At 9 p.m. tonight, a newly cast bell that is larger than Big Ben will ring out from London’s Olympic Stadium and the eyes of one billion people across the globe will be upon us.  But what will they see?  What does modern Britain look like?  Well, it’s a mix of things, many of them characteristics that we share with other countries.  But together we like to think they make up a pretty extraordinary whole.  The challenge for Danny Boyle, Artistic Director of tonight’s night’s Opening Ceremony, was to capture all this, with just three hours to portray the British people and our society to the world.  Whether he has achieved this or not, you will judge for yourselves.  But I hope that everyone of you watching will be able to take something away from it and think of Britain in a new light.

Danny’s vision for the ceremony came from thinking about the people of Britain: who we were, where we have come from, what our history and heritage is; and then who we are now and where we are going.  The UK has always been an open society.  It’s in our blood.  Sitting on one of the world’s crossroads, the British have always thrived on the exchange of goods, ideas and people.  Our openness has always influenced the way we connect with the world.  We have a long history of looking outwards and taking the global perspective, and we help other people connect too.  Our language, the product of centuries of influence, is used all over the world, and our greatest writers, poets and playwrights have left behind them a global birthright.  It is no secret that Danny’s concept was inspired by a speech in William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, nor that the first scenes you will see celebrate William Blake’s rural idyll of ‘England’s green and pleasant land’. 

Our deep roots give us enormous energy, and our lively origins as a nation of migrants express themselves in a continuing tradition of exploration, discovery and creativity.  So tonight’s ceremony will also be unpredictable and inventive.  It will reflect the rising urban population and life in Britain’s cities, as well as our traditional landscapes. 

London is the most cosmopolitan city in the world, home to communities - sometimes very large communities - from each of the competing nations, including over a million British Pakistanis. And this vibrant mixture means, it has made us open to the world - to new ideas, new experiences, new friendships. I’m sure your team will feel at home in London.

The vision of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is to use the power of the Games to inspire lasting change. LOCOG is committed to making sure that people from all faiths feel involved with the London 2012 Games and are able to take part.

There will be multi-faith centres/rooms in the Athletes villages, Stratford, Weymouth, Eton, Greenwich and a chaplaincy team available to all athletes and officials 24/7 during the games. This will include a full complement of Muslim Chaplains.

In addition to this, there will be a multi-faith room and chaplaincy team serving the international broadcast and press centre in the park and also the non-accredited press centre in London.  Each football hotel will be serviced by chaplains and a room is allocated in each hotel for multi-faith use and prayer.

LOCOG has engaged with the Muslim community about Ramazan on a regular basis over the past 3½ years, both through the Greater London Authority and through the Faith Reference Group.  This has taken the form of discussions with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) and other Muslim organisations at formal and informal meetings to find out which facilities and services are required to enable the observance of Ramazan.

When you watch the spectacle tonight night, I hope you will take away a snapshot of the heritage, diversity, energy and creativity that defines the modern United Kingdom and celebrates who we are as a people.  And when you listen to the sounds of the show, I hope you will take away a musical memory too, from the ringing of Europe’s largest bell to the soundtrack created by electronic music duo Underworld.  But above all, I hope you will see that the British people are incredibly proud to welcome the world, both this summer and in the future.  As Caliban says in ‘The Tempest’: “Be not afeared.  The isle is full of noises.”

n    The writer is British High Commissioner to Pakistan.