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Artists Preview London Cultural Olympiad in New York

An early artistic rendering of an installation piece by the artist's collective "YesYesNo" at Hadrian's Wall in England. It is one American contribution to this summer's London 2012 Festival.

The eyes of the world will be on London in late July for the start of the Summer Olympic Games. But cultural enthusiasts say the London 2012 Festival, a three-month-long arts and performance event linked to the Olympic Games, promises to be every bit as ambitious and exciting. Participating artists and journalists gathered Wednesday at New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel to talk about the event.

Festival director Ruth Mackenzie said 25,000 artists, representing all 204 countries participating in the Olympics, will host 12,000 events in 900 venues across the United Kingdom. She said the event has traditionally been connected with the famed international athletic contest.

"This festival goes back to ancient Greece, where artist and athletes were both equal," Mackenzie explained. "They both competed in the Olympics. Actually, artists kept getting medals until the Olympics of 1948. And we want to have a festival, where artists and athletes and learning are the three equal pillars."

Mackenzie said artists and athletes train hard, take risks, and strive "to go beyond their personal best" to achieve excellence.

"And I think it's important that we recognize that athletes and artists are both equal in their ability to inspire and amaze us," she said.

A dance called "The Human Fountain," produced American choreographer Elizabeth Streb was featured in a video presentation. Thuds could be heard as dancers fell safely from a great height. Streb's group spent the past two years planning and developing its acrobatic city-wide contributions to the London 2012 Festival.

"And it is a series of extreme surprises that will be a 'pop-up' bunch of events on this one day, from dawn to midnight," explained Streb. "And I am inventing things that I have never before even imagined the body could do."

Several British-American projects are planned. The Wooster Group, an experimental theater group in New York known for combining film, video and non-traditional elements, will perform Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida" with the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Wooster Group will play the Trojans in its own style, and the Royal Shakespeare Company will play the Greeks in its traditional style.