Olympic Opening Ceremony: impossible to top
MSN contributor Neil Smith was one of thousands of volunteer performers who took part in the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Here's how he remembers it.
The opening ceremony's industrial segment
Goosebumps? Check. Butterflies? Sure. Lump in throat? You can say that again. I on the other hand could hardly say anything at all. After all, it isn't every day you get to participate in one of the most eagerly anticipated events that have ever taken place in London.
Back when I first volunteered to be a performer in the Olympic Opening Ceremony, I probably didn't appreciate how much would be at stake. But now here I was, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other nervous cast members, preparing to march out into the Olympic Stadium with the eyes of the world upon us.
It hasn't been all glamour, folks. A lot of the preparations were repetitive and arduous and just plain dull. Indeed, during the all-day rehearsals that took place at the Ford car plant in Dagenham, east London earlier this year I confess that I sometimes wondered what I had signed myself up for.
But then I only had to look around me and see the enthusiasm and commitment of my fellow volunteers to realise how fortunate I was to be involved. Many of these people trekked hundreds of miles with no more than a free Oyster travel-card as recompense. Some had family commitments they were forsaking or things that they'd much rather be doing. Yet through the rain and the wind and the recent baking sun they turned up, pitched in and did their bit.
Throughout the whole process our director Danny Boyle was never less than cheerful, approachable and friendly. Here was a guy with the hopes of a nation on his shoulders so to say he had a lot on his mind would be an understatement. Yet he always seemed happy to have a chat, pose for a picture or sign an autograph when asked to by one of his 'cast'. It was hardly surprising, then, that we wanted to give our all in return.
I was involved in the opening section of the show in which the English countryside of yesteryear was ripped away and replaced with an industrial vista of belching chimney stacks and metal machinery. Marching in time to music specially composed by techno duo Underworld, we carted and dragged and hoisted everything we could in readiness for the climactic flourish - the five Olympic rings uniting in the night sky, before then exploding in a cascade of pyrotechnic sparks.
I don't know how it looked from where Will and Kate were sitting. From where I was standing on the field of play, though, it looked absolutely amazing. Would the rest of the show live up to it? I will have to check the video to find out. As soon as our scene was done we had to scurry for the exit - though I did stick around long enough to see the James Bond meets The Queen video.
In the end I was a very small cog in a very big machine. As experiences go though, it may well be impossible to top it.