Thursday, 30 August 2012

Paralympic Opening Ceremony - behind the scenes

Thank-you to everyone who has been following my Olympic adventure. Last night was my last volunteering role as part of the cast in the paralympic opening ceremony. It has been almost one year since I started my volunteer work and what a year it has been. By far the most exciting part was last night. To walk out onto a stage knowing there are 80,000 in the audience and that it was being broadcast to over 100 countries around the world was probably one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I've had but once you are out there having to concentrate on what comes next, meant that nerves went out the window. My role meant that I was lining up with Ian McKellen and professor Stephen Hawking. What a line-up! I have met people from all walks of life, age groups, cultures, differing physical abilities that it has been an honour to partake in this ceremony.
Rehearsals in the Stadium began the week before and often ended late at night

All the aerial work was done by disabled performers. Here they are performing somersaults as they are lifted high into the air

Waiting for our final rehearsal yesterday afternoon as they wanted to add more to our routine. It was raining heavily at this point but we donned the plastic ponchos and waited for the call.

Costumes all ready

Even the guide dog had its own costume
Our costumes had extracts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Get the Doc Martin Boots - they were so uncomfortable!)

Other members of my group in costume raring to go.

Part of the 'Navigation' cast. I think  they were the waves

Members of the 'gravity' cast

The big apple with the revolving wheelchair

The umbrella cast waiting to collect their umbrellas ready to go on

Aerial cast waiting nervously for their big moment

 My group waiting to go on

Ready for the finale!

After the finale we were finally allowed to take photos in the stadium

We didn't want to leave the stadium. In fact we stayed for about another hour mingling with the athletes before going off to a party at an all night pub. I eventually got home at 7am. What a night!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Almost there - dress rehearsal

This was the view of the orbit as I left the Olympic stadium after the dress rehearsal last night. It was well after midnight as we changed back into our normal clothes and started to make our way home. The rehearsal had been brought forward 24hours as the forecast for today is not good. We have had torrential downpours here during the last couple of days but last night the weather was good and we got through the rehearsal with no rain. For the third night running one of the scenes I am in was changed. I am told this is normal but for a production of this size but for the majority of the performers we have found some of the changes difficult to pick up. But last night it all came together and the final changes certainly improved the staging of the final scene. If you are watching the ceremony I am on the centre stage after the oath has been taken and also in the final scene.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

One week to go to Paralympic opening ceremony.

For the last five days we have been rehearsing outside in an area that is the same as the stadium where we will be performing. It has been great fun as they have been putting us through our paces. We are quite a mixture of ages and abilities. Here is the group I am working with:
That's Lesley, Kay and myself at the back and Hollie in the wheelchair. Hollie has had at least 3 different types of wheelchair - none of which are suitable for what we have to do. We now only have one week of rehearsals left so we are a little worried about the adaptions that will need to be made for the next wheelchair she is trying out! But we haven't stopped laughing and enjoying ourselves since we met. Yesterday we rehearsed inside the Olympic Stadium. No superlatives can describe how I felt. It has to rate as one of the most exciting moments of my life to be standing on that stage in the middle of the stadium. For obvious reasons I cannot go into detail about what we are doing but the Opening ceremony will be spectacular - definitely one not to miss.

Monday, 20 August 2012

The Economist's plaza

Just off St James's street is the Economist's Plaza - home to the magazine of that name. Walking past I happened to glance in and notice this larger than life sculpture. At first I didn't realise it was a sculpture as from a distance it looked so life like. But as I approached this rather desolate looking man I realised that unless giants had taken over London then this was the work of a talented scultptor. There were 3 figures in the plaza: 
The seated man

The walking woman

Woman (Being looked at)
They are the works of Sean Henry. I will now have to search out any further examples of his work.

At the other side of the Plaza was this water feature called 'The Eclipse'. Difficult to show just how fascinating it was by still photos but I'm sure you get the idea.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

3 Mills Studios

Tomorrow I start rehearsals outside on a large piece of land which will replicate the Olympic Stadium. Until now we have been rehearsing in the 3 Mills studios. We have not been able to discuss where we have been rehearsing but now we have moved on I thought I would show you a few photos I took on my last visit there.

The studios are the largest in London although from the outside they don't appear that large. They are situated on the historic 3 Mill island in Bromley-by Bow, East London. One of the mills is one of the largest of the four remaining tidal mills in Britain although it has not been in operation since the war. It has been suggested that there is evidence that the mills date back to the 11th cent.

You walk past these two wonderful buildings as you enter the studios
During the Middle ages the mills were used for grinding the flour to make bread which would have been sold in London. It is also thought that gunpowder was  produced here for a short time.
In the 17th Cent the grain was used for the distilling and making of alcohol especially gin, which was a very popular drink during this period. The mills continued to supply the alcohol trade until they were bombed and damaged in the 2WW. The buildings continued to be used as a bottling plant until the 1990s. From then on 3Mills island was established as a film and TV studio called Bow studios.

Monday, 13 August 2012

It's over

The men's marathon is always the last athletic event of the Olympics. As you didn't need a ticket I went into London to have a look but tens of thousands of other people had the same idea. Here is Northumberland Ave lined by thousands waiting for the runners to go by.

This group had a bird's eye view from the base of Nelson's Column.

This was my view from outside Buckingham Palace!

This woman had the right idea - bring your own step.

And now it's all over. London will never seem the same again.

Until the paralympics - bring them on!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Team GB success lights up London

Over the last couple of weeks the skyline of London has been lit up in celebration as Team GB has won medal after medal.

Landmarks around London became golden landmarks as the haul of golden medals continued. Well done team GB.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

A last look at the Village

I have now finished working in the Olympic Village. It has been quite an experience and one I will never forget. I am so glad I applied to be a volunteer way back in 2010. I had no idea what kind of job I might be given and felt really priviledged to be working in the Village. I have to admit though I didn't enjoy all of it. I will be happy not to get up at 4am to go to work to dealwith some very rude prima donna athletes! But on the whole I met some great people from around the world -certainly a once in a lifetime experience.
I have chosen my last views of the Village to be some of the wonderful sculptures around the residences:

Spectral Columns by John Clive

Diving girl by Jim Berelowitz

Olympic Spirit
by Anna Chromy

Monday, 6 August 2012

The Olympic mascots

The mascots for the London Olympics are called Wenlock and Mandeville. The name Wenlock comes from a small town in Shropshire called Much Wenlock where the Wenlock Olympian society organised their first games in 1850. It was here that Baron de Coubertin got the idea to create a global games event. Much Wenlock still hold their own games each July.

Mandeville is named after Stoke Mandeville Hospital which started their own games for injured soldiers in 1948 which became the forerunner of the paralympics.

The mascots are full of symbolism. They are supposed to have been created from the last two drops of steel that remained after constructing the Olympic stadium. The 3 points on Wemlock's head represent the 3 medals and the one eye is the lens of a camera recording everything that happens.

Here are a few Wenlocks I found around London

Wimbledon Wenlock

Aquarium Wenlock

Arty Wenlock

This is a Beefeater Mandeville

I can't decide whether I like them or not. As one paper said 'cute or just creepy'. However they have been a huge success with schoolchildren who have embraced the technology that goes alongside the mascots including computer games etc so maybe it's a generation thing!