My Olympic moment

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Posted 03 August 2012, 1 comment

Katie Evans from our DAP programme writes about what it was like to be in the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Katie in dressing room with other placard bearers

It’s 15.30 and I’ve just arrived at Olympic Stadium - we're staging the opening ceremony tonight! The atmosphere is already buzzing and as I prepare to take my customary trip through security I realise that after so many rehearsals this is my last time to grab a lunch bag, radio and official Olympics water bottle before the real, live event! 

Instead of being asked to walk through airport-style security I’m asked by an armed forces private to do my best dance move. A twirl is all I can come up with!

Heading across the park I try to take in all the sites – I’ve been so lucky to see the park and stadium before all the spectators arrive. I love the flower meadows that surround the venues. 

several dresses on racks'Everything is top secret'

As I head into the dressing room for the placard bearers – I am one of 205, each of us accompany a country’s delegation during the opening ceremony – I can see that security is even higher than usual. We are under the royal box, and all the dignitaries and celebrities are arriving through the doors right behind us (which are blacked out, unfortunately). 

I take my chance to have a last sneaky peek inside the stadium. Even though I have seen it many times before during rehearsals there is something special about today and the presence of journalist and media teams from around the world makes sure I don’t forget that this time it’s for real. 

The stadium is all set up for the pre-show – lots of people scurry around like ants setting things up. The press are in their official waistcoats. I had spoken to German TV the night before but couldn’t tell them a thing – everything is top secret! There are lots of security officers and after a quick photo and chance to look at the bell we are quickly ushered back into our dressing room. 

Katie Evans in her placard-bearer dress'Don’t touch the dress! Step away from the dress!'

Although I don’t go out until 23.00 – I’m accompanying athletes and delegates from Guinea – I have to start straight away on my hair and makeup so that the professionals can check it and make their adjustments in time. It takes a long time to get 205 girls through hair and makeup! 

Now that my hair is scrapped into a high bun and my face is covered in makeup and some rather scary looking false eyelashes it’s time to get dressed in the special dress for placard bearers. You would think that getting dressed shouldn’t be too difficult - but with a corset-tight harness restricting your movement and strict instructions ringing in my ears not to ruin my hair or get makeup on the dress, the process is quite daunting. 

How many people does it take to get one girl into a dress? Three, actually, and one cloth bag over my face (to keep my make-up in place). Now that I’m ready to go all that I can do is wait and, of course, eat (but only with an overlarge poncho on).

When the show started the whole stadium roared and our dressing room erupted with shrieks! I was excited but not nervous.  We spent a lot of the time sitting on the floor trying to peer up at the stadium to catch glimpses of the show. My boyfriend came to find me just before he went out for the industrial revolution section - he is playing one of the workers - and when someone from the wardrobe department saw us, they shouted 'Don’t touch the dress! Step away from the dress!'

Katie and her boyfriend smile for the camera

'Now I am ready'

At 22.15 my number is called and I make my way to meet the athletes just before we walk into the stadium.

I wait in line before my Guinea sign is attached to my harness, and as I wind my way around the queue I am checked, double-checked and checked again by hair, makeup and costume.  The straps on my shoes are cut and tapped and my earpiece is stuck in place – now I really am ready for the off.

Finally as I reach the front of the queue I meet the athletes from Guinea. I have a brief 30 seconds to ask the flag bearer to follow my pace and then we’re off out into the crowds walking to the beat of the music. (You can watch their entrance.)

From then on it’s all a bit of a blur! I see the lights, I hear the cheers and I focus on the music while, by way of an earpiece, the cast coordinator dictates our pace. I hear her say 'Guatemala, speed up!' as our groups get a little too close. An athlete runs round to the front to take a picture of Guinea’s flag bearer but luckily ran back and fell in line. 

When we reach the hill topped with the tree, the athletes file into the centre and I take the flag bearer to plant the flag on the hill and then it’s over.  

Even now, a week after the event I can’t believe it was me walking out at a home Olympics in front of the watching world. I had an amazing experience and can still see the fireworks flashing before my eyes.

By Katie Evans, Senior Project Worker at our Disability Advocacy Programme

Read more

Katie and the Guinean athletes arrive

Watch Katie carry the placard for Guinea on the BBC website (the programme will begin playing a few seconds before Katie and the athletes and delegates from Guinea appear).

Katie Evans walking with athletes in the Olympics' opening ceremony


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Comments

Who designed the name bearer dresses??

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