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Bells herald start of Olympics

26 July 2012


Olympic symbols: these rings with doves, hanging in St Matthew's, Redhill, were made by members of the congregation

Olympic symbols: these rings with doves, hanging in St Matthew's, Redhill, were made by members of the congregation

THOUSANDS of bells will ring out across the nation at 8.12 this morning to mark the opening of the Olympic Games. They will include Big Ben, striking from 8.12 until 8.15 as part of "All the Bells", the vision of the artist and musician Martin Creed. He has called on people to ring all sorts and sizes of bells "as quickly and as loudly as possible" for those three minutes; and in taking part Big Ben will be sounding outside its usual hours for the first time since the funeral of King George VI in 1952.

The Games will officially begin with the opening ceremony at nine o'clock this evening, when the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world, provided by the Whitechapel Foundry in London, will be struck. The Archbishop of Canterbury is to attend the ceremony.

The Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, has backed a call from the Christian charity More Than Gold for churches to add prayers to the ringing, as the conclusion of a 70-day prayer relay that has followed the path of the Olympic torch across the country.

Ely Cathedral will remain open until midnight to broadcast the ceremony live on large plasma screens. Southwell Minster is also to welcome people to a live screening in the nave.

A million people are expected to visit London during the Games and Paralympics, which conclude on 9 September; and London's churches have thrown open their doors in welcome. The diocese of London has published walking tours that include more than 40 churches, and "places of tranquillity, prayer, and historic interest".

On Sunday, a ceremony will be held at Kenya House, Stratford, to bless the Kenyan athletes. The service, led by Pastor Raphael Kaudo, will include readings, dancing, and performances by a local choir.

Muslim athletes have announced that, since the yearly fast of Ramadan clashes with the Games, they will observe the fast at a later date. Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, of the Muslim Council of Britain, told ENI that "you have to strike a balance between work, rest, and prayer."

Christian charities and churches have been preparing for some months for the Games. More Than Gold has recruited volunteers to serve as Games Pastors, dedicated to "responding to the practical and spiritual needs" of visitors coming to the Olympics. Athletes in search of spiritual sustenance will find free copies of the Bible in the Olympic Village Religious Services Centre, provided by the Bible Society, and also articles written to help sportspeople consider the relationship between sport and faith. Matthew van Duyvenbode, of the Society, said that the Bible offered "words of deep consolation, inspiration, and challenge, themes which resonate with athletes from around the world".

The Games also inspired artists. In Shoreditch, east London, three murals calling for peace were unveiled by the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Bates. Created by the artists CODE FC and Jack Haselhurst, the 60-square-metre murals are a reminder of the Olympic Truce - a tradition revived in 1993, and rooted in ancient Greece, where conflicts were suspended so that athletes, artists, and spectators could travel in peace to Olympia.

When the Olympic torch arrives at the stadium this evening, it will have passed through the hands of 8000 torch-bearers, many of them Christians. On 14 July, 86-year-old Sydney Dean, from St Barnabus's, Swanmore, nominated for raising £500,000 for charity, carried the flame through Boscombe. On Wednesday, Elijah Kirby, a youth worker nominated for pioneering youth ministries in affluent and deprived communities, carried the flame through Harrow. And yesterday, it passed to the Vicar of St Stephen's with St Thomas's, Shepherd's Bush, the Revd Bob Mayo, who, despite suffering from up to five epileptic seizures a day, has increased attendance at his church threefold.

On Tuesday, Debbie Flood, the British rower who has twice won an Olympic silver medal, and Bryan Clay, who has won both gold and silver medals in the Olympic decathlon, were announced as the winners of the Eric Liddell Award, which honours athletes who have shown "outstanding character . . . on and off the field of competition".

Leader comment
Dave Walker


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