Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Olympic Arts Festival - as Ancient as Games ; Arts and Culture Will Get Their Moment of Glory before the Sports Events Begin

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Olympic Arts Festival - as Ancient as Games ; Arts and Culture Will Get Their Moment of Glory before the Sports Events Begin

Article excerpt

The last thing Leo Schofield wants to do is compete head-on with the Olympic Games. The director of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival describes his event as a pendant on the full necklace of the Games, but adds, "It can be a quite glittering object in itself."

To create this multifaceted jewel, the festival will bring together more than 3,000 visual and performing artists from around the world. The six-week cultural program begins Aug. 18, a month before the sports take center stage.

"We wanted to be a little quirky," says Mr. Schofield during a carefully scheduled block of time at his busy office, just a few blocks from the Sydney Opera House. "The program ranges from [opera singer Andrea] Bocelli and the Afro-Cuban All Stars up to a megaversion of Mahler's Symphony No. 8.... I think you'd have to be a confirmed couch potato not to find something you'd want to attend."

Although many people are oblivious to the arts component of the Olympics, Schofield says, it's as ancient as the Games themselves. "You could have won a laurel wreath - the laurel wreath was the gold medal - for poetry as well as discus throwing."

In modern times, part of the mandate for the host city is to throw an arts extravaganza not just once, but four times. These are meant "to keep the country aware that the Olympics are coming there, as a prequel, if you like, for the actual Games."

In 1997, for instance, The Festival of the Dreaming highlighted indigenous artists, and in 1999, Australian performers toured internationally.

Among the new commissions for the culminating festival in 2000, choreographer Lloyd Newson will bring his British DV8 Physical Theatre dance company to his native Australia for "FunnyLand." Audiences will become part of the show as they are led past rides and along bouncing floors to the central performance area in a historic Sydney amusement park. The Dead Sea Scrolls will be on display for the first time in Australia. And the Art Gallery of New South Wales is planning a major Aboriginal art exhibit (see story below).

Another highlight will be the performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 8 in the SuperDome, which will pool the talents of 1,000 musicians and singers. After the concert, gymnastics and basketball competitions will be held in the 21,000-seat stadium.

Under the category of quirky, Schofield describes a weekend outdoor event called Hemispheres: "It will be somewhere between a funky big rock concert and a world-music festival - with artists from Turkey, subversive Pakistani rock musicians from Britain doing anarchic songs, and . …

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