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The body doesn’t quite forget…

The body doesn’t quite forget…

So, you may not know (and if you don’t know, I’m amazed, it’s usually the third most interesting fact about myself I unselfishly volunteer without being asked), but I was a performer at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, which was roughly two years ago yesterday.

So, anyway, in a way of a minor celebration/salute, I decided to put on the key musical track And I Will Kiss today in the office. At the key drumbeat points, my body somehow remembered that I was meant to DO something, but my conscious brain couldn’t actually remember what.

That didn’t seem to matter to my body, which KNEW it had to do something and so … well, if you’d been staring at me in the office, you’d have seen my arms and elbows raising from the keyboard for one second in an extra-ordinarily unchoreographed movement, because darn it the arms and elbow just KNEW it had to do something…

Will the body ever forget these movements from 2012 ?!

My part in the Olympics London 2012 opening ceremony…

My part in the Olympics London 2012 opening ceremony…

Me in costume at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony
Me in costume at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony

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Along the way, there’s been heartbreak (my dearest wife was also accepted, but had her offer withdrawn due to visa restrictions), struggles (rehearsals every weekend since early May, mostly in a Dagenham car park), pain (my muscles seized up during one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).

County Essex! 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!

Performing in front of 60,000 people…

Performing in front of 60,000 people…

At the dress rehearsal for the London 2012 opening ceremony A crowd of 60,000 people at a dress rehearsal for the London 2012 opening ceremony (via @2012govuk on Twitter)

So as you may not have noticed, I’m one of the performing volunteers for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, in front of a total of 200,000 people in the stadium over three nights, and one billion TV viewers worldwide. Which, oddly, isn’t that daunting – probably because I’ve got a relatively small role.

You won’t get any particular spoilers from me (unless you want to know precisely where I’ll be, in which case just ask!) – but you may want to carve out 90 minutes of your life on Friday to watch the ceremony. I’ve seen most of it four times, and there are bits that still manage to either draw out a small tear. Or have me playing air synth with gusto.

So get in front of your TV just before 9pm UK time (or 4pm New York, 1pm California time). You’ll love it, I promise.

Boycotting Beijing – why ?!

Boycotting Beijing – why ?!

During the media hullabaloo about Chinese bodyguards over-zealously protecting the Olympic flame in London against Tibet protestors, I managed to keep my mouth shut. I agree the Chinese government is treating Tibet in a disgusting way indeed – but you know what? Name me a country that’s hosted the Olympics that has a lily-white human rights record. Aside from Canada. But I’m not expecting to see Iraqi/Iranian/Irish protestors trying to blow out the Olympic torch when it arrives in London in 2012. Why not?

The media hype and protests seemed to die down in the wake of the Chinese earthquakes in May (disappointingly named in the American fashion – 05/12 – but that’s another blog post), and as the Olympics hype machine gets into full swing (by dragging up painful memories from my past), these protests seem to have been quietly forgotten. Which I think is reasonable – everyone’s had their say, can we please now get on with the illusion of world peace through sportsmanlike competition?

But no. I spent my Saturday night reinstalling Vista (hey, the next three summer weekends will be spent drowning myself in alcohol in a theatre, a wedding in a castle and a park) and reinstalling software programs. Except when I came to using my usual text editor of choice and got told instead to Boycott Beijing, on the grounds of their suppression of the rights of cyber-journalists. Which is all fine, well and good – except I’m pretty sure the rights of journalists are being suppressed everywhere – even in the United States.

Besides, how can one person who wants to use a text editor Boycott Beijing? By not watching it on TV? By ignoring one of the few occasions when the world does genuinely get together?

So I’m doing my own, equally pointless bit of politicization – by boycotting Notepad++ because they’re telling me to do something. What next? Google advising people to give up smoking?

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