Lucky few take part in Olympic opening ceremony

Jo Smith, in the pink wig, from Horsham's Swallowtail Road.
Jo Smith, in the pink wig, from Horsham's Swallowtail Road.

The eyes of the world were focused on the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games and a handful of Horsham residents were lucky enough to take part last Friday.

Jo Smith, from Horsham’s Swallowtail Road, a sales clerk at Littlehaven Railway Station, was one of thousands of volunteers who performed at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

She took part in the segment titled ‘Frankie and June Say Thanks Tim’, which paid tribute to Tim Berners-Lee’s contribution towards the development of the internet and the world wide web.

Jo said: “I recorded the opening ceremony and watching it on Saturday morning I had tears in my eyes.”

“When they showed us the video tape of the idea and they finished showing it the whole room exploded into applause. We knew it would be quite spectacular,” she added.

Heading up to London for numerous rehearsals was well worth it, just to be able to take part in what she called an amazing experience.

Annie Campbell, a personal trainer from Lime Kiln Road in Mannings Heath, and Chris Wolff, 35, in Horsham’s April Close, were both ‘mechanicals’ throughout the opening ceremony, responsible for geeing up the crowd and encouraging audience participation.

Annie explained that her job was to build up a rapport with the audience so they could be an integral part of the performance.

“To be part of it was just fantastic, very very very emotional to be part of such a great event and not just a great event, our great event,” she explained.

“I’m just absolutely thrilled to be involved and be part of it help Danny Boyle create that superb show, and I can’t wait for the closing ceremony and Paralympics.

The excitement and emotion had most of the volunteers in tears at the end, and she described how her husband and 21-year-old daughter were amazed and proud of her.

“It enhanced their enjoyment of the whole thing,” she added.

Having missed out on tickets she admitted that it was not a bad booby prize, and that they were the luckiest volunteers as the only ones who saw the ceremony from start to finish.

Chris returned home at 4am on Saturday when both his wife and four-year-old son were fast asleep, although the next morning they were thoroughly impressed by what they had seen on the TV.

He said it was his most exciting moment of the year, and described the Olympic Stadium a brilliant crucible of nationality.

“The thing I took away is that this is something that we, the British people, are giving to the world. We are enabling the world to enjoy this. Without the volunteers there would not be an Olympics.

“Behind every athlete and volunteer there is a family and friends pushing them to go.”

He also praised the army of volunteers not on display, pointing to the fact that 75,000 buttons had to be sewed onto costumes.

“Everyone I have spoken to they said, ‘Wow what a show we have put on’,” he added.

“This is one of those pivotal moments in life that you do not get again. It was so visceral that you just have to grab and take it as an experience that you will never get again.”

Did you take part in the opening ceremony? Send in your stories to ct.news@sussexnewspapers.co.uk