27th July 2012.
7 years in the making.
The world watched as London got ready to perform during the Olympics & Paralympics. And perform it did.
I adore athletics. And the Olympics. Proud of being a Londoner born and bred. Having the Olympics in my hometown is a dream come true.
Everyone has their personal experiences of loving the Olympics, so I won’t share all of mine.
As 2012 draws to a close, here’s some of my highlights.
Olympic Opening Ceremony Volunteer Performer
It was a difficult few months trying to fit work in and to begin with my London Marathon, but from being cast this January, I was ecstatic at the chance to perform at London 2012′s opening ceremony. The days leading upto showtime were highly pressurised, trying to juggle my paid job with the ever-intense weight of opening the show and the rules and regulations we had to abide by…it was all I could do to not want to go in a cave until the 27th July. But, WOW, what an experience! Truly proud to have performed in ‘Thanks Tim’ in a tribute to Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world-wide-web, dancing in London throughout the ages. This pic was minutes from bursting through trap door 10 below the middle of the stage, and reminds me of making friends with the other lovely volunteers who alos worked so hard, and how exciting it was to perform to billions…London, the hub of the world right then!
Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony attempted to tell the story of Britain revealing a country forged in the actions of ordinary people. Carrying the Olympic Flag to it’s pole, the traditionally symbolic bearers included Muhammad Ali, Ban Ki-moon (the UN secretary general), Ethiopian athletics veteran Haile Gebrselassie, Shami Chakrabati (director of Liberty), Sally Becker (known as the Angel of Mostar), Marina Silva (who has fought against the destruction of the rainforest), Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee (who has worked to try and end Liberia’s civil war), and musician Daniel Barenboim. But the most emotional moment was seeing Doreen Lawrence. Her son Stephen was infamously murdered in 1994 by racists, the investigation of which was heavily flawed and full of difficulties, leading to the first time reports labelled much of the police as ‘institutionally racist’, setting about key changes in the way crime was reported and significant areas in the judiciary system. Doreen led much of this change, campaigning tirelessly so that her son’s death, something that could never be equalised, was not in vein and so that his memory lived on, in the Stephen Lawrence Foundation and beyond.
Super Thursday Paralympics
It’s difficult to say my favourite part of the Games. The ticketing purchasing was genuinely designed to be fair and give priority to Londoners, but the overloaded servers turned it a nightmare. Having got nothing the first time round, Greco-Roman Wrestling & Beach Volleyball in the second chance window, I was delighted to get a the Gymnastics All-Around Men’s Final a few months before the Olympics. But my ‘holy grail’ was getting the Men’s 100m Final. I couldn’t rest until I did! And finally, and with days to go, albeit through an expensive hotel package deal with Thomas Cook (although 50% cheaper than a few days before!), I got 2 tickets. Seeing Usain Bolt, Christine Ohurogu, Robbie Grabarz and more were awe-inspiring, as were the other events and also the many free events like the Triathlon. But I wanted to share a Paralympics moment. I got tickets to the Opening Ceremony and an Excel Day pass for power-lifting, boccia and more, but delighted to get 3 different athletics events…and way before the bandwagon jumpers during the 2 weeks! Including on Super Thursday 6th September, ParalympicsGB won silver (*just* pipped to gold in the last minutes!) in the discus with Dan Greaves, and gold for sprinters Hannah Cockroft & Jonnie Peacock and long-distancer David Weir.
From the epic, fantastical wonderland of Danny Boyle’s Great Britain, to the Olympic Closing Ceremony musical jamboree. Showcasing the best of British talent…One Direction, Jessie J, Kate Bush, David Bowie, George Michael, Tinie Tempah, Taio Cruz, Annie Lennox, Spice Girls, Pet Shop Boys, The Kinks, Emile Sande, Elbow, The Who and many more. Some thought it low-production value, but it was unashamed pop at it’s best, ‘A Symphony of British Music, the party to end all parties after the greatest Olympic show yet.
Liu Xiang’s Tragedy
China’s premier track and field athlete won gold in Athens 2004 (China’s first ever athletics gold), but was cruelly denied a chance to defend his 110m title title on home ground in Beijing 2008 when he pulled out due to an achilles injury. London 2012 and the pressure was on. Weeks before, he had pulled out of the Diamond League London Grand Prix which was on his 29th birthday, due to muscle pain. During the London 2012 110m heats, he sadly crashed at the first hurdle due to the achilles injury. But rather than pull out, he was determined to finish the race. Hobbling along unhelped, he hopped all the way the final hurdle, kissed it, and then crossed the finishing line, being met by fellow athletes. Leaving the track in a wheelchair, Feng Shuyong, the head of China’s track team, was quoted by state media as saying, ”What Liu Xiang did today reflected the true Olympics spirit…winning is not so important, participation is what matters.”
Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Attar makes history
Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Attar made history in the 800m heats by becoming the first woman from her country to compete in athletics at the Olympic Games. Though finishing last 43 seconds behind the heat winner Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei (although 1500m is Sarah’s forte), the 80,00 strong crowd cheered her finish. Attar, who holds Saudi Arabian and American dual nationality, told the BBC that she competed “to make a difference” and hopes “it sparks something amazing”.
Friendly Passengers & Selfless Volunteers
Forever seen as an unsocial passage through the rat-race, commuters and more revelled in the Olympic spirit, and one of the enduring memories of London 2012 were all and sundry socialising with those from all over the world about winning, losing, origins, opinions…and sharing in the human spirit. Even the train drivers were full of joy! And the games wouldn’t have been the same without all the friendly games makers, many of them volunteers, in their tell-tale uniform, helping make London 2012 the success it was.
The Armed Forces
Although G4 security staff did their bit as well as they could, the shortfall resulting in the unfulfilled promises by management meant there was a huge last-minute void. The armed forces kindly stepped in, and the gents and ladies proved how serviceable they were by being the perfect hosts to the world, making GB proud. Bravo them!
One of the many volunteering opportunities was to welcome the Olympians and their teams to London Heathrow, London 2012′s official airport. After a few training sessions including being informed on different terminal’s structures and being issued an airside security pass, shifts to welcome the arrivals ranged from 6 hours to 8 hours, starting from 4am up to midnight! It was great to meet the different athletes from different countries. I was proud to volunteer, in spite of trekking over 2 hours from one side of London to the west! All volunteers got this lovely official regulation IAAF momento baton from the government too.