Sunday, February 24, 2013
With the launch of a new exhibition at the Forum in Norwich, celebrating Norfolk’s contribution to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, KATE SCOTTER discovers what that memorable summer still means to those who were involved.
Barry Stone, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for cultural services, had an unforgettable first year in his role.
He said: “I came into the role at the beginning of the year and I couldn’t have had a better year. It started by meeting the Queen and it just progressed from there.
“One of the highlights for me was the torch relay. I followed the torch from King’s Lynn to Great Yarmouth with an overnight stop in Norwich.
“I was one of the many people down at Pull’s Ferry at some unearthly hour when the sun was rising to watch the torch be rowed across the river. The choir was singing and it was amazing, truly amazing. That was a real special moment for me.”
Cathie Davies, who fenced for Great Britain and represented Wales in the Commonwealth Games in 1994 and 1998, was one of the games makers based at the ExCel centre for the fencing competitions.
Her role saw her working on the field of play, ensuring all the competitors had everything they needed and were plugged into the electronic scoring system properly.
The 49-year-old from Norwich said: “As I was getting my games maker uniform out again, I couldn’t believe it had happened and how lucky and privileged I was to have had that opportunity. You forget that not everybody had that chance and that some 130,000 people applied and only 70,000 got it.
“I thought it would worry me that I wasn’t in the Olympic Stadium but it didn’t, you knew you were part of something which was really big which was fantastic. There was a real buzz and when I came back to Norwich, there was a real buzz here too.
“I’m now applying to be a volunteer at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.”
Scott Atkins performed at the closing ceremony and was on stage with the likes of Fat Boy Slim, Tinie Tempah and Jessie J.
The 28-year-old from Norwich, who works at The Garage and was one of a number of Norfolk young people backed as a sporting or cultural ‘Rising Star’ by Norfolk County Council, said: “There are still days when I don’t believe it happened. We got there at 9am and didn’t perform until late that night - you couldn’t wait to perform but at the same time you didn’t want the last five months to be over.
“Those first 30 seconds on stage were incredible, you were there in front of 80,000 people plus those watching on TV.
“One of the best things was my mum texting me telling me she had spotted me and a friend from Australia posting a screenshot of me onto Facebook - it made you realise how everyone around the world watched it.
“I’m now looking to do some teaching in Valencia. Being part of the closing ceremony has definitely improved my confidence.”
Rob Sanderson was one of 8,000 torchbearers. The Community First Responder ran with the torch through his home town of Great Yarmouth.
The 24-year-old said: “It still catches my surprise when I see the torch there and I think I ran with that. It was a really surreal experience. It seemed to go by so quickly; it didn’t hit home until afterwards what I had done.
“I’m definitely not going to forget it, it’s really special to me and I’m so proud to have taken part. There’s not going to be anything quite the same again.”
Shane Hull, who was chairman of the Hethersett Olympic Committee, now known as the Hethersett Olympic Legacy Committee, and was instrumental in getting the flame to visit the village, said: “Our Olympic initiatives and 2012 were beyond our wildest dreams. It brought the whole village together and that was shown when 2,000 were up at 5.30am at the high school playing field to see the flame. It was such a wonderful and surreal experience. It proved to the whole community that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve great things.
“Hethersett is only a small village but we put it at the forefront and got everyone involved.
“Now, we have renamed the committee to the Hethersett Olympic Legacy Committee and we will be holding our fourth Hethersett Open Weekend in July which we are making bigger and better.
“As well as sports events, it will have arts, cultural, photographic and music events. It will be difficult to top 2012 but we are going to give it a go.”
Amy Ottaway, 19, from Norwich, who was part of Great Britain’s goalball team at the Paralympic Games, said: “It was the most special experience and I’m so proud to have been a part of it.
“It’s driven me and given me extra motivation for the next few years leading up to Rio. More funding from UK Sport has been a big boost and I’ve increased my training and I know my teammates have done the same thing.
“We are also trying to get more court time together, more tournaments and to increase the amount of time we spend together.”
Norfolk County Council’s ‘Norfolk: Our 2012 Story’ exhibition will be held at The Forum until next Saturday, March 1.