The River speaks to students and teachers about their experience working at the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
Oscar Cuadras and Helena Kegl
Hundreds of Kingston students and graduates volunteered in the London Games, with some lucky enough to perform and be watched by millions.
Rachel Miller and Matthew Dilworth featured in the Opening Ceremony performance, called Frankie and June say… Thanks Tim, which celebrated British pop culture, and was directed by filmmaker Danny Boyle. They danced at the Olympic Stadium packed with 80,000 people.
Rachel, a 22-year-old english literature graduate, said: “Once we got to the stadium and I joined the 1,500 other dancers in my section, it really sank in just what an important moment this was going to be for me and the country.”
Matthew, a film studies graduate, added: “I wasn’t quite conscious about the whole thing, because there are spotlights focussed on you, so you can’t see the crowd. It was a pretty amazing feeling.”
While Rachel already had some experience in the dancing industry, having worked at the Royal Opera House, Matthew, 21, admitted that all his dancing ability had been gained through “clubbing”.
He said: “I was not expecting it at all, especially the fact that I was dancing in the Olympics, because I’m not used to that I just had clubbing experience.”
The two students had to pass three auditions with a panel of judges before being selected as part of the dancing crew. Once they did it, they had the chance to work with Danny Boyle, who counts Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting among his filmography.
Matthew said: “He [Danny Boyle] was great. After the rehearsals, he would wait near the exit to say goodbye to us, shaking our hands. I think he got the right idea, because basically, after Beijing had been so amazing, he had to do something completely different but as good as that. He succeeded.”
He was also lucky enough to meet Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt, who happens to be a passionate dance fan. The record-breaking runner congratulated the dancers while they passed the athlete’s parade around the stadium.
Both Rachel and Matthew spent weeks rehearsing in a massive warehouse in London. The english literature graduate also explained how she was one of 200 other dancers who gave up all their weekends to practice the exhausting and challenging routine.
Matthew confessed that, although he had never been especially interested in the Olympics before, he became obsessed with the London Games, watching most of the sports as well as the Paralympics.
He recalled: “It was a bit weird when it all finished, after all summer being involved with it. But at the same time I think it was good it was over, as I was getting crazy, and I was driving all the people around me crazy, talking about it all the time. However, it was a bit sad.”
Julee Sanderson, 35, Kingston University’s Student Communications Officer, from Wallington, was one of the pandemonium drummers that performed at the Opening Ceremony. She was also an athlete marshall at both the Opening and Closing ceremonies.
“It was a privilege. I was very proud to be a part of it,” she said. “I would do that all over again. It was absolutely phenomenal, a once in a lifetime experience. It’s very hard to find words to describe what it was like.”
The Student Communications Officer decided to “give it a go” because of her undying interest towards the Olympic Games, and went through auditions that included acting, dancing and rhythm. Once she got the spot, rehearsals started in May.
She recalls: “I have always loved the Olympics and was one of the people that was very excited that they were coming to London and wanted to be a part of it.”
She added: “When you’re out there in front of the audience and you’re doing your thing, then every bad day and every bad rehearsal where you’re up to your ankles with water is forgotten.”
Many other Kingston University students also worked at the Olympic and Paralympic Games by getting involved with broadcasting, as well as other volunteering roles.