10th May 2016

Ringing for the Olympic Games

In summer 2012 the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games will be held in London, with some events at other venues. Ringers across the UK will use public ringing to mark the Olympics, and to celebrate the unique cultural heritage of English style ringing.

When to ring

You can ring any time during the Olympic year, but dates of particular note are:

  • 19 May to 27 July – The Olympic Torch travels round the country:
    It will pass through over 1000 communities, with overnight events in a different town or city each day. Ring when the torch is near you. See more about Ringing for the Olympic Torch Relay
  • 27 July to 12 August – The Olympic Games:
    Ring for the opening or closing ceremonies, or for particular events.
  • 24 to 29 August – The Paralympic Torch Relay:
    Flame lighting ceremonies and other events in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff & Belfast (24-27). Combined flame lighting ceremony at Stoke Mandeville (28). Arrival at the Games (28-29).
  • 29 August to 9 September – The Paralympic Games:
    Ring for the opening or closing ceremonies, or for particular events.

For most events, the time of day you ring is likely to be determined by your local situation, but if the Torch passes within earshot of your tower, you should try to ring as it does so.

What to ring

You can ring whatever your band is capable of, but there are some special methods that are particularly appropriate.

Five Rings – Where possible, you should try to ring Five Rings Triples (or Five Rings Doubles in a 5 or 6 bell tower) at some time during the Olympic year. The method has been specially composed for the Olympics by the musician Howard Skempton, working with the Central Council. The ‘Five Rings’ in the title symbolises the Olympic logo, and also reflects the fact that the Treble strikes five blows in 3rds when hunting up and 5 blows in 5ths hunting down. That unusual feature of the Treble’s path is what generates the method’s unique musical character.

The method is intended for short performances of 3 courses (3×132=396 changes) rather than peals or quarter peals. The structure makes a peal impossible. The method should be within the reach of many bands, but the subtle differences can trip you up, so practice it well ahead of when you plan to perform it. Read the story of Five Rings Triples.

Learning Five Rings – The method is much easier to learn and ring if you understand how it works and learn it thoroughly. For a special occasion it is worth the effort to get it right. There is an article to help you learn it, see Beyond The Learning Curve – 4.

Olympic methods – There are also some methods with Olympic in their name. Those named so far include Olympic Differential Doubles, Olympic Surprise Major, Olympic Delight Royal, and Olympic Delight Maximus, but others may be named during the year. Conventional methods can of course be rung to peals, quarter peals or shorter touches to mark significant Olympic events.

Other – Bells can be used in other ways than conventional ringing to ‘make a noise’. Most ringers may not wish to do this, but if your church approves, your local residents are likely to receive it positively, and your ringers are willing, then you can do more or less whatever you want, for example the Olympic Organising Committee is promoting Martin Creed’s “Work No, 1197: All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes” at 0800BST on 27 July. This has received a lot of media coverage, possibly because the Council declined to promote it. For more information, see the President’s October blog post.

Where to ring

Obviously you will ring in your own tower whenever appropriate, but there might be occasions when there is an opportunity to ring somewhere else. For example:

  • If your tower is not on the Olympic Torch route, but a neighbouring tower is, then do they need your support to ensure that they can put on a good performance at the required time? (Find out what the organisers are planning.)
  • If there is an Olympic event (for example at one of the overnight stops) in your town but not near the church, would there be an opportunity to hire a mini-ring so you can be part of the action?

Sharing your plans

If you are planning anything other than ‘normal ringing’ ie peals, quarter peals or short touches, would your idea be of interest to other ringers? If you have met some problems and found a way round them, could your experience help other people in a similar situation? If so, then you can share your ideas via this website:

As well as sharing ideas with other ringers:

  • Talk to your local council about its planned Olympic events, and whether ringing could be part of them
  • Talk to other groups in your church about what they are doing related to the Olympics
  • Look at how churches and communities are engaging with the Olympics at More Than Gold

News about Olympic Ringing

Press releases:

See how the story of ringing for the Olympics evolved:

For other news coverage, see:

Ringing for other public events

As well as the Olympics, there are many other events to ring for, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

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