'Why I'll cherish being part of 2012 opening ceremony'
Published: 28th Jul 2012 11:08:39
Up to a billion people worldwide watched the London 2012 opening ceremony along with 80,000 in the Olympic Stadium. Here volunteer performer Neil Smith tells what it was like to be part of the Danny Boyle-directed spectacular.
It was an incredible feeling to walk out into the Olympic Stadium on Friday knowing the world was watching.
Yet I and the hundreds of others taking part in the Pandemonium section had a job to do and our minds were fixed upon it.
In my case, that job was playing one of the Working Men and Women charged with tearing up England's "green and pleasant land" and erecting an industrial landscape in its place.
Marching in time to a "click track" piped into our ears through in-ear monitors, we set about the task with gusto.
To the casual observer, ripping up turf, removing fences and dragging off hedgerows might not seem sophisticated.
Yet finding the most time-efficient way to "strike" our respective "counties" involved many hours of laborious trial and error.
It was vital that scenery was removed quickly from trap doors beneath which chimney stacks and beam engines were waiting to emerge.
We also had to deal with a rogue element - droppings left by animals involved in the 50-minute "pre-show" depicting bucolic country life.
I am sure I was not the only participant grateful for the gloves and sturdy work boots we had all been assigned.
The rest of my costume? A weathered shirt, hessian trousers, leather belt and cap.
With my unshaven cheeks blackened with soot, I resembled how Gavroche from Les Miserables might have looked had he made it to middle age.
The nervous tension was palpable as we waited behind curtains to make our entrance, shortly after 21:00 BST.
Technical rehearsals held earlier this week had steeled us for appearing in front of an audience, but this was a different ball game.
So much to remember, so much to forget - not least the choreography we had all been taught by Toby Sedgwick, "movement director" of War Horse and Boyle's production of Frankenstein.
It was a swine to get right. When enacted en masse, though, it created a potent image of a digging, hammering army working in synchronous harmony.
There were other factors to deal with. A Caribbean steel band. A cottage on castors. A papier-mache mock-up of the Windrush.
There was also the spine-tingling "poppy moment", a brief hiatus of activity in tribute to those who have fallen on foreign fields.
Small wonder that it all went by in a blur. Indeed, it was only when I saw a recording later that I realised I'd been caught on camera.
The set-piece of our section was the "forging" of the Olympic rings that culminated in a pyrotechnic shower from the heavens.
Being able to witness this astonishing moment of epic theatricality is something I will always cherish.
We then soaked up the applause, took our bows and made a hasty exit up the aisles so the rest of the production could continue.
As I walked back to our holding pen I passed the Athlete's Parade, a huge conga line that stretched across the Olympic Park as far as the eye could see.
As I write this I feel an enormous sense of pride to have played a role, however small, in such a memorable and dazzling occasion.
And if anybody ever doubts me, I have a certificate, my costume and my name in the programme to prove it.
Yet what I will also take away from this experience is the camaraderie, commitment and enthusiasm displayed by everyone involved in this gargantuan enterprise.
Together we put on one hell of a show.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. 'Why I'll cherish being part of 2012 opening ceremony' [Online] (Updated 28th Jul 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1443232/Why-Ill-cherish-being-part-of-2012-opening-ceremony [Accessed 11th Mar 2014]
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With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
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