Posted: 05 August 2016

Looking back at the London Olympics

Soon we’ll be celebrating the start of the Rio Olympics Games and over in The Children’s Society offices we can’t help but get nostalgic for that glorious summer in 2012. Nothing sparked national pride quite like the UK opening ceremony in London.

Hurray for the British countryside! Hurray for the Beatles! Hurray for the Queen jumping out of a helicopter!

For one member of the our team, the nostalgia has been extra strong as she was actually at the event itself. So while we all pour some coffee and wait for the Brazilian sequel, here’s her account of that magical night:

It’s 15.30 and I’ve just arrived at Olympic Stadium. 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 I’m going to grab a lunch bag, radio and official Olympics water bottle before the real, live event! 

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.

'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.

I take my chance to have a last sneaky peek inside the stadium. Even though I’ve 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.

'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! 

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!'

'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.

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.  

I had an amazing experience and can still see the fireworks flashing before my eyes.

By Katie Evans - Programme staff