2012 Olympics and Paralympics
The Olympic Torch Relay July 8th
It was a great honour and privilege to have been nominated to “run” with the Olympic Torch on July 8th in the centre of my home town of Hemel Hempstead. The police estimated the crowd to be well in excess of 100,000. We were all overawed by the sheer number of people who turned out in the rain to cheer and wave us on. Thanks so much to you all.
It was a very emotional but thoroughly enjoyable occasion and I met some truly inspirational people on the "Torch coach" particularly the lovely lady below who passed the flame to me (the so called "Torch kiss").
Fiona Devine is the key figure behind the Alexander Devine Children's Hospice which is a charity aiming to provide nursing care and a hospice for children in Berkshire who do not have long to live.
Fiona set up the hospice in memory of her son Alexander and has raised over £1.25 million - worth a visit to their website www.alexanderdevine.org.
The Paralympic Opening Ceremony
I belong to an organisation called Amputees in Action and they invited me to go to an audition to do ariel work for the opening ceremony of the Paralympics to be held at the 3 Mills Studios situated almost in the shadow of the stadium.
Jenny Sealey, the Artistic Director of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, who so professionally and sensitively dealt with all the disabled performers, watched as Steve tried 3 harnesses on me - the first attempted to change the pitch of my voice - the second tipped me upside down - the third had me perfectly balanced and I was hoisted about 40 feet in the air was taught to do backward and forward somersaults. I found out later that the last time the harness had been used it was fitted to Tom cruise in Mission Impossible when he leapt from the office building. My wife was disappointed that I didn't come home looking like him!
I didn't get chosen to fly and only realised later that I needed two hands to manipulate the props in the air, but what an experience, sorry no photos it was all high security at that stage.
I did get asked to be part of a choreographed protest group so, with best dancing legs to the fore, I was included in the Team.
Rehearsals at the old Ford site in Dagenham
At that stage I only had a choreographed protester part but was then approached by Ted Irwin, Head of Olympic Props, who asked if I would like to drive the Orerry, after looking up what it was, I instantly said YES.
Souvenir Company - off the Old Kent road
I went down to where the massive diesel engined Orerry was being converted from a carousel and having planets added. I sat in the drivers seat and just started her up and, given the very restricted room in the workshop, merely moved her 5 ft backwards and forwards BUT I then knew I could drive her OK.
Next time I drove her it was down the tunnel with a couple of feet either side and top and out into the Olympic Stadium! As you can see from the photo above, there was not much room to spare particularly as I had to do a 3 point turn (usually took at least 6 points!) and reverse her into position for the next reheasal run. Note the lack of wing mirrows!
I had to somehow fix my walking stick securely so it didn't fall off or get chewed in the revolving mechanism so I visited Poores in Choreywood who cut up a piece of plumbing tube and it was then screwed securely just to my right so my stick slid in - you can just see it - they painted the tubing gold to match the bodywork.
I used my car racing artificial hand with a deep cup attached to fit over the motion control - forward to go forward, backward for reverse with no brakes only neutral.
I had the revolving lever control on my right and the steering was hydraulically assisted when the diesel engine was revved up.
This was actually the only driven vehicle in the show – all the others had people pushing.
The Orerry when at its full height would not fit in the tunnel so I had to drive it out to a preset position at which point our team of 6 guys jumped on board and wound up the roof and attached the planets. Ziya Ayaya, the fantastic whirling dervish, then had the specially made stairs rolled up and he hopped aboard on the "roof".
See the loading up practice occuring in the photo above and the driving practice below, notice that they had cleared the area of people!
The Opening Ceremony - 29th August 2012 at 8.30pm
The Orerry was the fire and lightening in the storm in the second half. We were all lined up in entrance order in the tunnel while the athletes paraded in. Team GB were by tradition the last to enter and a wall of sound came down the tunnel when they appeared. Quite phenomenal, I have never experienced anything like it!
Here I am sitting right out front of the Orerry with a white shirt plus brown waist coat and bowler. Pete the Greek alongside for lighting controls and emergency procedures!
Unlike the rehearsals I hadn’t seen tickertape come down before or so many loose pages scattered around so you will excuse a tiny amount of anxiety when I moved off only to find all of my route markers covered up. Fortunately at the far end where we needed a very accurate stop for Ziya to perform with fire on my roof they were showing again, blood pressure went down accordingly!
Ziya Ayaya - one of the most charming and talented men you could hope to meet.
Below - The fire storm at the end of our run, frighteningly close!
Below - On the way back without incident! Trying to avoid the performers swaying on poles one side and on ropes the other side.
Now a quick change into an unbecoming bright red outfit with black protest words, grab my megaphone prop, change the channel on my radio from Channel 3 to Channel 1.
(Every single person on the field of play had a radio albeit tuned to different channels depending upon your role)
I then queued up in the tunnel with my protest group to walk out to the centre stage and to stand on my designated knowledge book ready to try to remember the dance routine to the wonderful tune of Ian Dury's "Spasticus Autisticus". Helped by the dance instructions coming via my radio - "1 2 3 4 shout 5 6 7 8 pose" etc.
Below - If your eyesight is reasonable I am the only one in a red outfit on the left corner with megaphone raised.
The finale involved everyone coming on to the field to sing "I am what I am" with musical movement instructions in your ear and the words on the big screens. Beverley Knight's rendition was just so moving and beautiful.
Then the fireworks went off and it was all over, we waited in the middle while the athletes and the audience left the stadium.
Actually none of the performers wanted to leave, we all stood around the cauldron until they wanted to clear the stadium "Please go home!" and work started around the clock to set it up for the track and field events.
A unforgettable experience - I feel very previleged indeed to have been part of the games.
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