Page last updated at 23:48 GMT, Saturday, 23 August 2008 00:48 UK

Shipping forecast takes global bow

Zeb Soanes
Radio 4 announcer Zeb Soanes recorded the forecast
He usually broadcasts to just a few thousand early risers, but the voice of the shipping forecast is ready to make his global debut before one billion people at the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony.

Radio 4 announcer Zeb Soanes, who read the distinctive forecast as part of music marking the handover of the Games to London, said the "bizarre" project would sound "absolutely amazing".

Composer Philip Sheppard's sequence combines elements of the shipping forecast, Jersualem, Greensleeves and harmonies based on the chimes of Big Ben.

It's just so bizarre that something so peculiarly British will be broadcast in the Olympic stadium
Zeb Soanes

A massive worldwide television audience will hear it for the first time on Sunday, as the Beijing Olympics come to an end.

Mr Soanes explained: "He [Mr Sheppard] said he wanted to compose a piece which completely summed up Britain, and our island mentality."

After some experimentation, the composer particularly liked the sound of the names North Utsire, South Utsire and Lundy Fastnet Irish Sea and asked the announcer to repeat them.

Mr Soanes said: "He liked the mantra-like way that the words and locations flowed. I recorded them over the soundtrack whilst listening to the music in my headphones."

He was also asked to read a number of public announcements, including the World Service call sign "This is London," which opens the piece, and the classic London Underground warning, "Mind the gap."

London is the focus of an eight-minute slot in the ceremony, which will also feature David Beckham and Leona Lewis.

The 2.5m show starts with a red London double-decker bus driving around the Bird's Nest stadium.

Mr Soanes explained why the shipping forecast was popular with people who rarely ventured onto the waves.

"A lot of people don't understand the forecast, but to them it sounds like a piece of poetry," he said.

"I think it's comforting to people who don't understand the forecast, who are lying in bed, imagining these boats being tossed around in the sea, and snuggle down feeling glad to be in bed.

"It's just so bizarre that something so peculiarly British will be broadcast in the Olympic stadium. It will be absolutely amazing."

London's handover plans revealed
23 Aug 08 |  London 2012
Phelps to attend London handover
18 Aug 08 |  Olympics


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