Campaign Manager Izzie Radley was lucky enough to experience both Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies first hand.
Here she reports on her part as Placard Bearer and Flag Escort for Dominica
I was about to step out into a stadium full of 80,000 people and a mind boggling television audience of two billion people, almost a third of the world’s population. I felt every emotion there is to feel including absolute terror but I would not have missed it for the world. It was the most incredible experience of my life.
After sixty nine hours of rehearsals, I found myself standing next to athlete and flag bearer Erison Hurtault. I was wearing a dress with hundreds of faces on, surrounded by the first 70 of 204 hyped up girls, all fellow placard bearers, with 70 10-12 year olds “petal children” and all the athletes from countries A-E; waiting to be cued to lead out Dominica in the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.
That moment when I stepped out of the vom [large entrance] into the stadium is something I’ll never forget. It was equally one of the most overwhelming and terrifying experiences I’ve ever had. With 80,000 audience members and an estimated 2 billion watching on screens across the world, the only thing I could think about was not tripping up! Can you imagine being the one girl to ruin the whole ceremony in front of the entire WORLD because you couldn’t do the simplest of tasks as walking?
Speaking to the girls before and after, I think we all went through the same things. In the two minutes of being escorted from our dressing rooms in the stadium (underneath the Queen’s Royal Box, no less) to our entrance, I experienced every emotion shoot through me – from excitement to sheer terror. At one point Louise (leading out Djibouti) and I were so close to tears we had to go as far as separating ourselves simply to calm down and regain our composure. We couldn’t after all ruin our make-up, a worry which was stressful enough in itself!!
We were the only segment in the stadium to have the privilege of being able to watch the ceremony live from the doors of our dressing room. Being able to see out to the stadium we saw most performances, from Pandemonium (Industrial Revolution) to Second To The Right And Straight On Till Morning (NHS Workers) and we got to see this incredible spectacle four times, during three dress rehearsals and one real thing! Brushing shoulders with the likes of Danny Boyle – who made a point coming to every rehearsal for support, Dizzee Rascal – who passed through our dressing room after his performances and The Arctic Monkeys – who during the final tech on the day of the ceremony gave a private concert to the early arrivals – has just added to our experience.
We are also one of the only segments to be lucky enough to be appearing in the Closing Ceremony too. The Olympic Park and Olympic Stadium has become like a second home to the girls, spending the best part of two weeks there – we have had to remind ourselves several times just how lucky we are to be in such a position.
And so it’s all over! I can’t really believe The Games have finished and my Olympic experience is at an end.
After the Opening Ceremony, came three more seven hour rehearsals for what was to be the second of two of the greatest shows on earth. The Closing Ceremony was much more of a celebration and rightly so.
The atmosphere was electric in the stadium and in the dressing rooms. It was very different to the Opening Ceremony but not particularly in a bad way… just different.
We arrived at the stadium at 10am on Sunday morning and after two hours in hair and make-up I had begun the transformation into one of the 205 flag escorts who would be walking out to a full stadium for the last time accompanying the top athletes from each country.
Close-up we looked ridiculous with over the top make-up and scraped back hair, held in place by a diamante decorated cable tie – which was so painful I went through half a packet of Ibuprofen during the day! We were reassured however, that it would look fine from the distance of the stadium and would look good on television. I am still not entirely convinced but it was an experience nonetheless!
For this ceremony, our dressing room was right next to the VIP dressing room, which meant we brushed shoulders with more or less all the celebs that were featured during the show. It was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had and probably will ever have! From David Beckham, visiting Posh to the beautiful Annie Lennox, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.
At one point Harry and Louis from One Direction were standing right by us and I had no idea. Even when pointed out I was clueless but the volunteer child cast seemed very excited by it all!
Walking out of the vom [large entrance to the arena] for the last time on Sunday evening caused another rollercoaster of emotions. This time for different reasons. It was exciting, nerve-wracking but also a little sad. The Olympics and the Ceremonies were a big part of my life for nine months and I can easily say the best part between July & August.
I’ve been lucky enough to not only be a part of the two best shows on earth but see three different events live – including Usain Bolt’s stunning 200m final. As I stood facing the crowd listening to Elbow perform ‘One Day’, standing behind my athlete Luan Gabriel, it not only hit me what I’d been a part of but it equally hit me that it was now over and I’d have to go back to everyday life without having the buzz of the Olympic Games in the air.
2012 has been a massive year for the UK and I hope we can all create and maintain the desired legacy. It truly has been a stunning Olympic Games and we should all be very proud to be British! I know I certainly am.
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