Bell ringing across country heralds Olympics

Thousands of bells toll across UK to celebrate start of the Games

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Initiated by the firing of canons on the HMS Belfast at 8.12 this morning, church bells, doorbells and bicycle bells all contributed to a UK-wide bell-ringing spectacular.

The event was a project of post-modern artist Martin Creed. The Turner Prize-winner praised the ‘brilliant and amazing sound’ as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime-performance’. Named Work No. 1197, the piece specified ‘all the bells in a country to be rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes’. It is hoped that the event will set a new world record for the most bells rung simultaneously.

Both amateurs and campanologists rang bells, and thousands of people and organisations across the country registered to participate (including the RAF, the Mayor of London and The Girl Guides Association). The Royal Navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary joined in at their various bases across the globe, on land and sea. Upon the HMS Belfast, Ruth Mackenzie, director of the London 2012 Festival said, ‘This is the chance to show the world what fun you can have in the UK.’

Big Ben rang 40 times in 3 minutes, while a 12-foot high Celtic war horn was sounded in Berwick-upon-Tweed. The world’s largest aluminum bell (a weighty 750kg, constructed from the fuselage of a decommissioned Tornado fighter) also rang in London. Bells also sounded at all four of the UK parliaments, and were expected to be rung further afield in countries such as Australia, China and even Antarctica.

The Opening Ceremony is at 9pm this evening, signaling the start of the 30th Olympic Games.

Katy Wright