Monday, July 30, 2012

Opening Ceremony

My boys set an alarm and got themselves up to watch the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games. They are the perfect age for the Olympics now, old enough to understand, young enough to dream and aspire. Although, the Cherub was feeling a bit misled over "the Olympics" in that he got up early to see "The Olympics" and the Opening Ceremony kept not delivering any sport to him.  But apart from minor misunderstandings, they are enjoying the whole Olympic spirit wholeheartedly. The pool they attend for swimming lessons is running an Olympic-themed giveaway and both boys are completing the list of activities (word-searches, colouring in etc) with enthusiasm. It's very nice, a palliative to the things about the Olympics which are annoying, particularly the one-eyed jingoistic television coverage we get here.

I watched the opening Ceremony at the more civilised hour of 2pm after a morning spent tapping with the Kiddy Classes. My favourite bit was Rowan Atkinson's cameo, playing a single note on a synthesiser in a musical performance of Vangelis' Chariots of Fire theme. The individual petals becoming the Olympic Flame was lovely too, as was the nod to the NHS featuring JK Rowling, who read the excerpt from Peter Pan very well I thought.

Watching the faces of the many volunteers who drummed, or danced or played nurses, rustics, miners, suffragettes etc, brought back to me my own experience in an Opening Ceremony. In 2006, I was one of the volunteer dancers for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Looking back, I think it was a fantastic opening ceremony; featuring giant puppets, aerial trapeze stunts, a gorgeous Aboriginal sequence, motorbike riders with exploding jet packs, iconic Australian rockband The Church singing a reworked version of their beautiful song Under The Milky Way, and, of course, a flying tram. I was in the very start of the show, in the bit when the tram flew in. We were all huddled underneath the MCG, hearing the countdown of all the cities who had hosted the Games before us being chanted by the crowd, then the hush and magic of the winged W-class tram as it flew from the roof to the centre of the stage. Lots of people had tipped the flying tram, but actually when it flew down it didn't matter that it had been a badly kept secret, or a slightly obvious choice.  You could feel the love in the stadium because those trams are iconic and well loved and so very Melbourne, and it was a beautiful moment.

Underneath the stage though it was all tension as the tech crew got ready to grab the tram when it landed, secure the doors and start hoisting the performers up through the trapdoor so they could pour out onto the stage, which had been lit to look like a map of Melbourne. 

This is me dressed as a "Council Worker", posing outside the MCG before the show.  We were all dressed in the red colour spectrum to represent a range of Melbourne life. There were about a million make-up volunteers down in the carparks with us, with plans for every character.  Some of the faces and costumes were completely flamboyant, and there was a lot of excitement as to what we'd wear.  I was mildly disappointed to tell the truth, (fluoro vest, pfft) but the good news about my bit was that I was a "specialist" within the cast, so at a certain point in the proceedings I got to break out from the crowd and perform my specialty (tap-dancing).  Other specialists included swing-dancers, contortionists, acrobatics, juggling etc.

Two girls in my group were fairy penguins, but I can barely remember the other characters. I think there were netball teams, canteen ladies, Ladies Who Lunched... it's all a blur now.  In this dress rehearsal shot you can see my group, Slot 3.  I'm on the left, 2nd row, when they were still planning to have us in crazy fluorescent wigs.  We didn't come out of the tram, but we were next to those who did so could see what went on.

Other highlights of the night were performing the national anthem with sign-language (I've forgotten how to do this now), seeing the queen drive past me in the Royal Rolls, and afterwards, running up a million flights of stairs to join Fixit in the gods to watch the rest of the show.  As I pelted up the steps a security guard moved into a defensive pose, ready to bring me down.  Then he saw my crazy make-up, smiled at me and waved me on.

I just had to get my photo taken with Ceremony Director Nigel Triffitt, because of his Tap Dogs credentials (directed the first show).  He was great. Humorous, personable and creative and yet somehow, he seemed always to be quite relaxed in the middle of that massive production, at least in the presence of the volunteers. I was sad to hear of his sudden death this month.

When we were rehearsing the production, the people in charge said there will be lots of standing around, there will be boredom, but when your moment comes in front of that crowd, you will remember the feeling all your life.  They were right.  It was a massive thrill, a great hit of adrenaline and enormous fun.  Completely worth all those hours rehearsing in a paddock.


  1. How wonderful that you were in the opening ceremony! I loved that tram bit. Well, all of it really. I hope the atmosphere in London at the moment is as electric and vibrant and full of community goodwill and pride as Melbourne was in 2006. It was such a special time.

  2. You are the only famous person I know.

  3. What Aunty Evil said! I loved reading this. How exciting. It is all about those few minutes of excitement isn't it. All the practice and work for that shooting star moment. Abby and Cherub had the same reaction. I admit to tricking them a little by mentioning Voldemort, so I could watch it without them complaining, but then they just kept pestering about when he would show up. The Rowan Atkinson bit was our favorite! They LOVED that part.

  4. Ooo so you were in the Melb opening ceremony. Well done!

    I *loved* the London Opening ceremony - I had a slight feeling I would due to me loving Danny Boyle. I loved the countdown footage, the Queen's Bond moment, Rowan Atkinson (I haven't laughed so much in ages), the dancing and songs - loved it all. It was worth getting up at 5:30am on a Saturday for.

  5. This post has had me enthralled. You were there, performing, at the Melbourne Opening. How exciting!

  6. WOW! What a great experience and so interesting to read about an opening ceremong from a totally different perspective. When the commentary for the first bit of the London opening ceremony said that the dancers were all volunteers who work for the NHS, I did wonder about the behind the scenes logistics of putting all that together.


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