UK & World News
Olympic Festival Kicks Off Countdown To Games
A "once in a lifetime" arts festival has launched with a bang to mark the countdown to the Olympic Games.
The first events in the 12-week festival included fireworks in the Lake District, a performance by a symphony orchestra and a Peace One Day concert in Northern Ireland, introduced by Jude Law and featuring Pixie Lott, Newton Faulkner and Imelda May.
It marks the end of the Cultural Olympiad, a four-year programme which has been promoting and celebrating the arts since 2008.
There are 12,000 events involving 25,000 artists from all the competing Olympic nations.
Highlights include the Radio 1 Hackney Weekend featuring more than 100 acts including Jay Z, Rihanna and Jessie J, a showcase at the Royal Opera House involving 300 performers who have experienced homelessness, and the unveiling of Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace art installation at outdoor venues across the UK.
Sir Tony Hall, the chairman of the Cultural Olympiad, told Sky News: "The cultural festival is about showcasing the very best of arts and culture from around the world but also from this country.
"It's something this country does really well, we're a creative country so to put on alongside the sport something we are a class act at is an enormous opportunity."
Sir Tony added: "Up and down the country we hope people will get interested in things they don't know about, they will try something new and find something which will excite them for the rest of lives."