This blog is going to be the most appalling mess. I’m sorry about that. I had planned to sleep until the last possible minute so I could be fresh as a proverbial for tonight, but it’s hot, and lovely and I have thoughts going round my head like a particularly lumpen spin cycle.
I can’t tell you how excited I am about the Opening Ceremony. This is partly because the builders have turned up to mend my roof having yesterday told me they wouldn’t bother coming until October, and I can only assume that it is both the SHEER POWER of the Olympics and (possibly, the screams of a Lambeth Living employee called Edith) that has made this wonder come to pass.
I also can’t tell you how excited I am, because my excitement has gone full circle to be replaced by anxiety and mild terror. All the thousands of people who have volunteered in the ceremony really want, is for you to like it. We want you to “get it”. If you don’t get it, we’re completely borked, and all the funsponges who have been blabbing the secrets and writing premature comment pieces will get to nestle down on their little nests of smugness and go “Well, I told you so. There’s no way London could pull this off. We fuck everything up. I bet Fearne Cotton’s going to turn up here as well.”
If Olympics auditions were a club, I would actually go clubbing again
When I auditioned to take part, I wanted to be part of something. I’m not really, otherwise, I bake for my local cafe but that’s pretty much it. I like joining in. I wanted to be part of something much bigger, working towards something wonderful. I haven’t had that feeling in five years, not since I did university drama, or the Edinburgh Fringe.
I came out of that first audition in the early evening, totally sober and as high as if I’d spent the day in a really great club. I was so beside myself that I forgot my mother’s cardinal rule and didn’t bother putting my coat on, which meant my joy was almost immediately curtailed by a huge cold.
“Don’t tell people what you see, or do, tell them how you feel,” was the mantra from Steve Boyd, the American superman who’s been putting on Olympics shows for years, and who oversaw our auditions. How it felt? Pretty bloody amazing. (And even more so this week, seeing the vast majority of people who saw our dress rehearsals keep schtum and #savethesurprise.) Not for nothing have I watched every single film about auditions, pageants and similar. I know how to smile. With our badges pinned to our chests we strutted the fuck out of our audition room. We gambolled, skipped, Beyonced, acted, danced and grinned like we’d grown up with Vaseline plastered over our teeth.
After my drumming audition, which took place about three feet away from Danny Boyle, Danny and Rick Smith (the hilarious, laconic ceremonies MD) stood at the door and shook hands with everyone there. All of the Mass choreography team thanked us for coming. This has pretty much continued through months and months of rehearsals: everyone has been so nice! There has been no air of how utterly ghastly it must be to have to move X amount of people around; we’ve never been made to feel like groups of primary school irritations, or really, really fucking annoying sheep.
At our very first proper rehearsal, Danny Boyle showed us a model of the stadium, all green and pleasant, and clouds. We saw the animals and went insane. And he told us something so amazing, so lovely that it made the whole Olympics make sense. I won’t say it here, because somebody might nick it. Later though.
We really hope you love it as much as we do
Anyway. Back to tonight. We want you to love it. We particularly want you to have the moments we’ve had over the past few weeks where something so amazing happens that we suddenly find ourselves crying in the middle of the field, then turn around sheepishly wiping our faces to find at least 50 other people near us also sheepishly wiping their faces.
See, I adore London. I was born here. One reason I auditioned for the ceremonies was because I wanted to be a part of going “Oh my actual God, look how phenomenal our city is!” When London was awarded the Olympics, I was 22 and working at Uncut, perched high up in Kings Reach Tower. I was commuting from my parents’ in Hampshire, and in a month I’d be moving to London permanently with my friend Annabel. Ever since our country-loving parents moved us away from south London when we were 10 , tractor beams had been slowly luring us back, and we made it in 2005.I was so thrilled at this amazing, weird city I adored being recognised.
We were all just getting ready to be really excited when the bombs came. It was like a licked finger snuffing out a candle. No spark of anything other than dread, grief, horror and bewilderment remained. Pre-tablet, pre-freesheet, pre-smart phone every single person on my train home was curtained by a copy of the Evening Standard, desperately trying to find out the latest on what had been happening.
I’m not surprised so much of London has been resentful of the Olympics being here. We had no time to embrace it. Back then, being in London meant danger and tragedy. I know that I, and many of the volunteers at the Ceremony tonight, will be thinking about the people lost and the families still grieving. But it also meant being surrounded by the courage and bravery of rescue teams, of the passengers who helped. Recognising the courage, bravery and reinvention of our country runs through the Opening Ceremony’s core.
A friend of mine who went to the dress rehearsal on Wednesday said that we should all be very proud. “I cried almost from the start, purely based on the effort involved from everyone.”
I get like that looking at London sometimes: the architecture, or the South Bank covered in people, or the view down the Thames from the Oxo Tower. The Opening Ceremony celebrates our city, but also our countries: the invention, creativity, survival and determination.
There have been people coming in from Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, even France, for every single rehearsal. There are people who are barely out of their teens, and people in their 60s and 70s. There has been whingeing and moaning, and if I never have to hear about another dramatic recovery from a urinary infection, or see another woman bending over in a thong then my life will be dramatically improved. But there has been so much amazingness and kindness: a woman baked a cupcake for each of the drummers. A girl in my drumming group baked us all themed shortbread for our last rehearsal. A man I went to Bow McDonald’s with for coffee after we both turned up an hour early one day turns out to be very much into Bruce Springsteen, and married to the woman who audits my very favourite vicar. We’ve shared stories and coincidences, bitches, wide-eyed “WTF AMAZING!”s and a fuck ton of laughter.
During our first athletes parade rehearsal in the stadium, three friends and I skipped down the ramp into the vom where thousands of athletes will be tonight, cackling wildly all the way. I hope you get a sense of the fun and work we’ve put into it too. And I hope you will feel truly proud of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and above all, of London.