The one that I was in?!
After trying for tickets in all
the events, opening ceremony, diving, cycling track, 100m final, closing
ceremony, all seemed lost and that it was unlikely that I was going to make it
to the Olympic Park for London 2012.
Sat at my desk covered in
headshots, and a pile of casting admin to do, an email came through from my
housemate with the subject line… “Be in London 2012”. A link in the email
opened up to audition for one of the thousands of roles in the Olympic opening
and closing ceremonies.
Filling out a comprehensive
online application form, making small lies about my abilities to horse ride,
fire eat and rollerblade… oh come on we’ve all done it, I clicked send and
waited. I had “retired” from performing but I thought it would be selfish to
hide away when the country needs me, I mean I was the giraffe that couldn’t
dance in “Giraffe’s Can’t Dance”, *takes a bow and offers autographs*.
After waiting a long time, and
trying to desperately encourage some of my friends to give it a go too, in
which none took my offer, I had my first audition. Rummaging through an old box
of Pineapple dancewear (I’m joking – or am I??!) I was mortified that the
audition would be 25 stops on the district line away from my house in
Bromley-by-Bow, and what a nice place that is. However when you’re holding mass
auditions for a project on this scale the epic film studios at Three Mills
where the whole Larkhall Prison was created for Bad Girls, is just the kind of
thing you need.
Five hours later, with a lot of freestyle
dancing emulating my best sweaty club moves without the aid of alcohol, becoming
best friends with a gaggle of middle aged women who thought my hair was
adorable whilst reminding them of their own boy at home, I was back on the tube
home and in my element.
Second round, and I can’t quite
believe it, gone are all my mumsy friends and I find myself in a room of
younger youth… it’s hard to make crap jokes when surrounded by people who were
born in the 90’s. To make it worse the routine has jumped from a simple box
step and a grapevine to moves I have only seen Diversity do on Britain’s got
Talent… right at this moment I can hear Amanda Holden stamping big red crosses
across my face. Upon leaving the studios with some 400 others, I make a call to
the parents to say that my Olympic Dream is probably over and I don’t expect to
hear from them again…. All I wanted to do was wave a flag!
A good six to eight weeks pass,
in this time I’ve applied to be a Games maker, London Ambassador, General
Olympic Fluffer!! the idea of not being involved has oddly become a bit of an
obsession but the rejection felt too raw, the final nail in the coffin of my
big comeback that only weeks ago wasn’t an option. Then I received an email…
“we’d like to offer you a role in the London 2012 Opening Ceremony in the role
of Amazing Dancer”. I must stress that Mr Boyle wrote “Amazing” I didn’t make
Armed with my leg warmers, dance
shoes, and jock strap – too much?, I took myself off to my first rehearsal.
Upon arrival, and waiting in a
queue that stretched nearly as far as the long walk from the station I appeared
to be a good 12 years older than the children
around me. After sending several texts to friends saying there’s been a huge
mistake I realise that actually I’ve been stood in the wrong queue and of
course I wouldn’t necessarily be working with a group of young “superstars”. A
quick sideline took me into a room where I was one of the oldest…. but not a
whole decade older.
5 punishing hours later, when I’m usually sat with a glass of vino
watching the Oliviers I fear there has been a mix up of numbers at the audition
and some other person should be in my place. Cast as a street dancer and
having a team of “uber” cool dance captains with names I could never pull off spending
the afternoon trying to get this ginger haired lad to loosen up and throw away
any inhibitions of getting my “groove on” in order to perform for the Queen and
the rest of the world.
Despite the fear, and many
friends asking me “what the hell are you doing”, I kept on trekking out at the
weekend to Bromley-by-Bow, then to the secret outdoor rehearsal venue in
Dagenham, secret because you wouldn’t want anyone to know that’s where you were
spending your weekends, before finally joining forces with the entire group,
some 10,000 volunteers for rehearsals in the Olympic Stadium.
Spending my days working in a
production office, I couldn’t help but think about the sheer scale of this
project, this Olympic operation. 10,000 people, 10,000 Costumes, 10,000 people
to teach a routine to, 10,000 to tell how to exit, and that’s just the
performers let alone the thousands of athletes, a helicopter with a skydiving
Queen in it, the huge lighting design and a huge theatre set within the
temporary stage. It all starts to get a bit too much.
128 hours of rehearsal later, on
top of the day job and juggling moving house, I’m sat in costume in the Olympic
Park with new friends thinking it’s likely after this performance I’ll be the
new George Sampson. The 30 minute walk from our holding area to the stage felt
extremely overwhelming, triumphant almost, the site of all these normal people
in a variety of wacky costumes about to perform for over a billion people… it
was here, it was about to happen.
The energy of walking back stage
of the Olympic Stadium, listening to 80,000 people cheering, laughing and
applauding the scene before, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever have that feeling
again, as the curtain flew open and the “voice” in our headsets cued our group
we stepped out into an arena with an atmosphere which, if could have been collected
would have powered London for the next 2 years.
A blink of the eye, and 20 minutes felt like
People of all backgrounds and
nationalities, Lawyers, Students, Project Managers, Nurses, Police Officers,
Charity Workers, we were all here and under direction of Danny Boyle, a man who
made everyone feel a part of the whole process with his down to earth personal
approach that brought the whole group together and feel proud to represent
their country. It sounds horrifically cheesy, and it’s the stuff American TV is
fuelled upon, but the feeling of euphoria as we left the stadium, seeing the
faces of the crowd as we exited through the stand became overwhelming, and as a
friend who three months ago our paths would have never of crossed hugged me,
the tears just started to fall.
I quickly realised that street
dancers don’t cry and so readjusting my pants I got my swagger on to join the
rest of the crew for a night out of celebration. We had done it and from the
reaction of twitter and the newspapers, the world had loved it. The night
involved a group of us recreating our moves to the delight of commuters at
Oxford Circus, a flash mob I would never of thought I’d be a part of. I also
received many a text and phone call of excitable friends who had screamed at
the TV as a glimpse of my backside had made the broadcast… not quite the side I
wanted to show with the world, but broadcast all the same.
Three days later I am sat back in
the office chair, waiting for the call to be in the next Dizzee Rascal video,
or for Diversity to offer me a place in their crew… they haven’t rung yet, but
I know they will.