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 that up.
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 20 seconds.
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.