected to watch in the UK and around the world, will buy London and enormous amount of goodwill as the Games get under way.
(Source: msn.com By: Paul Kelso)