As the Summer Olympic Games opens today in London, church bells across Britain rang out to signal the final countdown to this evening's ceremony.
London's Big Ben rang for a full three minutes a little after 8 a.m. local time, and was joined by churches across the country. Reuters reported that churches from the Diocese of Sodor and Man and a host of others across the British Isles rang along with Ben Ben in an idea inspired by Turner Prize-winning conceptual artist Martin Creed.
"We all know that Martin Creed's project is a very late-planned event and that it should have been thought of much sooner but there's no point being silly: life's too short!" said Bishop of Sodor and Man Robert Paterson. Creed's idea, given the rather straight-forward title of "Work No. 1197: All The Bells In A Country Rung As Quickly And As Loudly As Possible For Three Minutes."
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All four British Parliaments also joined in with the bell-ringing, and so did British Embassies around the world, stretching as far as Bangladesh – by all accounts, it is a day when all of the U.K. seeks to be as one and join in the celebrations.
The bell-ringing composition is set to heighten excitement as billions around the world are expected to tune in for the opening ceremonies at the main Olympic stadium in London Friday, where 60,000 people in attendance will watch an opening event that British Prime Minister David Cameron has described as "spine-tingling".
"There is a huge sense of excitement and anticipation because Britain is ready to welcome the greatest show on Earth," Cameron has said. "This is a great moment for our country so we must seize it."
The Opening Ceremony is expected to be live at around 4 p.m. ET (but broadcast on NBC at 7:30 p.m.) or 9 p.m. London time.
Watch a video compilation of the church bells ringing: