LONDON – Bells will ring in unison throughout the UK on Friday morning,
heralding the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London later in the
Big Ben, Parliament’s iconic clock tower, will strike 40 times at
precisely 8:12 a.m. for three minutes – the first time it will chime out
of sequence since 1952, when it tolled to mark the death of King George
The website of the bell-chiming initiative, which is the brainchild of
Turner Prizewinning artist Martin Creed, called for Britons to ring any bell
they own at precisely the same time, without forgetting to be
“Please remember it is your responsibility to ensure that you
respect your neighbors,” Allthebells.com reminded the public. “Please let them
know in advance that you will be ringing; they might even want to join
The Games’ opening ceremony, directed by Scottish filmmaker Danny
Boyle, will start at 7 p.m. Some 10,000 athletes from 204 participant states
will march in a packed Olympic Stadium waving flags and posing for
Besides the usual dancers, this year’s elaborate show will
feature 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens and nine geese, highlighting the
country’s pastoral tradition.
It will not include a moment of silence for
the 11 Israelis whom Palestinian terrorists killed during the 1972 Olympic Games
in Munich, despite pleas
by Israel, Germany, the US and other countries.
Families of the slain sportsmen gathered in London on Wednesday to denounce the
International Olympic Committee for its decision not to honor their loved ones
at the opening ceremony on the 40th anniversary of their deaths.
were not accidental tourists,” Ankie Spitzer, the widow of slain fencing coach
Andre Spitzer, told reporters.
“They came with dreams and came home in
The IOC has said the ceremony was not an appropriate venue for
such a memorial.
Its president, Jacques Rogge, held a “spontaneous”
moment of silence for the murdered athletes at the Olympic Village on
Meanwhile, other Olympic controversies have taken place over the
past few days even before a single javelin has been thrown.
North Korea’s women’s soccer team on Thursday were appalled when they were
accidentally shown on a giant screen beside the flag of South Korea, their
country’s archenemy – causing them to storm out of the stadium in
“Of course the people are angry,” North Korea’s Olympic
representative Ung Chang told Reuters Television, speaking in London. “If your
athlete got a gold medal and [showed] the flag of some other country, what
The flag flap, which might be likened to organizers accidentally
playing the Iranian national anthem instead of Israel’s “Hatikva”, prompted a
quick apology from the highest elected official in the land.
shouldn’t over-inflate this episode,” Prime Minister David Cameron weighed in.
“It was unfortunate, it shouldn’t have happened, and I think we should leave it
The same day, Cameron was involved in another embarrassing
incident involving presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt
During a meeting between the two men, Romney accidentally
insulted his hosts by saying the organization of the Olympics thus far was
The British premier immediately fired back with a
“We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most
active, bustling cities anywhere in the world,” he said. “Of course it is easier
if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” referring to the 2002
Winter Olympics in Utah that Romney helped organize.
The Olympics were
last held in London in 1948, an event remembered for its post-war austerity.
Both London and the Games have since undergone immense change.
are now a mega-event with a strong commercial aspect that draws athletes and
tourists from every corner of the globe. Meanwhile, London is fully recovered
from the bombing it suffered during the Blitz. Though it is no longer the
capital of an empire and is currently feeling the effects of the global economic
downturn, it remains an international hub of finance, commerce and
Still, as Romney alluded to – much to his detriment – if one is
expecting the kind of efficiency or sheer magnitude that was on display at the
2002 Games in Beijing, one might be disappointed. Recognizing their pros and
cons, organizers of the Olympics in London never hoped to outdo the Chinese in
those fields. Instead, they focused on highlighting British cultural
contributions to the world, environmental awareness and attention to detail, and
they say they are pleased with the results.
“The London Games remain an
example of the vision not being changed,” said Sebastian Coe, chairman of the
2012 Olympics and winner of four Olympic medals, including the 1,500 meters gold
in 1980 and 1984. “It wasn’t just a sales pitch. It is a spectacular
illustration of the power of the Games to change peoples’ lives and change the
face of a city,” he said.
“Of all recent host cities, London can claim to
be the one that has done the most to ensure its venues and facilities do not
turn into white elephants after the games,” Coe said.