The Opening Ceremony – 27/07/2012
The day might have dawned bright and early for some, but Dizz and I were not in that group. I’d driven to Portsmouth the previous night to see my old band Stray Bullets Kill play a gig with a local death metal band Bloodworks, and the awesome Evil Scarecrow. It was a great gig, but it was about 3am by the time we’d gotten in, so we were pretty bushed. We got up at about 10am, and we did some maintenance on my LARP armour – basically treating the rivets holding it together with some sort of rust treatment, and then painting over that with some Hammerite paint which should stop it rusting further. We had a healthy Mexican breakfast at about midday, and then I packed up and headed over to Dizz’s place. I got there at about 3pm, and then we wandered down to Stratford. Dizz came along, but they’d closed the shopping precinct at 3pm, and were turning people away. I carried on into the stadium. Security was again super tight, but we made it past the military types, and headed into the changing area.
I’d remembered my headphones this time, and was in pretty good spirits. I’d had a joke session with Dave before getting into the changing area, and one of the G4S people decided to try to tell me off about it, but I brushed him off, and he decided not to make too much of an issue of it. Getting into the changing room we found that we were all due a copy of the special Opening Ceremony program, and also that I had my name and a photo in the back of it. We also got a certificate from Danny Boyle. I bought an extra copy anyway as I realised that Dizz would like it.
Everyone was really keyed up. There was one particularly nasty incident at the doors between the girls changing area, and the boys – some women had taken offence to one of the older men wandering through the girls section, and thought that he was having a perv. I have no idea what he thought he was looking at – there really wasn’t a lot of flesh on show, but either way he was trying to get the costume team to do some sort of bouncer role, and kick all of the girls out of the mens section in some sort of real retaliation. I told him to sit down and shut up, and he took that in bad grace. It was a ridiculous situation, but he did look like he was being pretty disrespectful (and those who know me I know some people who can be awesomely inappropriate) so it seemed prudent to back the girls in this case.
My phone went pretty crazy with friends wishing me good luck and assuring me that they’d be watching out for me on the telly. I called my Mum and Dad, and had a nice chat with them, although it was tinged with worry, as Mum was clearly having some serious health issues. I also had a nice chat with Gina, who was wandering about with an exercise book which she was getting people to write things down for her. There were predictably a lot of cameras about and lots of people taking group photos in and out of costume. At 20:12 we heard the Red Arrows going overhead, which was really cool, and very noisy. Rick didn’t come up to give a pep talk this time, but Mike did, and he spent about two hours signing things for various people. Apparently Rick was feeling really emotional, and didn’t necessarily want to break down and cry in front of us. Still, there were various cards and suchlike which we were signing for him, Mike, and Haith and Hannah, which we sent to him via Mike. The atmosphere in the changing room was absolutely electric, in both good and bad ways. Several people went to the toilet to be sick, and everyone was on a highly charged mood which occasionally swung a bit south, but generally was really upbeat. We’d gotten ourselves a reputation of being a bit crazy anyway, but it seemed that we as a group were going out of our way to really prove that.
It was a relief to get out of there and get some drums, and we lined up on the podium level just in time to see the blue silks go down over the audience. Looking out, the realisation really hit home. I’d sent out some jokey tweets about being excited, but poor blonde Kat and I were both feeling sick with nerves. I’ve played a lot of gigs in the past, but I’ve never been sick with nerves before. Kat was feeling much worse by the looks of her. No-one looked particularly calm, but Nimrod came on, and it really helped to settle us. After a bit we got Rick’s cue to rumble and we were on – that cue wiped the smiles off our faces, and we were all in the slightly angry headspace that Rick and Mike had been trying to instil in us from pretty much the first rehearsal.
The pandemonium drumming part flew past, but when we finished and turned to the Olympic rings with the fire pouring down the roar from the crowd was awesome. I’ll probably never hear a crowd roar quite like it – as a review it was clearly a positive. The faces on the audience were full of joy and wonder, and all sorts of other emotions too – all really positive. We flew up the aisles, and headed over to get changed quickly for the marshalling.
This time we had the sweatshirts, but we also had two badges to pin to them. I’m still not really sure why, but we had to put them on, and then waited through the end of the internet section, and went on again in the marshalling positions about halfway through the beautiful dance of the red dancers and the boy. That definitely went down well with the crowd, and they announced the first country for the athlete’s parade.
Mashing turned out to be a really tough job. The first team along for us was Canada, and then Italy. Being in the second line of mashers, we got the Italians. It was weird trying to be nice to the athletes, when they clearly thought that they’d kind of arrived, and then wanted to know how to leave the stadium, whilst we were trying to usher them down the meadow area so the next country would be able to get in. Some of those guys were huge too – I’m a 6 foot tall bloke, and the guys I was trying to usher down were a good 3 to 4 inches taller. The girls too were pretty much as tall. Even Lennox (at 6’4) was feeling a little undersized. Still, we managed to do OK on the whole – although Steve was having a good shout at us over the IEM’s, and we headed back to the starting area so that we could reset.
Eventually the parade finished with the loudest cheer I’ve ever heard in my life for Team GB. Steve had promised that the crowd would go crazy for them, but that was awesome. We had practiced doing sixteenths when they came in and it was almost like a fast clapping for them, but we were pretty much drowned out by the crowd. Once they’d passed, we headed to the vault position, and held back some athletes who were pretty desperate for the toilet from getting run over by the Doves. We watched the boat with the torch coming in with Jessica Ennis on it, and the handover to Steve Redgrave on the screen mounted over the top of the Vom. The torch lighting was a complete surprise, but really pretty, and the flag coming in was equally epic. They wandered in, and I recognised Ban Ki Moon, and a couple of the others, but the scale of achievements in those eight people were quite breathtaking. Mohammad Ali looked older and a bit more frail, but he’s still a fairly heroic figure. My feet were really hurting by the time this came in, but I forgot all that when the fireworks went off. Definitely the best fireworks display I’ve ever been to. You could feel the heat from the explosions down in the stadium. The only downside was that the ash was falling into my eyes as I tried to stare up at the screen overhead to see what else was happening.
Soon after that it was all over. We got into the squeezing position, but all the athletes had been moved out of the meadow into the centre, so there was little for us to do other than wander down the meadow. We were told that the athletes had to leave first, so someone behind me started jamming on their buckets. This kicked off an awesome jam session we had once we’d lost the audience. That was one of the most magical experiences of the night – the athletes were dancing down, and taking sticks and having a drum along, and everyone was singing and dancing – all entirely unscripted. We danced and drummed pretty much to the changing room – not really wanting it to end. When we got to the changing area, I had many texts and twitter and facebook messages telling me that I’d been on TV quite a bit, and then Costume told us that we could take all the costumes. I piled it all into the bags we had over the backs of the chairs and headed on back to Dizz’s. I didn’t bother with the bucket though, I was pretty tired, so I didn’t feel like carrying it about really.
I got in as she was getting up to go to work, so I packed everything into the car and drove home – tired, but way too hyped to catch any sleep. I watched the reaction to the ceremony on News 24 and crashed out asleep at about 4am.