What would the Olympics be without a spectacular opening ceremony? The modern Olympic Games haven't always started with such pomp and circumstance — in fact, it wasn't until the 1908 London Games that athletes marched into the stadium behind their nations' flags. Yet with each successive Olympics, the opening ceremony has become increasingly elaborate. We'll find out soon if London can top Beijing's jaw-dropping ceremony of 2008, but here are some hints at what to expect from the big to-do on July 27.


1. Taking place at Stratford's Olympic Stadium in East London, the production will cost nearly $43 million and will have 62,000 live spectators, as well as an estimated worldwide audience of 1 billion viewers.


2. The ceremony will begin at 9 p.m. with chiming from the largest harmonically tuned bell in Europe. Weighing in at 27 tons, the bell was cast at London's Whitechapel Foundry, the same place where iconic Big Ben was made in 1856.


3. Called "Isles of Wonder," the ceremony is inspired by Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and two centuries of British history and culture. The stadium has been transformed into a British rural landscape and will include 16,000 athletes, 10,000 volunteer performers, 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens, three cows, two goats and various dogs and geese. London Games chief Sebastian Coe said organizers had designed "one of the biggest sets ever built" for the stadium, which will be equipped with a million-watt sound system.


4. The executive producer of ceremonies is Steven Daldry, screen and stage director of the musical "Billy Elliot." The event's artistic director is Danny Boyle, who won an Oscar for directing "Slumdog Millionaire." Production design is being helmed by rock concert architect Mark Fisher, designer of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" tour, every Rolling Stones show since 1989, and every U2 concert since 1992.


5. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, will officially open the London Games. Daniel Craig will star as James Bond in a short film that will be screened as part of the television coverage. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Paul McCartney will wrap things up at the all-things-British performance.


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