, LONDON, Jul 27 – Britain’s culture minister Jeremy Hunt joined in a bout of Olympic bell-ringing on Friday with so much enthusiasm that his bell flew off its handle into the crowd behind him.
Hunt was speaking just before the clanger about how he would handle any mishaps during the Games, which kick off on Friday with the opening ceremony.
“When there are things that don’t go according to plan, London will cope, in the way it always has,” said Hunt, the minister in charge of the Olympics.
“There’s a huge amount to get right. There are always going to be one or two teething problems.”
Seconds later, a television crew asked him to ring a large handbell – following the example of hundreds of bell-ringers who sent peals across Britain on Friday morning to welcome the Games.
Grasping it by the handle, Hunt gave it a few vigorous shakes before it broke, sending the heavy metal part flying into a group of women behind him.
“Ooh my goodness me, are you alright? There we are. We nearly had a terrible moment there. Health and safety,” he gabbled, hurrying over to the women. “Are you OK? Right, OK, there we are, disaster averted.”
The incident caused a small storm of bell-related jokes on Twitter, while Hunt himself laughed off the incident.
“Oops bell broke,” he tweeted, while forwarding video of the incident to more than 25,000 followers. “No one hurt but classic #twentytwelve moment,” he wrote, in a reference to a British TV comedy about the run-up to the Olympics.
The minister later told the BBC: “I was ringing a bell in a very excited way and it collapsed in my hand and went flying off.”
Hunt’s red-faced moment followed an attempt early Friday to set a world record for the largest number of bells rung simultaneously.
In Westminster, Big Ben chimed for three minutes from 8:12am (0712 GMT) to ring in the Olympics, 12 hours ahead of pre-ceremony entertainment scheduled to start at the symbolic time of 20:12.
Organisers have insisted London is ready despite a series of glitches, including the showing of South Korean flags next to North Korea’s women footballers and a security company’s failure to provide thousands of guards.