In the best tradition of every sports story, my moment as part of 10,000 performing volunteers (1,000 in my sequence alone) in the Industrial Revolution sequence of the Opening Ceremony was merely the climax to a very long journey, way back in the first auditions last Autumn, through to tonight’s moment.
Along the way, there’s been heartbreak (my dearest wife was also accepted, but had her offer withdrawn due to visa restrictions), struggles (rehearsals every weekend since early May, mostly in a Dagenham car park), pain (my muscles seized up during one particularly intensive rehearsal to the point when it hurt to type for a week, and I’ve caught colds standing in the rain), stamina with 4 mile-walks back and forth across the Olympic Park, disappointment (my role in the ceremony amounted to lifting fences and turf in style!) and surprises (the turf we move get twice as heavy after it rains – and it’s rained a LOT during rehearsals!) not to mention a preview of the transport chaos.
It’s tested my patience with the constant changing of plans in the early days, and stamina with all the physical activity that’s been involved from the very beginning of the auditions – I’d never had to “walk with sass” before! There have been weeks when I’ve barely seen my family and friends with my work and Olympics commitments, and missed my son’s first steps as well as a friend’s son’s christening (sorry Matthew!)
The constant travel across London to the rehearsal venues has been a little wearing – although I stopped complaining when I realised a fellow volunteer had to fly in from the Falkland Islands every week! I’ve also missed out on opportunities to enhance my skills by volunteering at work for some of the Olympic duties, which has been annoying.
All this for an Oyster card, daily sandwich lunches – oh, and the chance to squeeze my theatrical performing urges in front of an audience of 60,000 and a TV audience between half a billion and four billion or so (depending on who you talk to).Some of the County Essex performing volunteers
It’s been an amazing journey, and one I’d do again in a heartbeat if I could. I’ve made friends with a totally random selection of fellow volunteers of the great British public, from 18-year-old students to retired PE teachers. We have a sense of purpose and unity that’s not often found in everyday life. We’ve laughed in the middle of the Olympic Stadium, cheered people on as they went on an impromptu run around the track, and cried at key moments of the Ceremonies – even when we’ve seen it three times already.Waiting to go on stage at the Opening Ceremony…
And that’s not to mention the indescribable feeling of walking on “stage” into a stadium filled with flashing cameras – a feeling that I am very unlikely to ever experience again.
Tonight, we feel a sense of elation that our families can now finally understand what we’ve been working towards for the last twelve weeks, tinged with a sense of sadness that this will be it for some of us. We’ve been given the opportunity to take part in other ceremonies, but personally, I think it’s time I came back to normality, and saw my son a bit more often.
But at least I can have a lunch that doesn’t involve Pringles crisps and crunchy bars!