A village cricket team, 12 horses, 10 chickens, 70 sheep, a model of Glastonbury Tor, two mosh pits and the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world are among the sights that will greet the world when the curtain comes up on the London Olympics, it has been revealed.
The surreal vista of a “green and pleasant land”, with giant maypoles representing the symbols of the four nations of the UK around which children will dance, is the scene for the opening sequence of Danny Boyle’s £27m opening ceremony extravaganza.
The director has ignored the age-old maxim about never working with children or animals. The opening scene features real grass, real ploughs, real soil and – said Boyle – real clouds that would supply “rain” if there was none in order to ensure an authentically British atmosphere.
The inauguration games in 81AD at the Roman Colosseum, lasted for one hundred days and during this time over 9,000 wild animals were slaughtered. During just one festival in 240 AD a staggering: 2,000 gladiators, 70 lions, 40 wild horses, 30 elephants, 30 leopards, 20 wild asses, 19 giraffes, 10 antelopes, 10 hyenas, 10 tigers, 1 hippopotamus and 1 rhinoceros were slaughtered. So many wild beasts were killed in the Colosseum and other Roman arenas that some exotic animals became virtually extinct. The Hippopotamus were captured from the River Nile in Egypt but following the Roman era they disappeared from this habitat. Many of the great wild animals from Africa and Asia such as elephants, lions and tigers were hunted to the point of extinction. Entire species of animals disappeared from their native habitats. And the Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis), the European Wild Horse (Equus ferus), the Aurochs (Bos primigenius primigenius) and the Eurasian lynx became extinct.
Speaking at The Telegraph Hay Festival, he said that sheep farming in places like Wales, Dartmoor and the Yorkshire Dales is likely to retreat as it becomes more and more difficult to compete in a global market.
Instead he said the uplands and other areas currently used for farming should be allowed to ‘re-wild’.
This would mean re-introducing wolves to the Highlands, beavers to rivers, moose and lynx to forests, wild boar across the country and a range of insects and birds. It would also mean replanting land with native species like oak, ash, willow and alder.
“As agricultural subsidies begin to disappear — which they will within a decade, we are going to see a retreat from farming on the uplands whether we like it or not,” he said. “The question is what do we do with it? I would like to see lost species re-introduced, removal of fences, blocking of drains and the restoration of whole eco-systems.”