Despite 4,000 volunteers, ceremony still a secret

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Almost no one knows what’s going to happen at the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics.

The executive producer of the 4,000-person extravaganza couldn’t be happier.

“I have to say I’m very chuffed about that,” said David Atkins, who staged the opening of the 2000 Sydney Summer Games.

In one month, the world will be officially welcomed to Vancouver in a multimillion-dollar opening ceremony taking place indoors for the first time.

Atkins is working 20 hours day pulling together everything from logistics to administration, rehearsals with the cast have gone so well that some of them have been canceled.

“They’ve been great, they’ve been diligent, punctual and they’re, I have to say, probably the most enjoyable bunch of volunteers I’ve ever worked with,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“I think people have really bought into the fact that they don’t want to ruin the surprise. This is something that everyone is waiting for and if they know what it is, that is going to really diminish the experience for everyone.”

Atkins won’t confirm any details, but he did decide what would be in the ceremonies in part through consultations with 160 people in the cultural community, as well as First Nations. Atkins, an Australian, used the focus groups to determine what people did and did not want reflected in the spectacle.

“We’ve been quite ambitious about what we’re trying to do,” Atkins said. “So it hasn’t always been something that was readily assimilated by the audiences that we were proposing it to in the sense that it’s not a traditional ceremony.”

The head of the local organizing committee would only say it’s coming together the way they want.

“On February 12 you’ll be able to turn on your television at six o’clock and something pretty special is going to happen,” John Furlong told reporters at a news conference to mark the one-month countdown to the Games.

The only rules the International Olympic Committee places on an opening ceremony are those involving protocol — the march of athletes into the stadium, the release of doves, and the phrase: “Let the Games begin.”