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Local Girl, Izzie Radley, Reports On Taking Part In The Olympic Opening Ceremony

Published on: 29 Jul, 2012
Updated on: 30 Jul, 2012

Almost half the nation saw at least part of the opening ceremony of the Olympics. But here is the experience of someone who was there. Local resident and ex Guildford County School student Izzie Radley said: “I’ve been telling people, I can’t begin to describe my experience but now, just for The Guildford Dragon NEWS, I’ll try!”

“This is for everyone” – Danny Boyle’s vision. Photo of the back of the Opening Ceremony programme

By Izzie Radley

I was about to take part in one of the biggest shows on earth – ever. I was about to step out into a stadium full of 80,000 people and a mind boggling television audience of two billion people, almost a third of the world’s population. I felt every emotion there is to feel including absolute terror but I would not have missed it for the world. It was the most incredible experience of my life.

It all began on the 3rd November 2011. I made my way up to Bromley-By-Bow to a huge warehouse space where 15,000 other hopefuls would pass through the doors of this otherwise film studio and prop space, within the coming two weeks – most of which were volunteers themselves. I had no idea what to expect but was greeted with an incredibly helpful, friendly and welcoming casting team who instantly calmed my nerves, which allowed me enjoy the two hours of dancing, acting, walking and team building exercises that followed.

After two days I received an email informing me I’d been successful and had been recalled for a second “role specific” audition. This was the first moment of excitement for me; I’d not expected anything really, so to hear that quickly that I was a step closer to becoming a Volunteer Performer in the Opening Ceremony was brilliant. My role specific audition was on 24th November 2011 and consisted of two hours of walking around a mock “field of play” (stadium) to various rhythms and instructions in front of cameras, being told to smile and strut (but not too much!). Even after this, if someone had told me what I would be doing on the 27th July 2012 or that it was to be the biggest day of my life so far – I wouldn’t have believed them for a second.

Sixty nine hours of rehearsal time later, I found myself standing next to athlete and flag bearer Erison Hurtault. I was wearing a dress with hundreds of faces on, surrounded by the first 70 of 204 hyped up girls, all fellow placard bearers, with 70 10-12 year olds “petal children” and all the athletes from countries A-E; waiting to be cued to lead out Dominica in the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

That moment when I stepped out of that vom [large entrance] into the stadium is something I’ll never forget. It was equally one of the most overwhelming and terrifying experiences I’ve ever had. With 80,000 audience members and an estimated 2 billion watching on screens across the world, the only thing I could think about was not tripping up! Can you imagine being the one girl to ruin the whole ceremony in front of the entire WORLD because you couldn’t do the simplest of tasks as walking?

Dominica’s flagbearer Erison Hurtault is tipped as one to watch in this year’s athletics.  Izzie is on the right. Photo Credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GettyImages

Speaking to the girls before and after, I think we all went through the same things. In the two minutes of being escorted from our dressing rooms in the stadium (underneath the Queen’s Royal Box, no less) to our entrance, I experienced every emotion shoot through me – from excitement to sheer terror. At one point Louise (leading out Djibouti) and I were so close to tears we had to go as far as separating ourselves simply to calm down and regain our composure. We couldn’t after all ruin our make-up, a worry which was stressful enough in itself!!

Izzie Radley or ‘Miss Dominica’

Let me just set the scene for you: in our dressing room were 204 very similar girls all needing hair and make-up done with about 15 mirrors, 3 make-up artists and 2 hair dressers between us all. We had a lot of time to spare though, which was a definite necessity. It was likened by one of the girls to a dressing room in a Miss World Beauty Pageant – not because of our looks but because we all took to calling one another by country name rather than actual name! I was Miss Dominica; Louise was Miss Djibouti, and so on.

We were the only segment in the stadium to have the privilege of being able to watch the ceremony live from the doors of our dressing room. Being able to see out to the stadium we saw most performances, from Pandemonium (Industrial Revolution) to Second To The Right And Straight On Till Morning (NHS Workers) and we got to see this incredible spectacle four times, during three dress rehearsals and one real thing! Brushing shoulders with the likes of Danny Boyle – who made a point coming to every rehearsal for support, Dizzee Rascal – who passed through our dressing room after his performances and The Arctic Monkeys – who during the final tech on the day of the ceremony gave a private concert to the early arrivals – has just added to our experience.

We are also one of the only segments to be lucky enough to be appearing in the Closing Ceremony too. The Olympic Park and Olympic Stadium has become like a second home to the girls, spending the best part of the last two weeks there – we have had to remind ourselves several times just how lucky we are to be in such a position.

Standing in front of my segment of girls, in our dressing room whilst they’re watching the show

I have made friends I know I will keep in touch with for years to come, gained memories which will stay with me for a lifetime and had the most incredible, overwhelming experience. There have never been two more fitting mottos than: “Inspire A Generation” and “This Is For Everyone” – I have certainly been inspired and Danny Boyle really did think of everything and everyone.

Bring on the Closing Ceremony!!!

Sitting here watching Team GB smash the Women’s Gymnastics whilst writing this, I can honestly say I have never been prouder to be British.

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