A Chance to Shine - Performing at the London 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony
The Olympics Closing Ceremony was more than just an inevitable observance of the end of the Olympics, it was a chance to celebrate a fantastic event that saw the UK win 29 Gold medals, its best Olympic performance in 104 years. To be part of the Olympics Closing Ceremony, the final act of the amazing sporting festival that took over London in the summer of 2012, was an incredible experience. With over 70,000 volunteers taking part in the Olympics overall, I was one of the 250 dancers and musicians that formed the final part of the Closing Ceremony that saw the Olympic Flag Handed over from London to Rio.
Before auditioning to be one of the dancers in the Rio Flag Handover, I knew I wanted to be part of the London Olympics in some way. Being from Glasgow, and one of the lucky volunteers that was flown to Delhi in 2010 to celebrate the closing of the Commonwealth Games, which will be hosted by Glasgow in 2014, it had been in my mind to participate in the Olympics in some way, I just wasn’t sure how! It wasn’t until I received an email from Paraiso School of Samba, the group I volunteered and performed with in 2011 at the Notting Hill Carnival - a previous Wave of Friendship experience! – giving details of audition dates and information that I knew how I would be involved in London 2012.
Throughout May-June, the Cerimonias Cariocas 2016 team carried out an intensive campaign to recruit volunteer performers in Brazilian music and dance to ring in the celebrations to mark the end of the London Olympics, and the handover to Rio, Brazil; the first country in South America to host the Olympic Games.
I didn’t even tell my own mother that I was going to audition for the Olympics Closing Ceremony! I wasn’t sure if I would be accepted and also I didn’t want any pressure or expectation on me from friends, family and colleagues. But when I found out I had made it through the audition and been given a part in one of the best groups, I received nothing but support and encouragement from those around me. It was a difficult undertaking with long weekends and lots of time off work to go to rehearsals, but everyone was so enthusiastic and supportive that I was able give my all and go for it!
Often rehearsals were long, tiring and not very glamorous being, a big contrast to the final show! As time went on and the date was getting nearer, more ‘secrets’ were revealed, the costumes were fitted and the choreographies fixed; each rehearsal was more exciting and the whole team bonded over the fantastic experience we were about to share.
Described in the press as ‘eccentric’, ‘exuberant’ and ‘anarchic’, the closing ceremony was in marked contrast to the poetic splendour of Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony. It was a real chance for the nation to celebrate and to show the world how the UK parties! As the final part of the three hour marathon of music, dance, super models and exploding robin reliants, the team behind the Rio Flag Handover Ceremony knew that they had to bring something exciting and dynamic to the fore. The artistic director of Ceremonias Cariocas, wanted to avoid Brazilian clichés and stereotypes, something you may have noticed was that there wasn’t even one brightly coloured feather or bikini clad woman in sight!
Instead, the Rio Flag Handover embraced the entire spectrum of Brazilian diversity, showcasing dancers, singers, musicians and art forms from across Brazil from the Amazonian Rain Forest to the Bahia in the North East. My group, Samba-Gafieira was a partner dance, our team wore brightly coloured costumes – and matching wigs! – inspired by the fashion in 1940s Brazil, and danced along the points of the Union Jack flag in front of the many athletes and games makers in the crowd. The end of the ceremony saw all the performers come together in a huge circle around the Rio 2016 Olympic Logo.
Afterwards the adrenalin was overwhelming. The flag handover cast were then invited back onstage as part of the Grande Finale involving Darcey Bussell - Britain’s best known Ballerina-, The Who, and many of the other performers that had entertained the world that evening. We carried on dancing and making even more friends on the stage hours after we were supposed to have left, but the drummers kept playing and we all kept on dancing!
I learnt so much during my experience performing at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games 2012. From working as part of a team, learning new choreographies and dance techniques, to the element of artistic surprise, the things that make a good show, and also how to have lots of fun at the same time!
Since Glasgow will be hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014 I am inspired to be part ofprojects in the lead up to this event which encourage people tobecome involved in healthy physical activities such and dancing and sport. I am hopeful to bring my experiences to the Integration Network I work for in Glasgow; aside from hosting the Olympics, London is a great city with many projects and communities initiatives that we can learn from here in Glasgow.