Page last updated at 11:14 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 12:14 UK

Cultural Olympiad plans unveiled

Lord Coe believes the Olympiad is an opportunity to 'release creativity'

A William Shakespeare festival and 12 new public works of art will form part of a 'Cultural Olympiad' planned for the run-up to the 2012 London games.

Set up to showcase Britain's arts and culture, the four-year programme will comprise 500 events designed to involve and inspire people at home and abroad.

Details were announced on Thursday by 2012 chief Lord Coe at the National Theatre on London's South Bank.

The scheme was a key factor in London winning the bid to host the Olympics.

The Cultural Olympiad will co-ordinate the opening and closing ceremonies at the London games, as well as local and regional events.

It will begin with an open weekend, to be held later this month - between 26 and 28 September - for which hundreds of events have already been planned.

The Cultural Olympiad will leave a legacy of cultural engagement in communities across our country
Lord Coe

One of these will include the illumination of Blackpool Tower in pink, blue, orange and green - the colours of London 2012 - at 2012 BST at 26 September.

Lord Coe, meanwhile, will take part in Martin Creed's current conceptual art piece at Tate Britain, in which runners sprint the length of the museum's sculpture galleries.

"The Cultural Olympiad will leave a legacy of cultural engagement in communities across our country," the athlete-turned-politician told reporters on Thursday.

Future projects include Film Nation, a digital film competition for young people, and Unlimited, described as a celebration of disability arts, culture and sport.

There will also be National Singing Day, held as part of the BBC-backed Sounds strand.

A World Cultural Festival will be held in 2012 itself featuring contributions from all participating countries.

"We want to welcome great artists of the world to take part," said Jude Kelly, chair of Culture, Ceremonies and Education for the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).

'Absolutely central'

It was Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic movement, who first conceived the idea of a marriage between sport and the arts.

More than 40 million has been earmarked for cultural activities across the United Kingdom.

When London's selection as the next host of the Olympics was made in July 2005, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell described the Cultural Olympiad as "absolutely central" to the vision of what could be achieved.

The major projects announced on Thursday are:

• Artists Taking the Lead - 12 "cutting edge" commissions from artists across the UK. (These can include sculptures, symphonies, plays or films.)

• Stories of the World - a national network of exhibitions "telling new stories in new ways".

• Sounds - a four-project approach to "celebrating music as a universal language".

• Somewhereto - a project empowering young people to find somewhere to practice sport and culture "on their terms".

• Discovering Places - a project dedicated to "opening up the historic and built environment to new audiences".

• Film Nation - a programme "designed to get young people behind the camera".

• World Shakespeare Festival - a celebrate of the Bard co-ordinated by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

• Festival of Carnivals - five themed street carnivals to be held during the Olympic period.

Why we have a Cultural Olympiad
04 Sep 08 |  Entertainment
Holding Olympic 'culture' baton
26 Aug 08 |  North West Wales

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