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Olympic stories: My night as a dancing nurse

City Events Manager Louise Gordon talks about her excperience as a performer at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London
by Ben Sawtell

I was one of the dancing nurses in the section entitled "Second to the right and straight on 'til morning". From open auditions in November, rehearsals in April and the final performance on 27 July 2012 this is the story of my Olympic experience.

You know you're involved in the Olympic opening ceremony when:

You can't remember what your real name is
The first few rehearsals took place in Three Mills Studio in Bromley-by-Bow, less than two miles from the Olympic stadium, but we soon moved to a large tarmaced area in Dagenham complete with blue and yellow big top. Rehearsals were a military operation. Once registered and checked in we all became numbers with our own bib, home base position, bed number, bed partner and child.

nullYou see your "bed partner" more than you see your life partner
We learnt how to orientate the grid markings laid out on the field of play, choreography for the section and most importantly how to move our bed around. We also met our children and the professional dancers and puppeteers who played the parts of the evil storybook characters and the Mary Poppins'. There was a lot of waiting around while the creative team made changes, but it was time spent making friends, sharing experiences and, occasionally, napping on our beds in the sunshine.

You start sentences with "I was just chatting to Danny Boyle and..."
Danny Boyle was at every rehearsal. He was very hands on with the creative team and also took time to come down to the field of play to chat with the volunteer cast members.

You've bookmarked the weather forecast for Stratford on your phone
Rehearsals moved to the Olympic Stadium in June. It was incredibly exciting arriving at the Olympic Park for the first time and seeing the stadium and stage set up with the bell at one end and Glastonbury Tor at the other. We were provided with meal packs and drinks, and of course ponchos! Each rehearsal at the stadium got more and more thrilling as we began to see how various parts of the section fitted together, the puppets were introduced and the lighting and special effects rehearsed.

The queue for the bathroom contains a nurse, coalminer, dementor and punk rocker
Our dressing rooms were at Eton Manor, a Paralympic venue on the opposite side of the Olympic Park. Here I met up with volunteer cast from the other sections, including City staff; Thalia Anagnostopoulou, from our Centre for Student Skills and Services; Andrew Bottomley from Information Serivces, and the head of City's International Office Adrian Dutch.

You get the biggest high you've ever had (and spot Usain Bolt along the way)
Friday 27 July 2012 started with a Champagne breakfast. The atmosphere amongst the cast was a mixture of excitement and nerves. Made up and in costume we waited for our call. The walk to the Stadium took half an hour and as we neared the backstage entrance to our Voms (Vomitorium, entrance in a Roman Amphitheatre), I could already hear the crowd inside. Press were lined up along our route and the air was electric.

Backstage we passed the familiar sight of other cast in costume, two shire horses, floating yellow submarines and Kenneth Branagh. Once on stage the reaction from the crowd was incredible but it still hadn't sunk in what I was doing as I was concentrating so much on getting everything right. Only at the final dance for our section did it suddenly hit me, I was part of the 'Greatest Show on Earth'.

The buzz afterwards was amazing, we were all on such a high. Then to top everything off our walk back to Eton Manor took us past the athletes lining up to go on, them cheering us and us cheering them. We left the park in our costumes, much to the delight of the local public, and went back to Stratford to celebrate our achievement. It was a night I will always remember.

In our next Olympic story we hear from BSc Sociology graduate Abi Oyepitan who represented Team GB in the 100 and 200 metres sprint at London 2012

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