London Turns-Countdown to 2012 Olympics begins with spectacular celebrations today

Posted on 10:10 PM by Sameer Shah

The countdown to the London 2012 Olympic Games officially begins today with spectacular handover celebrations in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium.

At 2.30pm British time, the mayor of Beijing, Guo Jinlong, will hand the Olympic flag to London Mayor Boris Johnson, signifying the moment the British capital becomes the host of the next Olympiad.

Then follows an eight-minute performance by British stars, including singer Leona Lewis, guitarist Jimmy Page and former England captain David Beckham, kicking off the four-year – or 1,433-day – countdown to the next Olympic Games.

The £2.5million show, the brainchild of Stephen Powell, London 2012’s creative director, will combine a dizzying array of British cultural references, including a dance with umbrellas – to represent our national obsession with the weather.

The handover will be broadcast live to about 1.5billion people worldwide.

British viewers will also be able to watch a special London concert for 40,000 ticket holders – with acts including pop group McFly, Will Young and opera star Katherine Jenkins.

Giant screens have been set up around the country – including one in Trafalgar Square, where thousands are expected to join in the celebrations.

The concert will culminate in a flypast over Buckingham Palace by the Red Arrows.

The Beijing show will begin with a short animated sequence depicting Britain’s most famous landmarks, to an original score that features contemporary versions of Jerusalem, the English folk song Greensleeves and excerpts from the shipping forecast read by Radio 4 regular Zeb Soanes.

A specially adapted London Routemaster bus will drive around the athletics track, followed by Team GB cyclists Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade.

The bus comes to a halt at a bus stop, where dancers from hip-hop troupe Zoo Nation, contemporary dance company CanDoCo and Royal Opera artistes are performing.

The bus will then transform into a stage for Leona Lewis and Jimmy Page who will sing a new version of the Led Zeppelin classic Whole Lotta Love.

At the end, David Beckham will kick a football into the crowd from the top of the bus – to represent the power of sport to unite the world.

The former England captain – who is more popular in China than any Olympic athlete except those from the host nation – said last night: ‘I was so honoured to be asked.

'I’m an East End boy and I’m proud that the Olympics are happening in London.’

The closing ceremony for the Beijing Games, starting at 1pm, is expected to feature 7,000 participants, including 350 kung fu practitioners.

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