Big Ben to chime at start of Games

Big Ben is to chime non-stop for three minutes to ring in the Olympic Games.

The London landmark will be joined by hundreds of churches and other organisations across the nation as bell ringers greet the official start of London 2012.

The hour bell of the landmark Palace of Westminster clock will begin chiming at 8.12am. It will peal 40 times over the following three minutes. Special permission had to be gained for the hour bell at the Palace of Westminster to be allowed to toll out of its regular sequence.

It is believed to be the first time that the strike of Big Ben has been rung outside its normal schedule since February 15 1952, when it tolled every minute for 56 strokes for the funeral of King George VI.

The bells at the National Assembly for Wales, Stormont in Northern Ireland and the Scottish Parliament will also ring so that all four Parliaments will be chiming in unison at 8.12am, London 2012 said.

The cacophony of sound is for the All The Bells event, the brainchild of Turner Prize-winning artist and musician Martin Creed who is encouraging everyone in the UK to ring a bell.

His piece of conceptual art, which has the official title Work No. 1197: All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes, was devised as part of the London 2012 Festival.

The ringing of Big Ben will be attended by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP, Lord Tony Hall, chair of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Board and bell ringers from a variety of organisations.

The bell on board the royal rowbarge Gloriana will also peal for three minutes as it processes down the Thames, carrying the Olympic flame and a ceremonial cauldron.

HMS Belfast will fire its canons in a countdown to 8.12am as 300 children, sea cadets, brownies and Town Criers gather on board to ring an assortment of bells.

Ruth Mackenzie, director of the London 2012 Festival, and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt will be joining the bell ringers on board.

Others taking part include The Royal Navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the British Army, the RAF, the National Trust, the National Theatre, the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers, the Royal British Legion and the Women’s Institute.

Tower Hamlets, one of six Olympics host boroughs, will ring in the changes as one of its councillors joins a Pearly Queen of Bow for a ding-dong at the historic Bow Church.

The traditional Cockney welcome with Councillor Rania Khan will be witnessed by the Rev Debbie Frazer, who is new at the church.

She said: “This will signify a celebration of a great international event and it is exciting that the church, having been here for 700 years and having rung bells on all sorts of occasions, will play a role.

“The Olympics will be in our prayers that it is a peaceful, joyful occasion for everyone from around the world.”

The full three-minute chime will be broadcast on BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 2 and every BBC local radio station across the UK and everyone is encouraged to join in and start ringing their own bells, London 2012 said. There is a potential live audience of more than 10 million people across the UK on TV, radio and online, estimates suggest.

Bells will be ringing everywhere from Britain’s northernmost inhabited house in Skaw in the Shetland Isles, to the UK’s most westerly church in Tresco in the Scilly Isles.

It aims to set a world record for the largest number of bells to be rung simultaneously and can include any from children with handbells, through people ringing bicycle bells and doorbells, to experienced change ringing experts of tower bells and church bells.

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