These statements don’t often get thrown together in a sentence. Let me explain!
I am completely obsessed with the Olympics. I vividly remember the Barcelona Olympics, when I was 13 years old. I love the celebration of pure determination, talent and endurance. I remember when I was doing temping jobs in my early 20’s I cancelled all of my assignments so I could watch the Greek Olympics all day everyday. I had just given birth to my daughter at the beginning of the 2008 Olympics. I did night feeds watching every type of sport under the sun. Full of hormones I sat weeping at that a man from Togo had won his countries first ever Olympic medal.
I was so excited when the Olympics was awarded to the UK. This was a dream come true. Sometime in 2011 I was browsing on the internet look for opportunities to be an Olympic volunteer. Hidden away on the Olympics website I found an application form for performers for the opening ceremony. I filled it in for myself and my husband. I didn’t give it another thought.
In December 2011 Rolando and I were really surprised to receive emails inviting us to audition. We were so excited! Rolando’s audition was first but he was sworn to secrecy. The whole process was a bit undercover – we were sent a picture of three symbols (a coloured circle, square and a triangle) and the address of the audition location. On a Saturday morning I made my way to a big warehouse in a really dodgy looking bit of East London. At the tube station I spotting signs with the symbols on directing people to the audition location.
When I arrived it was like walking onto the set of the musical Fame. Lots of people wearing Lycra doing lots of complicated warm up exercises. I felt totally out of my depth! Part of the audition involved us being taught a dance routine. This completely exposed my inability to tell my left and right. We were also directed to form big formations by walking in chains and running to different co-ordinates marked out on the floor. We both did a second round of auditions which involved doing improvisation and acting out different scenarios.
I genuinely thought we didn’t have a chance at being selected. In the new year of 2012 we both received letters inviting us to participate in the opening scene of the Opening Ceremony directed by Danny Boyle!! We were so excited we jumped around our living room screaming. We then checked the rehearsal schedule and realised that it was going to be a really big time commitment.
Now here’s the twist. A few of weeks before the first rehearsal I found out I was pregnant! A bit of me thought it might still be possible to take part. The week before the first rehearsal I found out that I was expecting twins! I knew that the chances of being able to travel to London several times a week and get through physically demanding rehearsals were going to be very slim but ever the optimist I went to the first rehearsal anyway.
It was a really unforgettable experience. Danny Boyle was there to welcome everyone. He was so passionate as he explained his vision for the opening scene. We all gathered around a model which showed an English countryside scene. He then explained that this was going to transform into a representation of the industrial revolution. He showed a video presentation to really set the scene. Danny Boyle so inspiring – we were all completely buzzing.
I went to see one of the organisers at the end of the session to tell them that I was pregnant and ask if I would be able to participate (I didn’t even mention that I was expecting twins). He said he would take advice but I should think about whether I thought it was a good idea. I was exhausted on the journey home on the tube and the train. I knew in my heart that it wasn’t going to be possible to continue and I emailed the next day to give up my place. I was totally gutted.
The consolation for me was that Rolando was taking part. I was getting to live through the experience vicariously through him! The rehearsal schedule proved to be as full on as we thought it would be – he was regularly in London until late at night. Rolando was a pandemonium drummer in the Industrial Revolution scene and was also a marshal directing the athletes as they paraded into the ceremony. It was a once in a life time experience. In one night he saw Paul McCartney, the Queen, Muhammad Ali, Kenneth Branagh, Dizzy Rascal and the Arctic Monkeys. He was foot steps away from Usain Bolt as he led team Jamaica.
Rolando has nothing but praise for Danny Boyle the director who was very hands on with the volunteer performers and was very friendly and down to earth. He was at a lot of the rehearsals and spent a lot of time after the show thanking people personally for their involvement. He gave the hundreds of performers hand signed thank you letters. After the show was over Rolando got to mingle with some of team GB and take his picture in front of the blazing Olympic flame. He was on a complete high for weeks afterwards.
As the Olympics were drawing to a close Rolando got devastating news that his Dad had a brain tumour. He quickly arranged flights back home to Ecuador. Sadly his Dad’s illness progressed very quickly and he passed away before Rolando got to be with him. Rolando’s Olympic experience was such an incredible high it was heart breaking that it was followed by such a devastating low. I genuinely think the experience of having been involved in the Opening Ceremony helped Rolando deal with such a difficult time.
Thank you Danny Boyle for giving my husband his incredible Olympic experience – it helped him through some very dark days.
Do you or a friends of yours know Danny Boyle – if so please, please, please email him this post. I’d love him to know how thankful we are!