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More than 300 children from around the city joined in the piece, which celebrated the first day of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. There were Brownies, Scouts, Sea Cadets and girls and boys wearing traditional Bangladeshi costumes all taking part. Ruth Mackenzie, Director of the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival and Jeremy Hunt (the Minister for Culture, Olympics and Sport) also joined in, as did Channel 4 news anchor, Jon Snow.
At 8.12am, the ship’s cannon fired, and everyone on board rang their bells for three minutes. Across the UK, church bells, bicycle bells, door bells, mobile phones and more were rung for three minutes. Even the bells of Big Ben joined in; it’s the first time the clock’s bells have chimed anything other than the hour since 1952.
It sounded fantastic, and the children involved all had a great time. â€œIt was brilliant,â€ one Brownie told me. â€œI’m really excited about the Olympics now. My favourite event is the diving – I want Tom Daley to win!â€
“It was outstanding,” said Lee Harrison, 59, from Peckham, the Yeoman of HMS Belfast. â€œI’m quite taken aback, actually. I didn’t expect it to be as good as this! We’re a multicultural nation, and this’ll be a multicultural Games, bringing everybody together in peace and unity. And we’ve reflected that this morning. Getting the whole of Britain together to do this today is absolutely brilliant. As an ex-serviceman, I feel very honoured to be able to do this on the ship. But I’m going to have a serious lie-down now; I’m going to tell my wife to get the Radox out, cos my knees are aching!â€
Ruth Mackenzie also found it quite a tiring exercise: â€œI was in the middle of the huge crowd, I can scarcely hear a thing, and it’s quite hard work actually – a young child from Wales next to me said â€˜This is like a work out!’ and it was! It was quite good training.”
And what was the message of this mass bell ringing? â€œIt’s our welcome message. Our message that London is a fantastic place. A great place to live, to visit, and it welcomes people from all around the world as tourists, as partners; we’ve got artists from all around the world as part of the London 2012 Festival, and of course, to welcome the athletes who are about to take centre stage with the greatest show in the world.â€
Did you ring bells at 8.12 this morning? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.