London is gearing up for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and with fewer than three months until the opening ceremonies on July 27, organizers have started the long tease. The big opening presentation is being rehearsed in a giant, heavily guarded circus tent set up in a vacant Ford factory in east London. Ceremony artistic director Danny Boyle, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, is keeping tight-lipped about what he has planned, but as acts fall into place and organizers try to build excitement for the upcoming sporting bonanza, details are dribbling out. Here's what we know so far:
1. Britain is determined to outdo China
Beijing's impressive $100 million-plus opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics will be hard to top, but London is going to try. In December, Prime Minister David Cameron doubled the budget for the opening and closing ceremonies to 81 million pounds ($130 million), and new casting calls went out almost immediately. Danny Boyle's team is promising 12,000 performers, including dancers, drummers, acrobats, skateboarders, nurses, and imitators of historically important Britons. The Red Arrows, a synchronized stunt-jet team usually reserved for the royal family, will take part, as will the Queen herself.
2. The ceremony is inspired by Shakespeare
The theme of the kickoff event is "The Isles of Wonder," an homage to William Shakespeare's The Tempest, especially the line: "Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not." Actor Mark Rylance will read the part of the play that contains that line, and the same quote will be displayed on a giant bell being cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, famous for forging London's Big Ben and America's iconic Liberty Bell.
3. Many of Britain's musical stars will be there
The closing ceremony, dubbed "A Symphony of British Music," is getting all the musical buzz — and with A-list performers like the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Adele, Paul McCartney, Elton John, and the Spice Girls rumored to be on the roster, it's easy to see why. But the welcoming ceremony has its own star power, with bands representing each region of the United Kingdom confirmed to perform opening night: '80s heartthrobs Duran Duran for England, Stereophonics for Wales, Paolo Nutini for Scotland, and Snow Patrol standing for Northern Ireland.
4. Count James Bond in, too
In what's being described as a "huge coup," 007 actor Daniel Craig and Boyle's team were given unprecedented access to Buckingham Palace to film a short James Bond movie for the opening ceremony, The Arrival. In the mini-film, Bond is reportedly called to the palace, where the Queen gives him his mission: Opening the Olympics. Craig, in character as 007, will then parachute into the Olympic stadium, according to Britain's The Sun. The London Evening Standard has another rumored scoop: The Queen will knight Bond in the movie.
5. Not every invitee said yes
At least one iconic British artist has turned down an invitation to play during the games: Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten. Other invitees didn't have a chance to decline. Organizers mistakenly asked all members of The Who to perform, even original drummer Keith Moon, who famously died 34 years ago. Who manager Bill Curbishley handled the request: "I emailed back saying Keith now resides in Golders Green crematorium, having lived up to The Who's anthemic line 'I hope I die before I get old.' ... If they have a round table, some glasses and candles, we might contact him."