London shortening Olympic ceremony to end on time

Published July 18, 2012

| Associated Press

Lights, camera, action ... Cut!

Not the words director Danny Boyle was hoping to shout just days before the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

But the Oscar-winning director of "Slumdog Millionaire" has been forced to trim parts of the ceremony — including removal of a stunt bike sequence — to make sure the show finishes on time and spectators can get home before public transportation shuts down.

London organizers said Boyle was "tightening" the ceremony by up to 30 minutes to ensure the show, scheduled for three hours, concludes between midnight and 12:30 a.m.

"This is like any other piece of film you would make, things end up on the cutting room floor," London organizing committee spokeswoman Jackie Brock-Doyle said.

The ceremony, with a cast and crew of 10,000, is set for July 27 in the 80,000-capacity stadium in east London and be watched by a global television audience expected at 1 billion.

Brock-Doyle said a 3-4 minute sequence featuring stunt bikes has been deleted from the show but the riders will be paid and credited anyway.

Boyle is making other changes, too, to keep within the time frame.

"It has been an evolution," she said. "It was longer 10 days ago than it was a week ago and was longer a week ago than it is now. It is a matter of tightening. It's not cutting big chunks."

Reports in British newspapers said Boyle was angry at having to make the cuts, but Brock-Doyle said he was used to making films or shows fit a time schedule.

"He's an award-winning filmmaker," she said. "Things end up on the cutting-room floor. I think he understands that."

Boyle's ceremony, called "Isles of Wonder," is inspired by William Shakespeare's "The Tempest." He has revealed that the opening sequence will feature an idyllic British countryside setting complete with live farm animals, including 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens and nine geese. Former Beatle Paul McCartney has said he will perform the closing act.

The International Olympic Committee has pressed London organizers to make sure the show — which starts at 9 p.m. — doesn't overrun so that athletes can get to bed at a reasonable hour. Many of the athletes will be able to walk back to their housing, located adjacent to the Olympic Park, after the ceremony.

"We've always said it's a three-hour show, but it could end at 12:30," Brock-Doyle said.

Organizers are under pressure to make sure spectators can get home on public transportation after the ceremony. The Underground and buses will run until 2:30 a.m. during the games — an hour later than usual.

Brock-Doyle denied the ceremony cuts were prompted by the failure of private security firm G4S to provide the required number of security personnel for the Olympics, a blunder which forced the British government to call up 3,500 extra troops.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with security," Brock-Doyle said.

The longest part of the ceremony involves the march of athletes into the stadium. Several thousand athletes from 204 national Olympic committees will be taking part.

"The bit no one ever knows is really how long the athletes parade will be," Brock-Doyle said. "No one actually knows until the day how many athletes are going to come out. We're using all the tricks of the trade to get people to move fast."

The weather could also be a factor.

"If it's pouring with rain, some athletes won't turn up," she said.

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